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Photo by: James Tinnell

Drama of Eastern Conference Final a microcosm of 2017 season

By Dan Karell, 11/06/17, 3:45PM EST

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Saturday’s performance was the culmination of a season’s worth of lessons over the past seven and a half months

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Photo by: James Tinnell

Photo by: James Tinnell

The script writers producing the content for Louisville City FC’s season had to add a dramatic plot twist in arguably the club’s biggest game. 

It was only fitting then that sans red cards, Louisville City and New York Red Bulls II mimicked last year’s Eastern Conference final, finishing both regulation time and extra time locked at 1-1. But this time, Greg Ranjitsingh made two mammoth saves in the penalty kick shootout and hometown hero Richard Ballard scored the game-winning penalty kick to send shockwaves across the city, with fans in the stadium and around town getting off their feet to cheer and celebrate. 

The fans felt it, and stormed the field after the Eastern Conference trophy was hoisted high in the air by the team. Finally, after coming so close the last two years, Louisville City has gotten over the hump, secured its first piece of silverware, and lived up to the high potential and expectations set by fans and the coaching staff alike. 

“This is what we play the game for. For moments like this,” goal-scorer Brian Ownby mused after the game. 

Saturday’s performance was the culmination of a season’s worth of lessons over the past seven and a half months. We saw Louisville City start the season slow, scoring just eight goals in its first eight games, before exploding in June and July to rocket into first place in the standings. 

August and September saw some bumps along the way, but crucially, Louisville City learned from all those lessons and has proven it on the field last last five weeks. 

 

With close games in the second half against both Rochester and New York Red Bulls II the last two weeks, Louisville City hasn’t wilted under pressure. Instead, the team stayed strong, tighed up defensively, and wound up doing what was necessary to win the game. 

And with a tight game on Saturday going into extra time, the lessons learned during the 5-games-in-15-days road trip manifested themselves on the field.  

“You could see – for me you could definitely see there was a steely determination for us when it went to extra time,” Louisville City coach James O’Connor said. I think when you look at the grit our guys showed, we were getting chances in extra time.”

Although the team has come up short of winning USL Cup the last two years, a culture of winning has been sewed in the identity of the club. 

“It’s huge. We were just talking in the locker room about how happy we are,” Louisville City captain Paolo DelPiccolo said.  Some of us, including myself, this is the first time we’ve ever won anything. So we have one more game to go and we’re focused on that, but for tonight is a really good thing for the club too.”

Even if the players individually haven’t won titles in their past, the attitude and spirit of the group is one that exudes confidence and utmost belief. It’s what’s helped the team come on out top in stress-filled situations and has led the team to this point after a record-breaking regular season. 

Now, with one game to go, Louisville City is 90 minutes (or more) away from the ultimate prize in USL. Let’s see what the script writers have in store for us.