With a late start due to the sky unleashing watery hell on Indianapolis’ Carroll Stadium, another USL-NASL matchup ended in dramatic fashion as Louisville City FC scored a pair of goals in added extra time to upset Indy Eleven, 2-0.
The wet artificial turf at Carroll definitely set the tone for play early on as struggles with the first touch and errant passing left Indy with little offensive momentum. Louisville seemed to handle the conditions somewhat better and held most of possession in the first half.
Louisville’s push toward the net earned them several corners in the first half, but solid marking by the Indy backline led by Greg Janicki and quick play by Kristian Nicht kept the visitors at bay. Indy’s offensive chances were few and far between except for highlights like Wolciech Wojcik sending a rocket on the Louisville net in the 13th minute, forcing City keeper Scott Goodwin to make a diving save. Goodwin won TheCup.us Lower Division Player of the Tournament with the Carolina RailHawks last year.
One had to feel for Indy’s Don Smart, who made numerous offensive advances only to be fouled outside the box, tripped up by the wet artificial turf or, when he could maintain ball control, sent a number of balls arcing into the space between the six-yard box and the penalty spot only for there to be not an Eleven player within 20 feet. His night ended early as he was subbed out in the 58th minute for Charlie Rugg.
Louisville remained in control to start the second half as Indy still seemed like they were fighting to just get solid footing.
Frustration mounted as time rolled on. In the 60th minute, Magnus Rasmussen declined to move forward even though he had a good 10 feet between himself and the nearest Eleven defender. After sending a shot wide right, he was loudly reprimanded by his captain Guzman.
City made two key subs in the 65th minute with Matt Fondy setting up on the right and Kareem Dacres on the left. Both players elevated the offensive pressure as Dacres’ skills with the ball and Fondy’s ability to evade defenders gave City formidable scoring chances. In the 85th minute, Indy nearly capitalized as Rugg made a run down the right side and sent a cross in to a streaking Bryan Brown. Unfortunately, as the ball entered the area, Brown and his trailing defender, Tarek Morad, both went tumbling to the ground as the ball continued toward the opposing sideline. The referee apparently didn’t see any infraction occur and play continued.
As the game went into extra time, it felt as if someone was going to get to be the hero and the win for their side. Fondy again charged down the right side and nearly gave City the go-ahead goal while Indy fought back and worked a sequence of shots before Louisville’s Goodwin was finally able to clear it out of his space.
In the first half of overtime, it finally came together for the Eleven. Employing runs down the flanks, Indy was able to speed past the midfield and sent numerous crosses into the Louisville 18. Louisville’s major chance in this frame was Fondy nearly scoring in the 98th minute as Indy’s Erick Morales went down in his own 18-yard area. As players slowed down awaiting a stoppage from the ref, Fondy slipped down the area’s left line and fired a shot on net. Nicht was forced to make a quick diving save to his left corner. Indy turned up the pressure on City’s backline, sending crosses into traffic, which forced City keeper Goodwin to make several saves on direct shots. We would go on to the back half of the overtime period still scoreless.
After the break, play opened up for both sides as fatigue set in for the midfield. The clubs traded runs down the flanks for decent scoring chances only to send them wide of the nets. Finally, as play collected outside Indy’s 18, Louisville popped the ball out of the congestion to Nate Polak at the left of the arc. Polak sent a rocket to the far side of the Indy net, just outside Kristian Nicht’s reach to give the USL upstarts a late 1-0 lead in the 115the minute. The goal sent City’s 100 or so supporters at the top of the stands into a frenzy as the rest of the nearly 7,000 fans sat in stunned silence.
As the Eleven quickly tried to regroup for the equalizer, the ball would end up back in Louisville’s possession. A Juan Guzman shot was knocked away by Nicht, but Sydney Rivera pounced on the rebound, sending it past the Eleven keeper for some insurance and as time ran out, a 2-0 victory.
The win is another milestone for the USL expansion side as they become the first team from the state of Kentucky to defeat a professional side in the tournament’s history. Louisville can now shift its focus to league play for a couple of weeks. When the Open Cup resumes on June 16, Louisville City gets its biggest challenge yet this season, traveling to Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill. for a match against the four-time Open Cup champion Chicago Fire.