LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Throughout the opening hour on Tuesday night, Brian Ownby had been one of the more noticeable players on the field in Louisville City FC’s clash with the New England Revolution in the Fourth Round of the 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, with his energy and speed down the right side having created the host’s opening goal at Lynn Stadium and put regular pressure on the Revolution defense.
So, when the attacking midfielder turned the corner after emerging from a pair of challenges to find space in the right channel just outside the penalty area in the 62nd minute, there was only one option he was looking at.
“I heard Kyle [Smith] yelling, ‘I’m open, I’m open,’ and I was like, ‘no, not this one, I’m striking it,’” said Ownby. “I had a couple in the first half that I think I could have taken a shot and I ended up passing it or waiting too late so that one I was just, I’m just putting my head down and smashing it. It worked out.”
Ownby’s blast into the top-left corner provided the moment that stood out above all others on a night that was full of them for the defending USL Cup champion, which claimed its first victory against an MLS opponent in the Open Cup in a thrilling 3-2 win that sent the side into the Round of 16 for the first time.
Louisville more than earned its victory, outshooting its visitors 15-9 overall as it overcame a pair of major errors that twice gave the Revolution the lead in the first half. The energy provided by a packed venue that saw 5,196 fans packed into the beautiful setting in addition to the vibe that came from playing top-flight opposition saw both Oscar Jimenez and Cameron Lancaster produce fine finishes to leave the game even at halftime before Ownby stole the show just past the hour-mark.
“You could see the juice out there,” said Ownby. “We had everyone buzzing around, everyone had each other’s backs regardless of a mistake here or there. We always believed in the process and having each other’s backs and I think that showed today.”
“Very proud,” added Louisville Head Coach James O’Connor. “I think it’s not just a win but to win in that manner. The mentality of the players is fantastic. To come back and respond like that and go on and show such a strong mentality is incredible. It’s a testament to the guys, we’re all very proud of their performance tonight.”
His side’s inability to match Louisville’s energy was a big reason for his side’s downfall, according to Revolution Head Coach Brad Friedel, but both he and Revolution center back Andrew Farrell, a Louisville native and former standout at the University of Louisville, paid tribute to the victors.
“We talked about it. We had to be ready against a team like this,” said Farrell. “They’ve been together for three years, won a championship last year. They were hungry for this. You could tell they wanted it.
“When you don’t match the desire and the work rate, a team can punish you. Anybody can beat you. They’re a great team. They’ve got great players, and we didn’t show up today. That’s on us. We’ve got to do better than that.”
But while the second-half introductions of Juan Agudelo and Kelyn Rowe had some impact for the Revolution in the final half-hour, Louisville’s organization made it hard for the visitors to find a way back into the game. New England’s first shot of the second half didn’t arrive until the 84th minute when Scott Caldwell sliced a shot well wide of the right post, and while Brandon Bye and Jalil Anibaba both forced stoppage-time saves from Louisville goalkeeper Tim Dobrowolski the level of focus that held within Louisville’s midfield and defense ensured the hosts didn’t overstretch as they seized their opportunity on a historic night for the club.
“Like anything in life, if you want something too bad, you start to do things that maybe you shouldn’t,” said O’Connor. “That’s what we were trying to say – manage the emotional aspect and play the game. Stay focused, and in essence, try to focus on your own and do your job. You look at the quality of the play as well, the understanding of space and pressure was really, really great. I can’t compliment the players enough tonight.”