Louisville City hosted Western Conference representatives Swope Park Rangers in front of 14,556 fans on Monday night, in a USL Cup Final debut for the Eastern Conference Champions, and a second consecutive trip for the junior side from Kansas City.
The first half was a pretty cagey affair, with Louisville City looking the stronger side early on before having a goal called back in the 7th minute after Paco Craig’s headed effort was deemed offside.
In the following minutes, the nerves of the occasion seemed to get to James O’Connor’s men. The half saw a few too many giveaways, but there was nothing more than a handful of half chances between the two sides.
A couple of early yellows for Swope Park’s Amer Didic and James Musa left them slightly wary at the back, but the visitors piled the pressure on as the half drew to a close.
The second half started much as the first, with Swope Park owning the edge in open play, their most dangerous opportunity in the entire half coming just two minutes into the period when Kharlton Belmar, the class of the Swope Park side, had a breakaway ball snatched off of his foot by charging Lou City goal minder Greg Ranjitsingh. Louisville’s continual and uncharacteristic sloppy play was compounded by Swope Park’s pressure up the field.
Louisville’s first change came in the 66th minute when Cameron Lancaster replaced the ineffective Luke Spencer. Swope Park was plagued by several injuries, forcing Nikola Popvic to make two unplanned swaps in defense. Lou City took advantage of this fact, and pressed higher and higher up the field, although garnering little more than a couple half-chances.
History was written in the 88th minute though, when Devon Williams, from the right side, lofted a shallow ball into Swope’s box for a towering Cameron Lancaster to head beyond a helpless Adrian Zendejas. It was much against the run of play, but the crowd didn’t care a bit. Five minutes of stoppage wore on to nearly 8, but despite throwing their keeper forward, Swope Park couldn’t rescue extra time.
Louisville City FC’s USL Cup victory marks the first championship won in the city of Louisville since the 1975 Kentucky Colonels, and highlights the club’s stellar three-year USL existence.