The hometown hero.
LouCity midfielder Richard Ballard accepted that nickname back in November. Burying a penalty against NYRB II in the 2017 Eastern Conf. Final in front of thousands to send his team through to the USL Cup, it seemed his destiny. A graduate of DuPont Manual High School in Louisville, Ballard grew from youth product to USL Rookie of the Year candidate and has no plans on stopping there.
“That first year went well for me,” said Ballard. “As far as getting everything I wanted… I’m always going to want more playing time, more goals, and more assists. You can never settle for what you got. Last year built my hunger to train even harder and to prepare myself to be successful for this season.”
Starting off right, Ballard showed flashes of his ability in his debut and earned Man of the Match honors. Over the months that followed, he would develop a reputation for using his speed to blitz past the opposition to create chances for his side. In total, Ballard scored three goals and registered five assists in 29 appearances last year in front of the city he represents.
“It’s amazing to be here again. It’s all about the fans. We have the whole city behind us, and their support is stronger than ever,” he said. “But, I also get to play in front of my family. That’s the most important thing to me. I’m excited to show people how serious we are and what we can do for this city. Our future is bright here.”
One of the main influences on Ballard’s trajectory is LouCity head coach James O’Connor, who offered Ballard his first contract on the final day of his trial--also his 23rd birthday.
“I’ve had a lot of great coaches in my career, and James is one of them. He’s an amazing coach. He pushed me. He continues to push me beyond where I knew I could go, so he helped me break out a new level of my play. He also pushed me to a higher level of fitness, a higher level of competitiveness, and tested everything to bring out the best in me," the rookie sensation included.
After winning the 2017 USL Cup last November, Ballard now looks to use his improved ability and the guidance of his coaching staff to reach the level he desires this year.
“I’ve set plenty of goals for this year. We have our own developmental plan that James worked on with us. I want an increase in goals, an increase in assists--more like 10 goals, 15 assists--and an increase in playing time. Unfortunately, that's something you can’t put a number on,” said the hybrid midfielder. “I want to have more of an impact and to have more of a starting role. If I can improve, I will.”
Whether storming in off the bench or impacting from a starting position, Ballard is again ready to make waves once the regular season begins. LouCity hosts Nashville SC on Saturday, March 17th to open their defense of the USL Cup.