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Ownby’s Observation Led to Key Breakthrough

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 10/29/17, 10:48AM EDT


Substitute played decisive role in Louisville’s return to Conference Final

Photo courtesy Em-Dash Photography / Louisville City FC

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – During the first half of Saturday’s Eastern Conference Semifinal, Louisville City FC midfielder Brian Ownby was a keen observer from the substitutes bench.

During the second half, he put what he’d observed into practice to devastating effect, as his late goal sent No. 1-seed Louisville back to a third consecutive Eastern Conference Final after a 1-0 victory against the No. 4-seed Rochester Rhinos in front of 7,117 fans at Slugger Field.

“In the first half, you could tell they came in tight, so there was space in behind. I forget who played me the ball, but I flicked it around to Kyle [Smith] and the defenders came tight. I told Kyle before the game, ‘If I’m in there with you, just look for me coming from behind and I’m going to try to beat them with my speed’.

“He played a good ball and the keeper came out. I just tried to put it on frame and it worked out.”

Ownby’s sixth goal of the season was a masterclass in what Louisville has done well all season, with the side’s quick passing and off-the-ball movement cutting open a Rochester defense that had been difficult to break down. Speedy Williams began the play in midfield, finding Ownby, who immediately took off for the space in the right channel after a first-time pass to Smith.

The return pass was perfectly weighted, allowing Ownby to chip his finish over advancing Rhinos goalkeeper Tomas Gomez for what proved to be the winner.

Having come on as a halftime substitute after Louisville struggled to find a way out of their own half after a strong Rhinos display in the first 45 minutes, the impact of Ownby and fellow substitute Mark-Anthony Kaye proved the turning point in the contest.

“There’s a lot of things we speak about and try to influence, and it’s fantastic when you see guys that can go on and actually impact the game,” said Louisville Head Coach James O’Connor. “Brian and Mark and all the players deserve an enormous credit for their character they showed as well, to be able to push through and go on to win the game.”

Ownby’s goal was his second in as many weeks coming off the bench in Louisville’s opening two postseason victories, leaving O’Connor with a continued quandary of how best to utilize the former Houston Dynamo and Richmond Kickers player. Ownby led Louisville in chances created from open play in the regular season with 37, but his ability to analyze and impact the game off the bench has clearly served City well so far in its pursuit of a first trip to the USL Cup.

“The biggest dilemma for me is do I start him or do I bring him on?” said O’Connor “I was speaking to him yesterday about it, and I’m going to have to sleep on it again. He’s come on and scored, and then he’s come on and scored again. So, do we start with that and try to score, or do we bring him on? His ability to actually analyze the game and then go on and impact it, again, there’s a real value to that.”

Photo courtesy Em-Dash Photography / Louisville City FC

While O’Connor will have another seven days to make that decision, Louisville will go about preparation to try and advance one step further than in its prior two seasons. After suffering defeats on the road to the Rhinos in 2015 and New York Red Bulls II in 2016 in its prior Eastern Conference Final visits, that the side will get to host the Red Bulls II this time around at Slugger Field is a big boost for the club.

“Playing at Slugger [Field] is awesome, because as you can see, the fan-support we get is unreal,” said Louisville goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh. “They rally us until the end. It’s great we got that late goal at the end, because they kept cheering the whole game. They kept pushing us and pushing us. The atmosphere is great for us. We’re happy we’ll be able to play the conference finals in front of them.”

Regardless of his role a week from now, Ownby is relishing the opportunity the game will offer.

“It’s great,” he said. “This is obviously my first season here, so my first Eastern Conference Final. There’s no better feeling than to get to a championship game.”

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