Photo courtesy EM Dash Photography/Louisville City FC
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – There will be a familiar purple hue in the Eastern Conference Final as No. 1-seed Louisville City FC managed a stunning second half performance to defeat the No. 4-seed Rochester Rhinos 1-0 at Louisville Slugger Field on Saturday night in the 2017 USL Cup Playoffs. Some strong passing from Louisville caught out the Rhinos as Brian Ownby ran on to the ball in the 77th minute and buried his finish past Rhinos goalkeeper Tomas Gomez for the deciding goal. The Rhinos had threatened just four minutes in when Jochen Graf just poked a ball wide, sending a strong warning sign to the Louisville defense. The Rhinos continued to have the dangerous chances through the first half, but were unable to hit the target despite chances flowing. Not pleased with what he saw in the first half Louisville Head Coach James O’Connor went to his bench at halftime, bringing in both Mark-Anthony Kaye and Ownby to try and get more chances in the second half. In the early stages of the second half that appeared to be working, as Louisville had double the number of shots in the first 10 minutes of the second half than it did in the entire first half. Only a stunning Gomez save kept the match scoreless in the 71st minute when Luke Spencer got a slight touch to redirect the ball to goal but the USL Golden Glove winner showed why he earned that award with a strong save to palm it out for a corner. With time running out the Rhinos pushed late, but the Louisville defense managed to do enough to hold out and advance to a third straight Eastern Conference Final.
77’ – LOU – Brian Ownby (Kyle Smith)
Three Things That Matter:
1. Making two changes at half time is a bold move from any Head Coach, but that is exactly what Louisville's James O’Connor did. With George Davis IV and Niall McCabe struggling to get any space or chances in the first half, O’Connor pulled two of his forwards. That brought on Mark-Anthony Kaye and Brian Ownby, and the duo completely changed the match for Louisville as it looked more in the match, creating far more chances in the second half than the first. It would prove to be a master stroke as Ownby went on to score the only goal of the match.
2. Ownby proved to be the super sub yet again, scoring in a second consecutive game of this postseason, both from the bench. Like last week Ownby’s goal came late, the 77th minute this week, only two minutes earlier than his effort last week. Unlike last week, the Ownby goal was not putting the icing on the cake but rather clinching the path to the Eastern Conference Final.
3. For the third straight year, Louisville is heading to the USL Eastern Conference Final, doing so by the same 1-0 score line it won at the same stage a season ago. That may be a good trend for Louisville but the second half of that trend is not, on both previous occasions, Louisville went on to lose a step away from the USL Cup, but this time City will get the chance to play the game on home turf after going on the road in each of the previous two occasions.
USLSoccer.com Man of the Match:
Brian Ownby, Louisville City FC – After coming on as a halftime substitute Ownby completely changed the match, providing an attacking weapon which Lousiville was missing for the entire first 45 minutes. Ownby would cap his impressive cameo appearance with the winning goal in the 77th minute.
Eastern Conference Final – Louisville City FC vs. New York Red Bulls II, Nov. 4, 7:30 p.m. ET, Slugger Field
Rochester Rhinos – End of Season