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Two Louisville City FC players who know this town best received high recognition from coach James O’Connor in Saturday’s season opener — then made the most of it in front of a Slugger Field crowd of 6,758.
Paolo DelPiccolo, who starred for the University of Louisville before turning pro, wore the captain’s arm band during a 0-0 draw with Saint Louis FC. DelPiccolo’s U of L record for 23 career assists still stands, and he helped the Cardinals to the 2010 College Cup Final.
Richard Ballard, who grew up in Louisville and attended DuPont Manual High School, earned a start on the right wing in his professional debut. Ballard’s fresh out of Indiana University, where he played striker last fall and in 2012 won an NCAA title with the Hoosiers.
“It’s a great honor for me to be named captain.” DelPiccolo said. “Not a whole lot changes. We’ve got so many leaders on the team, and everyone on the team top to bottom has a great attitude. The other guys are going to keep leading, and I just have the armband on game day.”
• RECAP | Read Saturday's full game story
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“I was just ready to get things rolling,” added Ballard, who described himself as more excited than nervous with family and friends in the stands. “Once the whistle blew, it was all autopilot from there.”
Both gave supporters reason to cheer Saturday, plus hope for goals down the line.
DelPiccolo commanded the midfield on an afternoon in which LouCity dominated, out-shooting Saint Louis FC 21-4. The visitors didn’t get a shot on target, while the boys in purple set up plenty of opportunities on their 16 corners.
Now, it’s only a matter of finishing. Ballard nearly did twice, on a shot off the side of the net in the first half and again in the second half when he just missed connecting on a scissor kick in the box.
• VIDEO | Hear more from DelPiccolo, Ballard
“I thought he played really well,” O’Connor said. “He caused them a lot of problems with his pace. On another day he would’ve scored. I think he was really unfortunate. I was really pleased with how he played and how all the guys played.”
Both DelPiccolo and Ballard put in a full 90 minutes with LouCity’s bench short. In the midfield in particular, Mark-Anthony Kaye was out while on international duty with Canada’s U-23 team.
“I thought we did well,” DelPiccolo said. “I thought we were in some good spots. I thought we got some good turnovers high up the field.”
Asked what he learned about himself at the pro level, Ballard said, simply, “I’m gonna have a lot of fun.”