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In just its second season, the rivalry between Louisville City FC and FC Cincinnati has proven not just one of the United Soccer League’s best, but one of the top derbies in all of U.S. Soccer.
Hundreds of those clad in orange and blue mingled with the fans in purple Saturday night, totaling a LouCity-record 11,632 in the stands at Louisville Slugger Field.
“This is the way the growth of soccer in the U.S. is going to go, where you get more local and regional rivalries where you get away fans and you get big crowds,” said LouCity coach James O’Connor.
He played for, among other clubs, current English Premier League members Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion before finishing his playing career with Orlando City SC.
“That’s what football’s all about,” O’Connor added. “You want to win those games.”
In this case, LouCity didn’t, and O’Connor pointed to “individual mistakes” rather than a lack of overall effort in a 3-2 defeat.
Here’s what we learned from the game…
• Ilija Ilic continued his recent run of form, adding a second goal in two games — and in his third straight professional start. It’s all new territory for Ilic, a native of Serbia in his third season with LouCity.
An early hand ball in the box earned LouCity the penalty opportunity. Ilic chipped a shot straight down the middle.
“I watched the (FC Cincinnati) game against the Chicago Fire,” he said. “I saw Bastian (Schweinsteiger) score a goal. I thought (goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt) was going to go left or right, so I just thought he’s going down (for a save). So I chipped.
• LouCity’s lineup changes for the FC Cincinnati game included the return of four defenders along the back line. Entering, O’Connor had featured just three defenders dating back to a mid-May switch from the 4-2-3-1 formation to a 3-4-3.
Additionally, rookie Richard Ballard made a start, while defenders Sean Totsch and Oscar Jimenez were sidelined in favor of taller counterparts to protect against a sizable FC Cincinnati front line.
The changes, O’Connor noted, got LouCity off to nice starts in both halves. “We maybe could have come in (at halftime) winning the game and didn’t,” he said. “We started the second half quite bright. We think, OK, now we’re going to get after them, and we give away a poor goal. Then it gets compounded, because we give away another poor goal. Then we get back a goal at the end, when there’s 10 seconds left, or 15 seconds left, so really just a frustrating loss for us.”
• The loss at Slugger Field — combined with the Charlotte Independence’s sixth straight win — dropped LouCity to third in the Eastern Conference standings at the midpoint in the season. O’Connor said the focus turns squarely to next weekend’s trip to play Saint Louis FC. But there’s chance for revenge in the FC Cincinnati rivalry, as the orange and blue return to Slugger on Aug. 12.
“We’re going to meet them in a few weeks, yeah,” said midfielder Guy Abend. “We’re looking forward to it. Every game against Cincinnati’s a good game. Our crowd shows up. Their crowd shows up. It makes it a bit more exciting.”