Photo courtesy EM Dash Photography/Louisville City FC
After narrowly missing out in its first two seasons, Louisville City FC went about their business perfectly throughout 2017, winning the USL Eastern Conference regular season race, and carrying that all the way to the club’s first USL Cup before a raucous home crowd of 14,456 fans at Slugger Field, the second-highest attended championship game in the USL's modern era.
Louisville made sharp offseason moves, picking up players that ended up starring in purple in the shape of Brian Ownby, Richard Ballard, who became the first local standout in the club's short history, and Luke Spencer. Those players linked up well with their new teammates, and with the leadership of Head Coach James O’Connor routinely winning the tactical battles throughout the year it looked like it had the potential to be a special season early on, and it ended up being a very special season indeed.
Record: 18-6-8, 62pts
Place: First in the Eastern Conference
Goals For: 58
Goals Against: 31
USL Cup Playoffs: Eastern Conference Quarterfinal (W 4-0 vs. Bethlehem Steel FC), Eastern Conference Semifinal (W 1-0 vs. Rochester Rhinos), Eastern Conference Final (D 1-1, W 4-3 on penalties vs. New York Red Bulls II), USL Cup (W 1-0 vs. Swope Park Rangers)
2017 leaders: Luke Spencer (10 goals), Oscar Jimenez, Richard Ballard (5 assists), Greg Ranjitsingh (37 saves)
When bringing in a number of key players it can often take time for players to jell and get things going, making for a slow start to the season. That was not the case for Louisville which lost just once in its first 12 games of the season as the returning core of players allowed the new additions to slide in seamlessly. Louisville retained possession well, holding an average of 53 percent of possession throughout the season and converted its chances to the tune of 53 goals while not having a scorer in the league's Top 10. At the other end of the field goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh impressed enough to be called up to the Trinidad and Tobago national team twice, with the side conceding just 31 goals throughout the season.
It was a nearly flawless season for Louisville, but there were moments when things didn’t always look like turning out the way they eventually did. A three-game winless streak that saw the side held by non-playoff side Ottawa Fury FC and lose to Toronto FC II at the end of September was a nervous time for Louisville, but two consecutive victories to conclude the regular season righted the ship as the side moved clear at the top of the Eastern Conference.
Squaring off with the Richmond Kickers, Canadian international Mark-Anthony Kaye made a long run upfield and cut inside his defender, getting into the penalty area and opening up a better angle for a shot, which he then buried with a perfect curling strike just out of the reach of the goalkeeper to seal a victory at Slugger Field.
Deputizing after an early-season injury to Greg Ranjitsingh, Tim Dobrowlski made a phenomenal double-save against the Tampa Bay Rowdies, first to deny a long range shot by Darwin Jones, then jumping up quickly to deny the rebound from Joe Cole to keep the hosts at bay at Al Lang Stadium.