Two strikers hit the back of the net, Louisville native Richard Ballard chipped in his first professional goal, and Louisville City FC passed a preseason test Saturday, beating NCAA Division II Young Harris College by a 3-1 score at the club’s training ground.
LouCity controlled possession throughout while tallying 19 shots at Thurman-Hutchins Park, where a group of 100 season ticket holders took in the otherwise closed-door game. But the score and stats weren’t top of mind for coach James O’Connor.
“I’m disappointed with the game, to be honest,” O’Connor said. “I thought Young Harris deserved a lot of credit. They made it very difficult for us. For me, there were a number of things I was disappointed with. We’ll be speaking about that for sure.
“…It’s a preseason game, and the easy thing to do is paper over cracks and make excuses. For what we’re looking for, it needs to be way better than that.”
• FULL VIDEO | O'Connor after Saturday's game
Oscar Jimenez, a LouCity newcomer who went the full 90 minutes on defense, said O’Connor urged his players to play with their heads up and move the ball faster. The team is also looking for a stronger mentality three weeks out from its March 25 United Soccer League opener.
“It wasn’t really out there today, but it was a preseason game,” Jimenez said. “We can bring it better next time. I’m hoping over these next couple of weeks we can dial it in.”
Luke Spencer, a forward who spent last season with FC Cincinnati, delivered the game’s top highlight with his 48th-minute goal. Spencer dribbled past defenders, side stepped another and blasted a shot past the Young Harris goalkeeper to put LouCity in front for good.
While Young Harris didn’t have an answer for that shot, the Mountain Lions did equalize after LouCity’s goal in the first half, when forward Cameron Lancaster both earned and converted on a penalty kick in the 24th minute. Young Harris’ Connor Stanley knotted the score at 1-1 eight minutes later, sneaking unmarked behind LouCity’s back line.
• MORE | See LouCity's 2017 schedule
After Spencer netted the go-ahed goal, Young Harris threatened in stoppage time. But on the counter attack, Ballard, a rookie who played for DuPont Manual High School and Indiana University, slotted in a goal just before the final whistle.
“We’re happy with the win,” Jimenez said. “It’s good. But we still have a lot of things to work on.”
LouCity’s ties to Young Harris have been well-documented, with Niall McCabe, Ilija Ilic and Paco Craig all alums of the north Georgia school. Additionally, Jimenez played at the Premier Development League level last season for Mississippi Brilla FC. Mark McKeever coaches both the Mountain Lions and Brilla.
“He had a couple things to say to me while I was running up the line, which gave me a little smile,” Jimenez said. “It’s good to see him. He’s a good coach. The style of play he plays is similar to ours, just moving the ball quick and pressing.”
LouCity’s final three preseason games are open to the public: 7 p.m. Wednesday against Lipscomb University in Elizabethtown (free admission); 7 p.m. March 15 against the University of Kentucky in Lexington (free admission); and 6 p.m. March 18 against Indy Eleven in Evansville ($5 at the gate).
The regular season the opens at 2 p.m. March 25 against Saint Louis FC at Slugger Field.
Match: Louisville City FC vs. Young Harris College
Date: March 4, 2017
Venue: LouCity Training Ground
Kickoff: 10:56 a.m.
Weather: Sunny, 45 degrees
Louisville City FC (1, 2, 3)
Young Harris (1, 0, 1)