Photo courtesy Em-Dash Photography / Louisville City FC
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The representatives of host Louisville City FC and the Swope Park Rangers were in a light mood on Friday afternoon as they addressed the media at The Ali Center as the build-up to the 2017 USL Cup on Monday night began in earnest.
With the pedigree both teams bring to the game, the Rangers as back-to-back Western Conference champions and Louisville having claimed its first Eastern Conference title after three successive Eastern Conference Final appearances, the setting of the interactive museum dedicated to Louisville’s most famous son certainly felt appropriate.
“What better place to find ourselves in than the Muhammed Ali Center as we launch our championship weekend in the home of the champ” said USL President Jake Edwards. “It’s only fitting, then, that we have these two heavyweight sides, who are meeting on Monday night for the USL Cup.”
Monday’s meeting will be the first between Louisville and Swope Park, and is set to have a spectacular backdrop at Slugger Field with the club nearing a sellout as of Friday afternoon, three days in advance of the game. After claiming 14 wins in 19 games on home turf this season, City is hoping its support can cheer the side on to a USL Cup success.
“I think it’s obviously very important to have the game, to be able to host the game,” said Head Coach James O’Connor. “I think we’ve come really close the last couple of years, we’ve been able to get there this year, so I think when you look at the growth of Louisville City, when you look at the attendance figures the first year, second year, third year, and the fact that on a Friday, by the end of Friday the game could be sold out, it shows the passion the supporters have for Louisville City.”
For the Rangers, after falling a year ago to the New York Red Bulls II, the opportunity for redemption is the driving motivator as the side looks to become the first road team to take victory in USL Cup history.
“I think last year, with it being our first year in the league, we were excited to win the Western Conference Final,” said Swope Park captain Christian Duke. “I don’t think our mindset going into the final was necessarily the kind of mindset we should have had. This year we’re a lot more hungry, and we want to finish the job that’s not done. That’s been our mindset all year, we’ve talked about unfinished business, so I think having that loss last year left a bad taste in some of our mouths, so we’re excited to get out there and get the game going on Monday.”
The 2017 USL Cup will air on ESPNU and SiriusXM FC 85 on Monday night at 9 p.m. ET.