BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – With a large contingent of travelling support behind them, the stage was set for Louisville City FC to try and pull off an upset victory against a Chicago Fire side aiming to continue its path toward a fifth Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in their Quarterfinal clash on Wednesday night at Toyota Park.
And then, the night quickly went south for the defending USL Cup champion.
Suffering a 4-0 defeat, which equaled the most lopsided loss in the club’s short history, Louisville’s deepest run in the historic tournament came to an emphatic end.
“It’s just not how I expected us to come out tonight,” said Louisville player-coach Luke Spencer. “We have to get back to respecting each other, being disciplined, listening to one another and going out there and applying things that we think will work. It starts right now, responding from that.”
Aleksandar Katai played they key role for the hosts as his speed – and that of the Fire overall in transition – caused major problems for Louisville’s midfield throughout the first half. The Serbian winger first set up Nemanja Nikolic for a headed finish in the 16th minute and then bagged a goal for himself just past the half-hour mark to put Chicago in control of the contest.
“Our shape got stretched,” said Spencer. “Credit to Chicago, they rotate in the middle quite a lot so it’s hard to keep track of where their players are at, they did a good job mixing it up, but at the same time we got stretched back to front and there was way too much space between the lines.”
Photo courtesy Em-Dash Photography / Louisville City FC
Trailing by two goals at halftime, Louisville remained in with a chance as long as the margin remained at that size in the second half, and so it did as the visitors tried to find a way back into the game. But a lack of incisiveness in the final third meant that even when the side tested Fire goalkeeper Richard Sanchez – who finished with three saves on the night – it didn’t look like it was going to cut into the deficit.
That lack of chances was then added to by a lack of discipline late that saw the visitors end up with both Kyle Smith and Magnus Rasmussen shown red cards, and saw Chicago add two late goals that came from slack pieces of play at the back which allowed Diego Campos and Elliot Collier to score two goals in three minutes at the close.
With the side heading home for an important league game against the Charlotte Independence on Saturday night, Spencer was clear there were bigger-picture points that needed to be addressed as Louisville looks to shape its future without the leadership of former Head Coach James O’Connor.
“We have to clean it up, but also just have more respect for each other,” said Spencer. “We’re leaving each other out there, a man down, two men down, and we can’t do that. It’s hard enough playing 11-on-11, so we have to have more respect for each other and stay disciplined.”
As what was a historic run for the club came to an end in bitter fashion, refocusing for road ahead is now the primary focus.
“We would have liked to win it,” said Spencer. “Anytime you lose, it hurts, anytime you don’t achieve a goal, it hurts, but you’ve got to look back on it and learn from it, so that’s what we’re going to try to do, just apply those lessons moving forward.”