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Marked on Louisville City FC fans' calendars since the 2017 schedule was released, it's finally here: a visit from rival FC Cincinnati.
Saturday will mark the second meeting between the two all-time at Louisville Slugger Field and first since a scoreless draw in June of last year, when a LouCity-record 10,062 were in attendance.
Help us set a new high mark! Tickets remain available, with prices lower in advance -- and lower-priced sections will sell out.
Here's what to watch for...
TV: WBNA TV-21 will air the game live and in high definition locally.
Radio: TJ Walker (play-by-play) and Jeff Milby (color commentary) will voice the action on NewsRadio 840 WHAS, with pregame coverage starting at 7:15 p.m.
For Starting XI information and in-game updates, check us out on social media. It’s @loucityfc on Twitter, Louisville City FC on Facebook and louisvillecityfc on Instagram. Vote for the Modelo Man of the Match on Twitter starting in the 75th minute.
• Ilic relishing his chance in the spotlight for LouCity
• Videos: O'Connor, players preview Saturday's game
• City's focus on the game, not emotions of a rivalry
• Supporters' love for LouCity knows no boundaries
• Fans encouraged to plan ahead for parking Saturday
The standings: After breaking even for the second time against first-place Charleston, LouCity (8-2-5, 29 points) held its No. 2 spot in the USL Eastern Conference table. The boys in purple remain six points out of first and have so far fended off a run of five straight wins by the third-place Charlotte Independence. Coming off a win against the Richmond Kickers, FC Cincinnati (6-6-6, 24 points) sits sixth on the table.
Previously: Earlier this year, LouCity played FC Cincinnati to a 1-1 draw April 22 before the orange and blue got the better of the boys in purple in their U.S. Open Cup meeting on May 31. Both of those games were played at Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium, with the crowd for the USL game measuring 20,437.
Big crowd expected: The only other time the rivals met in Louisville, they played to a scoreless draw in June of 2016. The biggest highlight came off the pitch as LouCity set its club record for single-game attendance at 10,062. The number could be topped Saturday, with advance ticket sales trending up.
Return of Quinn and Dacres: Former LouCity midfielders Aodan Quinn and Kadeem Dacres will wear the rival’s colors Saturday in their first games back at Slugger. Dacres hasn’t recorded a goal or assist with FC Cincinnati but remains a threat with his pace on the wing. Quinn netted FC Cincinnati’s goal in the April 22 meeting with LouCity.
Cincy’s schedule: FC Cincinnati has balanced its regular-season USL schedule with an extended run in the U.S. Open Cup, defeating Major League Soccer sides Columbus Crew SC and the Chicago Fire after knocking off LouCity. The orange and blue were in for a run of four games in 10 days until Wednesday’s Open Cup game at Miami FC was postponed due to weather.
Ilic’s moment: In his third start of the season — and second straight — forward Ilija Ilic set the tone for LouCity’s effort last week against the Charleston Battery, scoring a 27th-minute equalizer in the 1-1 draw. Ilic also had a notable performance July 1 against Ottawa Fury FC, taking an early shot off the cross bar six minutes after Brian Ownby’s goal put LouCity in the lead.
Reynolds securing his spot: Defender Sean Reynolds, consistently a starter in 2016, is rounding back into form this year. As with Ilic, he has made three starts and came up huge against the Battery. Off a second half corner, with goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh forced off his line for a punch-out, Reynolds remained in goal to clear away a would-be game-winning shot and keep his side level.
Ballard setting the pace: Since LouCity’s season opener in March, Louisville native Richard Ballard has proven he belongs at this level. The rookie, named Man of the Match in his debut, has more recently featured as a substitute, racking up two goals and two assists in 13 appearances. The midfielder hit a game-winner over Charlotte in June and fired in another shot later that month against the New York Red Bulls II.
Louisville connections: FC Cincinnati defender Austin Berry and midfielder Kenney Walker can expect some cheers along with jeers Saturday in their visit to Slugger Field. Both featured for the University of Louisville, with Berry a member of the 2010 College Cup team that also had on it LouCity captain Paolo DelPiccolo. Walker was named All-Big East Conference during his time with the Cardinals.
Going for the Gold Cup: Midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye on Tuesday became the first LouCity player to make a start for his country’s national team, going the full 90 minutes in Canada’s 1-1 draw with Costa Rica in CONCACAF Gold Cup play. Kaye and Canada will also play Honduras at 10 p.m. Friday, with all Gold Cup games broadcast on national TV in the United States. It’s unknown when he’ll return to LouCity with Canada a candidate to advance past the group stage.
Ownby on a roll: A major addition to this year’s LouCity squad, veteran midfielder Brian Ownby was in contention for USL Player of the Month in June after tallying three goals and two assists. Overall, he’s tied for the team lead in both statistical categories. Ownby has appeared four times on the USL Team of the Week, most recently this week after opening scoring against Fury FC in the 14th minute.