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Hard Work Pays Off for Louisville’s Morad

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 10/21/17, 12:01PM EDT


Defender’s first two-goal game for club keyed opening postseason win

Photo courtesy Em-Dash Photography / Louisville City FC

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – As one of the players to have been part of Louisville City FC since the club’s opening season, Tarek Morad has been one of the mainstays in the club’s back line thanks to the diligence he brings game-in and game-out.

On Friday night in the opening game of the 2017 USL Cup Playoffs, though, it was Morad’s hard work at the other end that paid major dividends as the center back scored the opening two goals of a 4-0 victory for the Eastern Conference’s top seed against No. 8-seed Bethlehem Steel FC at Slugger Field that opened the club’s third consecutive postseason in impressive fashion.

“You get luckier the harder you work,” said Morad. “For me, I would say it’s finally working out for me, I’ve gotten unlucky a few times in the regular season hitting the post. I think it’s just been a long time coming for me. I’m just glad to be able to put two in the back of the net tonight.”

Morad hadn’t scored more than two goals in a regular season in his career. In fact, his only goal of the 2017 regular season came last week in slightly fortuitous circumstances as he put home the rebound of his own penalty kick against the Richmond Kickers. The last of Louisville’s 17 outfield players to find the net in the regular season, Morad showed a great sense of timing to open the scoring against Bethlehem though, as his late run into the penalty area arrived at just the right time to claim Paco Craig’s header and finish.

“Paolo [DelPiccolo] was about to take the free kick, and I wasn’t even in the box yet,” said Morad. “I told him to wait, but he didn’t hear me. I ended up not being followed into the box, which worked out. The ball got crossed in, came back out, Paco went up for the header, great assist, and he didn’t hear me, apparently, but the ball landed right at my chest and I was able to volley it in.”

If Morad was good on his first, that element of being in the right place at the right time certainly played a factor in his second. A poor defensive clearance toward the top of the penalty area saw Louisville’s Sean Totsch try to redirect the ball back toward goal. His looping effort came back off the crossbar as Bethlehem goalkeeper Jake McGuire back-peddled to try and keep it out, and the ball fell kindly for Morad all alone to finish.

After another fine season defensively, Louisville Head Coach James O’Connor was pleased to see Morad rewarded in the attacking end.

“The best thing with Tarek is his character,” said O’Connor. “He’s a fine young man, but his character is excellent. It really is. His desire and will to win is very, very good. I think when you look at – and not just Tarek. We’ve got multiple, multiple guys that have that type of character and I think it plays such a key role.”

As fun as it was for Morad to find the net, as big a factor in the victory was the work put in by Louisville’s back three as he, Totsch and Craig all helped close down Bethlehem’s speedy attack. DelPiccolo also put in a masterclass in midfield, winning four tackles, 15 of 22 duels and 7 of 10 aerial duels as Louisville controlled the tempo for much of the game far better than in the September meeting between the same teams that saw Bethlehem emerge with a 2-2 draw.

“If you watched Paco, I don’t think he lost a battle,” said Louisville wingback Oscar Jimenez. “He was a monster out there. Winning every header, getting in tackles, pretty much everybody was winning their battles. Luke [Spencer] was up top winning his battles. I haven’t seen the stats yet, but I feel like we were better in that aspect.”

Photo courtesy Em-Dash Photography / Louisville City FC

As positive a start as Louisville’s victory on Friday night proved to its pursuit of a first USL Cup, the side also believes there’s room for growth as the playoffs move on.

“I felt the quality tonight was better than last game, that’s for sure,” said Morad. “But still, none of us are satisfied with our performance tonight. I think we’re still stuck in second gear. We didn’t really put our best foot forward out there, regardless of the results. I think the quality can definitely improve, and that’s something we’ll definitely be working on this week.”

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