LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A dramatic two-goal comeback inside the final 10 minutes of regular time and a crucial penalty shootout save by goalkeeper Danny Faundez sent No. 1 seed Louisville City FC into the Eastern Conference Final of the 2022 USL Championship Playoffs presented by Hisense, advancing past No. 5 seed Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC 5-3 from the spot after the teams had played to a 2-2 draw after extra time before 8,505 fans at Lynn Family Stadium.
LouCity will play host to the Eastern Conference Final against either the No. 2 seed Memphis 901 FC or No. 3 seed Tampa Bay Rowdies on Saturday, Nov. 5 at 7:30 p.m. ET, with the appearance Louisville’s eighth consecutive Conference Final berth in club history.
Trailing by a pair of goals as the game entered its final stages, that streak appeared in jeopardy, but a remarkable turnaround saw first Manny Perez score his first goal for the club before less than two minutes later Cameron Lancaster converted from the penalty spot after a foul by the visitors to level the game.
Then it became Faundez’s chance to shine. A Championship Final winner a season ago as a back-up for Orange County SC and stepping into the starting lineup in the absence of 2022 Championship Golden Glove winner Kyle Morton, Faundez made a fine low save in the opening round of the shootout to deny Pittsburgh’s Danny Griffin. With Sean Totsch having already converted for the hosts, 17-year-old Joshua Wynder cemented the advantage with a shot to the top-left corner, and LouCity remained pristine from the spot. Finishes by Oscar Jimenez and Napo Matsoso – matched by the Hounds – brought 19-year-old Carlos Moguel Jr. to the spot, and his shot to the bottom-right corner sent his side through.
The Hounds had put themselves in a strong position behind a pair of goals by Russell Cicerone, who opened the scoring in the 14th minute on the first serious attack for the visitors. Robbie Mertz found space on the right and delivered a cross that came to Cicerone at the back post, and the veteran forward had time to control and finish for his 30th goal for the club.
LouCity, meanwhile, carried play but struggled to test Pittsburgh goalkeeper Jahmali Waite, and two minutes into the second half a beautiful sequence saw Kenardo Forbes play Cicerone in for the Hounds as he broke into the left channel before delivering a lifted finish into the left side of the net.
Louisville had a chance to pull a goal back five minutes later as a corner kick from the left caused a scramble in the penalty area, resulting in a chance for Corben Bone that flew over the crossbar, but in the main the hosts continued to have difficulty breaking down Pittsburgh’s defense as it tried to find a way back. At the other end, meanwhile, the Hounds found more attacking threats to extend their lead. On the hour-mark, Forbes played Albert Dikwa in for a chance that was well saved by Faundez, and the shot-stopper came up with another save eight minutes later to keep out Alex Dixon.
And then, in the span of 160 seconds, the game’s momentum shifted, with the Wynder brothers at the center of it all. LouCity gave itself a chance with seven minutes to go off a set piece played into the right side of the penalty area. Manny Perez’s central header found Joshua Wynder for a volley that was turned away by Waite, only for the ball to rebound to Perez for a low finish and his first goal in LouCity colors.
Just over a minute later, Elijah Wynder was played into the penalty area by Cameron Lancaster and brought down from behind, giving the hosts a penalty kick. Lancaster stepped up to the spot and powered home a finish to the bottom-left corner beyond Waite’s dive to breathe new life into the hosts.
The Hounds tried to grab momentum back as the game entered extra time and almost struck three minutes in when Albert Dikwa was sprung forward on a counterattack only to be denied well by Faundez. LouCity, meanwhile, continued to threaten from set pieces and in the 98th minute almost struck again as Sean Totsch’s volleyed finish off Moguel’s corner kick was kept out by an excellent low save by Waite.
After his heroics in the opening round of the postseason, Edward Kizza appeared he might have delivered again after coming on as a substitute prior to the additional 30 minutes, only for the offside flag to be raised to deny his lifted finish. Following a second period of few chances, however, Faundez’s opening round save, and a perfect sequence of finishes propelled the hosts through, maintaining the club’s Eastern Conference Final appearance streak.
USLChampionship.com Player of the Match
Sean Totsch, Louisville City FC – The veteran defender had a stellar overall performance and set the hosts on their way to victory with his goal in the opening round of the shootout.
PIT – Russell Cicerone (Robbie Mertz) 14’
PIT – Russell Cicerone (Kenardo Forbes) 47’
LOU – Manny Perez 83’
LOU – Cameron Lancaster (Penalty Kick) 85’
Louisville City FC – Sean Totsch, scored; Joshua Wynder, scored; Oscar Jimenez, scored; Napo Matsoso, scored; Carlos Moguel Jr., scored
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC – Danny Griffin, saved; Kenardo Forbes, scored; Toby Sims, scored; Albert Dikwa, scored