Sunny Jane of Louisville City takes a free kick against Reading United AC in the Second Round of the 2019 US Open Cup. Photo: EM Dash Photography
With goals from Abdou Mbacke Thiam, George Davis IV, and Sunny Jane, Louisville City FC comfortably defeated USL League Two side Reading United AC 3-0 in front of 1,468 fans at Lynn Stadium on the campus of the University of Louisville.
The game had a strong local flavor, with Louisville native Chris Hubbard starting in goal; fellow Louisville native Richard Ballard appearing off the bench; and Geoffrey Dee, a former member of the Louisville Cardinals men’s soccer team, starting in central midfield. Local 16-year-old high school prodigy Elijah Wydner also made his professional debut, coming off the bench in the 89th minute to a standing ovation.
Despite Reading United entering the match hoping to be “giant killers,” Louisville City imposed itself on the match early. After a couple of early chances, veteran midfielder Niall McCabe delivered a low-driven ball across the face of goal. Both Sunny Jane, another player who spent time in Louisville, and Thiam, a rookie, made runs into the box and it was Thiam who came up with the goal-scoring touch. The goal put Louisville City up 1-0 in the 12th minute.
Thiam nearly doubled the score four minutes later, but a strike from him after a scramble in the box was parried away by Reading United goalkeeper Tor Erik Larsen. However, it was the veteran Davis who showed he still could flash some nifty footwork and skill despite being a decade older than some of the Reading United players. Thiam found Davis open on the left. Davis motioned to pass across the box, but he cut back across his left and dribbled on goal. He eventually rounded the goalkeeper and put a shot in off a defender to make it 2-0.
“[It was a] good buildup, Abdou got it wide to me,” Davis said. “I got myself isolated in the box. I was looking to pick somebody out but I just kept getting closer to goal. I took my opportunity and luckily it went in.”
Despite trailing and Louisville City feeling comfortable in the first half, Reading United grew into the game, especially after the hour mark. US youth international Jeremy Rafanello created some opportunities for his teammates in attacking midfield, and Goncalo Garcia had a breakaway on goal after a Louisville City defensive error, but Garcia put his shot wide of goal.
“First half, they exposed us,” Reading United coach Alan McCann said. “We sat off too deep, not recognizing when to go and press. Second half we changed a few things early on and we were very impressed with our boys. 61st minute on, if we nab a goal, it changes the tide. It’s shop window time for our boys as always and it’s great lessons for us for the rest of the USL League 2 season. We’ve got to score our chances and a pro team does what a pro team will do. They punished us.”
As the game wound down, Louisville City brought on Ballard for his first appearance since September 11, 2018, and in the final moments of the match, giving a professional debut to Wydner, who at 16 becomes the youngest Louisville City debutant.
After Niall McCabe was taken down just outside of the box in the 88th minute, Jane stepped up and delivered a wonderful free kick, up and over the Reading United wall for the game’s third goal. It put the cherry on what had been a comprehensive victory.
“It was just a wonderfully taken free kick,” Hackworth said.
With the win, Louisville City advances to Round 3, where it will play Birmingham Legion on May 29, back at Lynn Stadium in Louisville.
“At the end of the day that’s exactly what we wanted and needed,” said Louisville City coach John Hackworth. “We had a lot of objectives coming into this game and I think we accomplished all of them.”