By Matt Bradshaw —
In a city gradually growing support for men’s soccer, two programs take centerstage as elites at the collegiate and professional levels: U of L and Louisville City FC. The pair faced off for the inaugural 502 Derby and provided fans a unique dose of competitive, intercity soccer.
Louisville City topped the scoreboard after 90 minutes, winning the match 3-1 at Lynn Stadium. U of L managed to stay close until late in the second half, when the visitors began to dominate with possession and offensive attack.
“We didn’t have the ball as much as we would have liked,” first-year head coach John Michael Hayden said. “But Louisville City is a very good team. They put you under pressure, they make it very difficult for you to play.”
The Cardinals, defending ACC Champions, scored first despite a rain of offensive opportunities from their opponent. Hayden said the match was a great opportunity to test his team, who led LouCity for the first 50 minutes.
“The game is the teacher for us,” Hayden said. “It’s growth. We can learn from it. There are definitely some positives.”
Louisville City equalized with a header in the second half. The reigning USL Champions continued with a barrage of shots, ending with a 23-4 shot advantage and 3-1 victory. Head coach John Hackworth recognized the value of the match for the community.
“The game is special,” Hackworth said. “Because you’re getting fans of LouCity, but you also get fans of the University. You’re going to have an interesting mix there. It’s going to be an environment that really has a feel for the game.”
LouCity had the upper hand for the first 20 minutes of the Friend-de-Les, owning a 8-2 shot advantage with a superior attack. U of L keeper Jake Gelnovatch saved a string of opposing shots around the 33 minute mark, keeping the score 0-0.
The Cards matched City’s ball possession with counterattacks. Midfielder Elijah Amo drew a penalty for U of L at the 37 minute mark, as he was tackled by LouCity keeper Tim Dobrowolski at the top of the box.
Forward Pedro Fonseca converted the penalty for the Cardinals and a 1-0 lead at halftime.
LouCity continued its offensive barrage in the second half and found the equalizer at the 53 minute. Niall McCabe converted on a header to tie the game 1-1.
While still struggling against LouCity’s possession, the Cards continued to find counterattacks. Fonseca blasted a shot off the crossbar that nearly put U of L ahead again.
“We had a number of opportunities that I thought we should have put away,” Hayden said. “There were some moments, it was just hard to find those guys (on offense) because of LouCity’s pressure.”
LouCity drew a penalty at the 68 minute mark and failed to convert the attempt. U of L keeper Will Meyer, who replaced Gelnovatch for the half, came up with the save to keep the score level.
After the 75 minute mark, goals started falling for LouCity. They scored at the 77 minute mark with a rocket on the ground, then at the 84 minute mark with a header on a corner kick. The final score read 3-1.
In terms of takeaways for the Cardinals, there are some positives as Hayden said. Fonseca and Kino Ryosuke provided a talented attack, while keepers Gelnovatch and Meyer turned in some terrific saves. The defense worked well too, remaining level with a professional team for most of the matchup.
The midfield could use some work with the loss of mainstays Tate Schmitt, Geoffrey Dee and Adam Wilson from last season. Possession was erratic under LouCity’s pressure, so hopefully U of L can eventually find its groove in the midfield this spring.
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Photos by Taris Smith / The Louisville Cardinal