By Eric Crawford, WDRB Sports
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Sometimes the biggest victories can be followed by the biggest trials – in life or sports.
The Louisville City Football Club is in the midst of one of those trials. Riding high as the only non-Major League Soccer team to advance to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup, Louisville City has struggled a bit since beating the MLS New England Revolution, winning just once in five matches, and not at all in United Soccer League play.
LCFC conceded late goals to lose leads in draws against Penn FC and North Carolina FC, and on a steamy Wednesday night against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, saw a second-half deflection in the box find its way into its net in the 79th minute for a 1-0 Pittsburgh win that was Louisville’s first home loss of the season in front of a Louisville Slugger Field crowd of 7,126.
The loss also ended a nine-match USL unbeaten streak for Louisville City, which gave up its share of second place in the league standings as Pittsburgh took sole possession with three points from the victory.
After the game, a handful of clearly frustrated Louisville City players streamed off the pitch, streaming expletives as they headed to the locker room.
“It shows you how much the lads care, that’s the biggest thing,” Louisville coach James O’Connor said. “It’s really annoying when you (lose like) that. For all of us, we want to win, and we feel as if we’ve had chances to win it. And then equally, we’ve been caught with a poor goal. I mean, look, I think it ends up deflecting off Paco (Craig) and going in, which, when you get that, you start to think, ‘Well, not our night.’”
The game was Louisville City’s fourth in 11 days. And there’s little chance for rest. New York Red Bulls 2 will visit Louisville Slugger Field on Saturday night. It is dealing with injuries.
And it is a victim of its own success. Its run in the U.S. Open Cup meant a Wednesday game against Nashville SC last week instead of time off for recovery.
While there’s a lot of frustration amid the fatigue, there’s no sense of panic.
“We're disappointed in ourselves,” defender Sean Totsch said. “We know the work we put in, we know what we're capable of. To see us give up points like that, especially at home in front of our fans, is not what we want to see. We try to make Slugger our fortress. That was key to our success last year. And that's what we have to do to be able to finish out the season strong.”
Against a Pittsburgh team that leads USL with only seven goals allowed all season and with 10 clean sheets, Louisville didn’t get much on the attack in the early going, but in the second half started to generate chances, without much luck in finishing them.
Pittsburgh pressed forward a bit early with its speedy strikers, looking to create one-on-one situations, but Louisville City held that in check and wound up the aggressor in the match, with 63 percent of possession.
Louisville City outshot Pittsburgh 15-7, with five on goal to Pittsburgh’s four. It thought it had the game’s first score in the 54th minute, but a referee’s whistle tagged Louisville City for a foul against Pittsburgh keeper Dan Lynd.
“I felt a lot of the decisions didn't really go for us, to be honest with you,” O’Connor said. “I think that was another thing. You come away scratching your head. But it happens. There's no point in feeling sorry for yourself. You need to show some steel and pick yourself up and get out there and go again.”
Instead of a 1-0 Louisville lead, it was the Riverhounds who drew the game’s first (and only) blood in the 79th minute.
On the counterattack, a right-footed kick by Kenardo Forbes from the left side of the box appeared to glance off a Louisville City player and past keeper Greg Ranjitsingh into the bottom right corner of the goal.
“Obviously you see our fight in that game, it's 0-0 and we're pushing for a goal, and for them to score such a jammy goal like that, we're frustrated because we're putting in the work and we're grinding all game and for us to drop three points like that, there's a lot of frustration, especially coming off the past couple of games where we've dropped points,” Ranjitsingh said. “A lot of guys are frustrated, but we have to overcome it and move forward.”
It’s a grind, and there’s little room for recovery, but Louisville City will work to push through with its fifth game in 14 days Saturday. O’Connor took a long view of the team’s situation.
“I think we're in a great position,” he said. “We're in the quarterfinal of the Open Cup. Strong position in the league. It's all a mentality. You approach life and you approach the game, your glass is either half-empty or half-full. And I always make sure it’s in the right position and you take things for what they are. We've had enough chances to win the game, and on another night, you do win the game.”
Totsch said he’s not worried about motivation for Saturday.
“We try to keep a mentality where it's just the next game,” he said. “Obviously we're going to go out the next game against Red Bulls on Saturday and go for the win and really put our effort out there. But for us, no matter what the result is on Saturday, the train's not going to derail. We're a unit. We know what our goal is and we have a lot of veterans, so we know what it takes. You go through phases where the ball doesn't bounce your way or you don't score your chances. We've just got to grind through it and we know that through our work and effort and the skill that we have on this team, we'll get results.”
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