Over 7,000 fans witness men’s 1-0 victory over second ranked Maryland
By Derek Brightwell
In their first game at the newly opened Dr. Mark and Cindy Lynn Stadium, the number14 ranked Louisville Cardinals topped the number two ranked Maryland Terrapins in a tight 1-0 game Friday night.
The Cardinal athletic department pulled out all of the stops in the opening of the impressive stadium. Starting off with a fireworks display before the 5:30 women’s game, there was also a tribute video to the Lynn family before the men’s game and a second, and much larger, fireworks display at halftime of the men’s game.
But the best way to open the stadium was with the win.
The first half ended nil-nil, but Louisville did have chances to score early. The energy of the unveiling of the stadium may have been in the heads of the Cards early on.
“The energy was unbelievable,” junior forward Ricardo Velazco said of the first half. “At times, it was too much energy. You saw it, next time we have to slow it down and not let the energy get to as much.”
“It was the emotion of the night,” head coach Ken Lolla remarked. “The first half was like one long collective breath and we just needed to exhale and get it done with and then we can move on.”
On several occasions in the first half, the Cards had a break that led to a good chance at the goal, but would just miss it. However, in the 53rd minute of the second half, sophomore midfielder, Andrew Brody, made the most of a beautiful pass from Velazco to sneak a header in the upper left corner.
“I saw him going down the line and I’ll take Ricky one-v-one with anybody,” Brody reminisced. “I knew if I made the run, he was going to play the ball there and he put it on a dime right on my head. The least I could do was finish it. Perfect ball.”
Returning from injury, senior forward Will Vitalis fed the ball to Velazco, initiating the goal scoring play.
“I went at the defender, saw some space. I saw Brody open and there was space between two defenders. I played the ball and he finished it like the big guy that he is,” Velazco said. “He plays bigger than what he is. You don’t have to be six-four to score a goal like that. He showed it. He got up, was between two defenders and finished it. So he was a big guy on that play.”
Velazco’s athleticism was key to setting up the goal.
“When we get him wide or in any part of the field where it’s one-v-one, he’s tough to handle,” Lolla described. “He did a great job at creating a little bit of space for himself, got his head up and the timing of Brody’s run was wonderful,” he added.
The goal, that went on to be the game winner, was also the first goal scored by a men’s soccer player at Lynn Stadium.
“I can’t even have words for it,” Brody said of the magnitude of that goal. “It’s amazing to be the first person to score at Lynn Stadium, and again, I couldn’t have done it without Ricky and Will giving him the ball. I was just at a loss for words after that. I just went to Ricky and gave him a hug. It’s really all I could do.”
When it only takes one goal to win a game, that means the defense was outstanding and Friday’s game was no exception. While goalie Joachim Ball had five saves on Maryland’s 10 shots, he didn’t feel like he had a big performance.
“Not too much actually,” Ball said of the challenge he faced against Maryland. “The guys in front of me did a really good job defending wise.”
Defenders, Michael DeGraffenreidt and Daniel Keller, played a big part in keeping the pressure off of Ball; consistently clearing attacks from Maryland.
“It’s huge,” said Ball of the defensive wall in front of him. “As a goalie, you depend on the people in front of you and there’s a lot of communication going on.”
Coach Lolla attributes the unit’s toughness to their experience.
“We’re mature. Shane (Campbell), who’s a transfer, played two years at Penn State. Keller is a fifth year senior. Michael played a ton of games for us last year,” he said of the players who have college experience. Adding about the German freshman, “and even Tim (Kubel) is a freshman, where he comes from, he doesn’t play like a freshman.”
Friday night was more than just the first win for a Louisville team with championship aspirations; it was a win for the sport of college soccer.
“Overall, tonight, Louisville not only won the game, but the University of Louisville had a big night for college soccer,” Maryland head coach Sasho Cirovski said of the opening of Lynn Stadium. “For that, we’re grateful to be a part of.”
As for the $18.5 million stadium, Cirovski believes it to be the best in the nation. “Now this is the high tide that will raise all ships.”
For Louisville, the season brings more than just a new stadium. They begin their first season in the Atlantic Coast Conference against a team who, while now in the Big Ten, was a long time member of the ACC.
“They’re an outstanding program and they’ll be good in any conference they’re in,” Cirovski said. “They’ll have success. It’s a tough conference. Tough games every weekend.”
“We know the competition is going to be amazing,” Brody said excitedly. “Maryland, obviously, just coming from the ACC. So we know what to expect now going into the ACC. They’re going to be rough, they’re going to be hard, but we’ve got to come out flying. I think we can do it with the team we have.”
But, before looking forward to the year in the ACC, the importance of this win for the Louisville program cannot be forgotten.
“This was Louisville’s night,” Cirovski said. “And I congratulate them.”