Photo by Mathew Ballard
Both of Saturday’s goal scorers said it, and so did Louisville City FC coach James O’Connor: Last week was not an easy one for the club on the training pitch.
Following a loss to the Harrisburg City Islanders, then a last-place side that has now won two straight, LouCity dug in and returned winners, topping the Ottawa Fury FC by a 2-1 score at Slugger Field.
Afterward, O’Connor showed admiration for his roster, which has rebounded from both their defeats this season to post victories.
“The respect I have for our players is top-level,” O’Connor said. “And I think when I look at their heart — I look at how hard they work — it’s very, very proud, and it makes me very proud to be their coach.”
Last Saturday’s loss at Harrisburg came as a shock. After finding an offensive rhythm in June — and entering off consecutive 3-0 wins — LouCity lacked the intensity it showed the rest of the month.
In addition to righting themselves, the boys in purple were tested against an Ottawa side in its best form of the season, with just one loss in five games. Fury FC’s attack included multiple players 6-foot-3 and taller, which O’Connor combated by inserting defender Sean Reynolds into his starting 11.
LouCity attempted 16 shots — seven on target — and allowed the visitors just one shot on goal.
“It’s been a hard week, really, looking at the way we’ve had to train and prepare for the game,” O’Connor said.
“With the direct style that Ottawa plays, it’s difficult at times, but I thought our team did that, and it’s not the easiest thing to do,” added forward Luke Spencer. “You’ve got to be tough throughout the game, and I thought our team did that.”
O’Connor and his club speak often about team chemistry of this year’s bunch. That, plus plenty of talent, have LouCity within six points of first place heading into this weekend’s game against USL Eastern Conference-leading Charleston.
Certainly, Saturday’s result was a first step toward proving the loss in Harrisburg was an outlier during an otherwise excellent start to the year.
“Yeah, those are one of those games that everyone you hope not to have,” said midfielder Brian Ownby. “It’s just how you respond. Sometimes you say you’re going to respond better, and it doesn’t work out. But the way we came out tonight, I couldn’t be more proud.”