LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The final edition of the Kings’ Cup provided all of the entertainment and drama you could have hoped for.
As the final whistle blew, however, Louisville City FC’s winning streak in the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the USL Championship Playoffs continued thanks to a 2-0 victory against Saint Louis FC on Saturday night at Lynn Family Stadium as LouCity goalkeeper Ben Lundt tied a Championship Playoffs record with a 10-save performance that allowed Cameron Lancaster’s second goal of this postseason to stand as the winner.
LouCity will now play host to the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the Eastern Conference Final next Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. ET as its bid for a third league title continues on.
The game opened evenly as Saint Louis looked to go toe-to-toe with the hosts and Tyler Blackwood forced the first save of the night in the eighth minute with a snap-shot from 16 yards that was swallowed up by LouCity goalkeeper Ben Lundt.
The visitors remained on the front foot, and Blackwood was in the middle of the action again as he was played in by a deft first-time pass by Kyle Greig and brought down by LouCity’s Sean Totsch for a penalty kick. Wal Fall stepped up in the 12th minute to the spot for STLFC but his low shot to the right corner was smothered by Lundt to keep the game scoreless as he denied any chance on the rebound.
Six minutes later, that missed opportunity became glaring as LouCity took the lead. Oscar Jimenez found Antoine Hoppenot on the left side level with the top of the penalty area and as Brian Ownby’s central run drew the attention of the defense, Hoppenot’s cross to the back post found Cameron Lancaster in enough space to control on his chest and volley into the left corner of the net from the top of the six-yard area.
Saint Louis almost responded immediately as it was awarded a free kick in the right channel about 35 yards from goal. A curling delivered by Todd Wharton found Sam Fink for a diving header into the right corner of the net but the offside flag was raised to deny the visitors an equalizer. Louisville then went close to doubling its lead just before the half-hour mark as Hoppenot fired a low shot to the right corner that STLFC goalkeeper Kyle Morton parried before Pat McMahon sent the rebound over the crossbar.
STLFC remained on the front foot as the first half neared its conclusion as Russell Cicerone carved out space for a shot from the top-left edge of the penalty area that was saved by Lundt and then hustled behind for a corner. On a corner a couple of minutes later, meanwhile, Tobi Adewole slipped up to the top of the penalty area unnoticed and was picked out by a delivery by Wharton that through a combination of Lundt and the crossbar was just turned onto the roof of the net.
Wharton went close 11 minutes into the second half as well when his run was picked out beautifully by Paris Gee’s angled pass from the right but the STLFC midfielder was unable to get his finish past Lundt, who had quickly come off his line and got enough of the shot to gather at the second attempt. Louisville also had a chance just past the hour-mark as Jimenez moved into the left side of the penalty area but had his effort saved by Morton.
While Saint Louis pressed for an equalizer, Louisville continued to look to an insurance goal late and Morton made a good diving save to turn a shot by Corben Bone just wide of the left post with 11 minutes to go. The insurance marker arrived four minutes later, however, as a free kick from the right near the goal line was delivered to the back post by Paolo DelPiccolo only for STLFC’s Adewole to redirect it into his own net under pressure from LouCity’s Luke Spencer.
STLFC never took its foot off the gas in search of a way back into the game and almost pulled a goal back with four minutes to go as Fall’s low shot from the left side of the penalty area wasn’t held by Lundt allowing Joaquin Rivas to squeeze his shot on the rebound past the goalkeeper, but Jimenez was there to clear off the line and into the stands to deny the chance. Fall was then ruled offside as he set up Kyle Greig for a finish that was again chalked off a minute later.
That would be the last big opportunity for the visitors, however, as their time in the Championship ended at the hands of their biggest rival, who will now go on to seek a fourth consecutive Eastern Conference crown.
USLChampionship.com Man of the Match
Ben Lundt, Louisville City FC – Lundt recorded a 10-save shutout to equal a USL Championship Playoffs record for saves in a game, including a key early penalty save to keep the game scoreless.