HARRISON, N.J. -- Louisville City FC's bid for a United Soccer League championship ended Sunday night in dramatic fashion, with the New York Red Bulls II the winners of a penalty kick shootout in the Eastern Conference Final.
The Red Bulls II, also the East's regular-season winner, netted their first four penalties to sweep after the clubs played to a 1-1 draw throughout regulation and extra time.
"I'm exceptionally proud of the guys tonight," said LouCity coach James O'Connor. "The effort and quality they showed -- incredible. Just a really, really rough way to lose. Really disappointed for the players, because the players don't deserve that. The players have given everything throughout the course of the season, gave everything again tonight, and I feel like they've been completely shortchanged.
"It happens sometimes in life. It's a cruel, cruel way for us to finish the season, that's for sure."
LouCity survived at Red Bull Arena while playing down a man for 15 minutes after defender Sean Reynolds received a straight red card for a tackle in the first overtime session. New York was displayed one as well in the 118th, sending both sides to 10 players apiece.
The scoring was done much earlier, first in the 11th minute when team captain Aodhan Quinn bent a free kick into the box. Paco Craig found the other end of it, heading a shot past Red Bulls keeper Ryan Meara.
It wasn't until the 42nd minute that New York attempted a shot, a screamer off the foot of Vincent Bezecourt from distance. The equalizer came in the 74th when Bezecourt lined a free kick into the box. It, too, found, found a teammate's head, and Florian Valot earned credit for the goal.
By then, LouCity had to pull starting goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh, who subbed out early in the second half with a groin injury. Tim Dobrowolski, a rookie who posted a clean sheet Sept. 3 in his only other appearance, stepped in.
From there, both clubs -- the Nos. 1 and 2 Eastern Conference seeds -- failed to break through, though it wasn't for lack of trying.
"We lost to a terrific team," Quinn said. "Obviously, I think we were the two top teams in the league. If it wasn't going to be us, it was probably going to be New York Red Bulls II. That's all we can say about that."
Quinn connected again with Craig on a set piece at the end of regulation, but the shot wasn't on frame. In the 98th minute. New York lined a cross through the 6-yard box that didn't have a finishing touch.
Craig, booked for two yellows, was sent off after the 120th minute. The ensuing free kick came up empty, and the league semifinal went to penalty kicks.
Meara came up with a save on LouCity's first attempt, by Cameron Lancaster shot to the keeper's right. From there, the Red Bulls II drilled four straight, moving on for the second straight round via a shootout win.
"I think we're both the best teams in the league," Quinn said. "It's unfortunate that we lost them, but we wish them all the best."
New York will host Western Conference champion Swope Park Rangers at 8 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 23, in the USL Cup Final on ESPNU.
For a second straight season, LouCity advanced to the conference final. Last year, the boys in purple fell to the eventual USL champion Rochester Rhinos.
Match: New York Red Bulls II vs. Louisville City FC
Date: Oct. 16, 2016
Venue: Red Bull Arena
Kickoff: 6:30 p.m.
Weather: Clear, 68 degrees
Louisville City FC: 13-Greg Ranjitsingh (52' 28-Tim Dobrowolski), 24-Kyle Smith, 15-Sean Reynolds, 18-Paco Craig, 6-Tarek Morad, 8-Guy Abend, 4-Aodhan Quinn, 7-Kadeem Dacres (70' 12-Mark-Anthony Kaye), 10-Magnus Rasmussen (106' 2-Ben Newnam), 22-George Davis IV (81' 77-Andrew Lubahn), 17-Chandler Hoffman (64' 9-Cameron Lancaster).
Subs not used: 14-Ilija Ilic, 36-Paolo DelPiccolo.
Head coach: James O’Connor
New York Red Bulls II: 18-Ryan Meara, 46-Kevin O'Toole (64' 41-Konrad Plewa), 33-Aaron Long, 17-Zach Carroll (120'+ 45-Zoumana Simpara), 37-Davis Najem, 4-Tyler Adams (97' 80-Devon Williams), 36-Dan Metzger, 88-Vincent Bezecourt, 7-Derrick Etienne, 21-Brandon Allen, 47-Florian Valot (96' 29-Stefano Bonomo, 106' 39-Tim Schmoll).
Subs not used: 74-Rafael Diaz, 70-Benjamin Mines.
Head coach: John Wolyniec
Stats - New York / LouCity
Shots: 11 / 13
Saves: 2 / 4
Corner Kicks: 8 / 7
Fouls: 15 / 20
Offside: 2 / 4
Referee: Matthew Kreitzer
Assistant Referee 1: Jeffrey Skinker
Assistant Referee 2: Gjovalin Bori
4th Official: Artur Sibiga