LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The 2018 USL Cup arrives on Thursday night as Eastern Conference champion Louisville City FC aims to make history as the first side to win the championship in back-to-back seasons when it welcomes Western Conference champion Phoenix Rising FC to Lynn Stadium, who will see legendary forward Didier Drogba take to the field for the final time in his illustrious professional career. The 2018 #USLCup kicks off at 8 p.m. ET and can be watched live on ESPN2 in the United States, ESPN International in more than 50 countries around the world, the USL YouTube Channel elsewhere overseas, and followed live via the USL Match Center.
@LouCityFC advanced to its second consecutive USL Cup with a 5-1 win against the New York Red Bulls II last Friday night in the Eastern Conference Final as Speedy Williams scored a pair of goals and Brian Ownby had one goal and two assists to lead the hosts to victory. Ownby’s goal was his third of this postseason and gave the attacking midfielder six goals over the past two postseasons overall. Louisville’s win was its 10th in a row all-time at home in the USL Cup Playoffs, and its ninth consecutive victory in a streak that began on Sept. 19 against Penn FC and has run through the end of the 2018 regular season and into the postseason, but the side could be without 2018 USL Golden Boot-winner Cameron Lancaster, who suffered an early injury in the game against the Red Bulls II and was substituted after only 13 minutes.
@PHXRisingFC earned its first silverware in the club’s history – and its first trip to the USL Cup – last Saturday night as it took a 2-1 victory against No. 1-seed Orange County SC behind goals from Chris Cortez and Drogba to earn the Western Conference crown. Cortez’s goal after 66 seconds was the fastest in USL Cup Playoffs history, while Drogba has scored in each of Phoenix’s first three playoff outings to sit level with Ownby and Orange County’s Michael Seaton for the most goals this postseason. Rising FC’s win on the road against Orange County was its 10th away victory of the 2018 campaign, and should it take victory against Louisville it would become the first visiting team to claim the USL Cup in the championship game’s history.
3 – Louisville City FC’s Oscar Jimenez (3), Brian Ownby (2) and Niall McCabe (2) are the only three players to have recorded multiple assists so far in the 2018 USL Cup Playoffs.
4 – Phoenix Rising FC forward Didier Drogba has scored in all four USL Cup Playoffs games he has played in his career, having also scored in Phoenix’s lone postseason contest in the 2017 campaign.
FiveThirtyEight.com Match Predictor: Louisville City FC 70%, Phoenix Rising FC 30%
Louisville City FC – GK: Greg Ranjitsingh; D: Kyle Smith, Paco Craig, Alex Souahy, Oscar Jimenez; DM: Niall McCabe, Paolo DelPiccolo; AM: Brian Ownby, Ilija Ilic, George Davis IV; F: Luke Spencer
Phoenix Rising FC – GK: Carl Woszczynski; D: Amadou Dia, Joe Farrell, Justin Blackmon, Saad Abdul-Salaam; DM: Kevon Lambert, Collin Fernandez; AM: Jason Johnson, Didier Drogba, Solomon Asante; F: Chris Cortez
Louisville – None
Phoenix – None
REF: Joseph Dickerson
AR1: Eric Weisbrod
AR2: Logan Brown
4TH: Guido Gonzalez Jr.
RES: Andrew Bigelow