LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- It was already a late start for Louisville City FC, visiting Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC for a scheduled 9 p.m. (EDT) kickoff Friday night. Then the game was delayed 90 minutes because of weather.
In their locker room at Colorado Springs’ brand-new Weidner Field, opened just this past April, LouCity players handled a few false starts, and sat around trying to keep from getting lethargic – and bored.
“It’s more about staying calm, getting some extra food if you need,” LouCity defender Pat McMahon said. “We kind of played little games to keep our minds busy so we weren’t just sitting there bored. As it gets closer, there were 3 to 4 times when they said, ‘OK, we’re going out,’ and then we came back in. It’s just getting mentally prepared, and then once we went out, we were in the warm-up and getting ready. Just not getting too high before the game and save your energy.”
LouCity had every excuse for entering the game on a high. Not only did it come in off back-to-back wins, with just one loss in its previous eight games, but it was playing on the highest-altitude home pitch in American soccer.
The result wasn’t the kind of offensive fireworks show that LouCity has been putting on over the past month or so. LouCity did take a 1-0 lead when Antoine Hoppenot netted his first goal of the season, off a Jonathan Gomez cross in the 74th minute. But the good feeling quickly dissipated when Colorado Springs’ Michee Ngalina turned in a great individual effort to dribble the ball into the box and score between defenders in the 84th minute.
Nobody from LouCity was cheering the 1-1 result, but the draw does leave the home team five points up in first place in the USL Eastern Division, and came amid some adversity, including a game without leading scorer Cameron Lancaster and midfielder Corben Bone, both out with injuries.
“This was not an easy game,” LouCity manager Danny Cruz said. “The game kicked off late and altitude and tough stadium to play in, and at the same time I thought the guys responded well. We were on the back foot for a little bit, absorbed some pressure, but ultimately was happy that we got the goal to go up, but frustrated to concede the goal late. . . . We walk away with the draw in a tough environment. We’re not smiling about it, but we’ll certainly learn from the game.”
LouCity held just 42 percent of possession and generated just four shots on goal, two in each half.
It took them 73 minutes to break the ice, after Jorge Gonzalez played a ball from the top of the box left to Gomez, who found Hoppenot in front of goal with a cross. It was the fifth assist of the season for LouCity’s phenom defender, and the first goal of the season for Hoppenot – the 11th LouCity player to score in the past nine games -- who hoped a recent haircut might change his fortunes in what had been a bit of a frustrating campaign to date.
“Obviously we’ve been doing well as a team, so it hasn’t been too frustrating,” Hoppenot said. “But on the personal level you want to help the team with more goals and more assists as a forward. So it’s frustrating in that sense. But, you know, this one is hopefully a starting point, and we play on Wednesday and Saturday. There’s plenty of opportunities, we’re only a third of the way through the season.”
Altitude can be a factor with fatigue, but McMahon said his fatigue issues came in the first half, not the second.
“I think first half, for me personally I felt a little fatigued quicker, I would say,” he said. “But going into the second half I think a lot of us got our second wind and were able to control it a little better, and it wasn’t as much up and down, which I think helped us.”
There won’t be much rest for the home team. LouCity will spend much of Saturday in Colorado Springs before departing for Kansas City, where they will play on Wednesday night.
“We’re all frustrated giving up a late goal,” McMahon said. “Looking on the bright side, I guess, it’s a point. But you look at it, we should close the game out and get three points and help separate ourselves from second place and keep pushing forward. It’s a tough week this week and to start with three points would be ideal. We’ll just focus on the next game. It’s a quick turnaround so I think that will help.”
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