LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – If Major League Soccer in the United States had any sense of imagination or competition, it would allow for promotion and relegation, as the English system does. A few clubs across the USL's four divisions might well be salivating these days.
LouCity FC no doubt would be one of them. Yet even without promotion, LouCity keeps building momentum and asserting a measure of dominance over the USL's Central Division.
Its fourth consecutive victory, a 2-1 win over FC Tulsa on Saturday night before a crowd of 10,675 in Lynn Family Stadium, leaves the club unbeaten in its past seven matches, and with just one loss in the past two months.
LouCity isn't going to strangle anyone with its defense, and perhaps is benefitting from some struggles of its Central Division rivals. But its seasoned and talented roster rarely fails to put on a show.
Cameron Lancaster scored two goals on Saturday, breaking through in the 10th minute when a cross from Niall McCabe found its way across the box to Lancaster in front of the far post, and he angled a low shot past the keeper. It was Lancaster again in the 66th minute, lurking in the box after a corner kick was headed around, finally putting foot to ball to drive home what wound up as the game winner.
LouCity gave up a goal in the 92nd minute after a foul led to a score on a set piece, but that was about all that marred yet another solid effort from the boys in purple.
"Unbelievable atmosphere," LouCity manager Danny Cruz said. "I know I'm saying it every week, but this is a special place. We're happy about getting three points but it can't go unsaid – we gave up a late goal again. Unacceptable. I spoke to the guys individually and collectively, and we know that. We know as we keep progressing here toward the end of the season that it's going to be important that these mistakes and these late goals we fix."
Cruz praised Lancaster's nose for the goal – and that is nothing new – the Englishman now has 62 USL goals, one of only six players to reach that number. But Cruz also was happy with the defense his striker played at the head of LouCity's pressure.
"He gets the two goals, but I made it clear to him that the work that he put in defensively is not easy, the way that we like to press," Cruz said. "So I was really proud of him from that standpoint, and he rewards himself with two goals. Again, the players that he has around him putting the ball in good spots. It's what he does. He finds the goal. Hopefully he keeps going, we're happy for him."
Cruz liked the opportunities his team created early, and noted that it could've put more numbers on the board if not for some splendid play from the opposing goalkeeper.
"We came out with the right mentality for sure," he said. "As the game progressed, I thought we conceded a little bit of possession there, but I was happy with the group all in all, just got to fix a few things."
He wasn't happy with the late goal, scored by Tulsa's Bradley Bourgeois after a Wes Charpie foul allowed for a free-kick in an advantageous position.
"I'm extremely unhappy about the foul. I made that clear to Wes," Cruz said. "I don't think it's a moment that you need to foul. The guy is going out toward the sideline and we concede a set-piece goal, which we, for the most part, have been really good at this season. I felt we deserved to keep the shutout. We talked a ton about taking pride, as much as we do in the goals, in the zero. It's a collective. Our No. 9 is expected to do as much defensive work as our center backs. When you concede a goal in the 92nd minute it's frustrating because you put in a lot of work. I don't want to take away, Tulsa is a good team and we did just get 3 points, but what I like about this locker room is that guys are frustrated, and that's the sign of a team that's going to do something special."
LouCity has had a great deal of success in Lynn Family Stadium, at full capacity for the first time in its existence this summer. But seven of its next eight games are on the road, including six in a row in September. The club has only four more regular-season games at home, but Cruz said he expects his club to be ready for that challenge.
"I think we've obviously done a good job of where we are right now in the table," he said. "September is going to be tough. But the group we have in there and the depth we have in there, my expectation is that nothing changes, other than the fact that we have to travel, and we don't have this beautiful place to be in on the weekend. But the guys are prepared and we've talked about it. The expectation whether we're home or away is three points. We'll deal with the schedule congestion. It's out of our control, and I know the players will be ready."
LouCity isn't just competing against its own division. It is competing with the other divisional leaders. The club leads the entire league in points at the moment, and would like to keep it that way.
"Certainly, there's motivation for the group in there," Cruz said. "We've talked about it often, and it's important that we don't take any games for granted, because our goal is to finish at the top. And when finish at the top, then you're winning your playoff games, everybody has to come here. This is a place we have had success this year and last year, and we want to continue to make this place a fortress."
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