Oscar Craig of Louisville City celebrates his goal against Nashville SC in the Fifth Round of the 2018 US Open Cup. Photo: EM Dash Photography
It’s become an all too common scene this summer for Louisville City FC. The defending United Soccer League (USL) champions bring their fans to Lynn Stadium, on the University of Louisville’s red-painted campus, and splash it with a bit of purple and gold.
Louisville City’s march toward another cup continued Wednesday.
The hosts never trailed in a 2-1 win over Nashville SC — marking the final all-USL match-up in the 2018 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup — while advancing to the tournament’s Quarterfinals.
“It was another exciting one for us,” said Louisville midfielder Paolo DelPiccolo, who scored the second goal for his side, but away from its normal home at Louisville Slugger Field, a Triple-A baseball facility. Louisville City’s 4-0-0 this year in Open Cup play at Lynn, a soccer-specific stadium.
“We enjoy playing here, not only because it’s a proper field, but it gets the fans a little closer — a little louder — and it really energizes us,” DelPiccolo added. “Especially in a close one like today, it gets tiring at the end. To have the fans kind of keep us going to help see it out when we’re up just one goal is nice.”
Louisville City became the first team from Kentucky to make the Open Cup Quarterfinals and ensured a division club would reach the final eight for the third year in a row, as well as for the 11th time in 12 years.
The boys in purple will next face Major League Soccer’s Chicago Fire away on July 18. Kickoff time has yet to be announced.
“More than anything, we’re just proud of ourselves, as a team,” defender Paco Craig said. “We love the fact that if we are to be the only USL team left, that says a lot for the USL. Last year, as well, the USL showed well. We enjoy that, but the pride is more for us and what we were able to accomplish as a unit.”
With the Sacramento Republic falling to Los Angeles FC, City would finish the evening as the last remaining Division 2 (USL) team in the tournament. That accomplishment earns Louisville $25,000 in prize money.
In front of an announced crowd of 4,463 on Wednesday, DelPiccolo’s turn-and-shoot poke into the back of the net ended up the game-winner in the 58th minute. The sequence started with a short corner that was nearly turned over until hastily played to midfielder George Davis IV, who scooted the ball through the middle of the box.
“Just like we drew it up — a couple of missed passes and it falls on my foot,” DelPiccolo said with a smile. The tally added to a 30th-minute header by Craig from point-blank range, also the product of a short corner and set up by a cross from Oscar Jimenez. “I thought both the goals were really well worked, so the lads deserve enormous credit,” said Louisville City coach James O’Connor. “Their ability to see things — the sharpness, the speed of mind — it was great to see.”
After a second goal moved Louisville City ahead 2-0, supporters behind the Nashville goal chided the visitors’ goalkeeper — veteran Matt Pickens — with an “easy Pickens” chant.
The lead nearly evaporated, however, after Matt LaGrassa forcefully finished a cross from London Woodbery in the 68th minute.
From there, Nashville applied pressure, and it peaked in stoppage time with a Bradley Bourgeois header flicked just wide of the post.
The final whistle soon followed.
On a humid night, the result continued a contentious back-and-forth between Louisville City and Nashville, a first-year club preparing for its move up to MLS. Louisville City took the USL season opener, but Nashville defended its turf in a May rematch.
They’ll meet once more in August — but it will be until next year before Nashville gets another try at the Open Cup.