Photo courtesy Em-Dash Photography / Louisville City FC
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Niall McCabe had a goal and assist as Louisville City FC took a 2-0 victory against Nashville SC on Saturday afternoon in front of 7,933 fans at Slugger Field to open the 2018 USL regular season. After a scoreless first half, Louisville took the lead in the 56th minute when an in-swinging cross from the left by Niall McCabe picked out Luke Spencer for a flicked header that caromed in off the right post. Spencer played a role in Louisville’s second, which arrived 10 minutes later as Spencer’s through-ball found Oscar Jimenez on the overlap on the right, and Jimenez’s low cross was tucked home by Niall McCabe at the back post. Nashville had limited chances in either half as Ryan James just missed the target with a header in the first half, and both Lebo Moloto and Tucker Hume went close late, but Louisville closed out the game to spoil NSC’s USL debut in an ideal start for the defending champion.
56’ – LOU – Luke Spencer (Niall McCabe)
66’ – LOU – Niall McCabe (Oscar Jimenez)
Three Things That Matter:
1. Luke Spencer broke out in his second professional season a year ago, his first in Louisville, and the big forward picked up where he left off with another strong performance to open 2018. Spencer produced Louisville’s best two chances of the first half, including forcing a great early save from Nashville goalkeeper Matt Pickens in the 10th minute, but there was little Pickens could do early in the second half when Spencer headed home a fine finish from Niall McCabe’s cross. Given the service he’ll receive over this season, it’s not unreasonable to expect Spencer could be even more productive in Louisville’s title defense.
2. Nashville came into the game off a solid preseason and played effectively enough in the opening half to limit Louisville’s chances, but throughout the contest the visitors never quite produced enough of a threat in the attacking third to take something from its inaugural contest. Finding the right combination in attack will likely be the focus as the side prepares for its home opener next Saturday evening at Nissan Stadium against a Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC side that will likely enter its opening game of the season with another challenging defensive unit.
3. Getting the new season off to a winning start in the fashion Louisville did will send a message to the rest of the league that the defending champion is ready for all-comers. Newcomers Pat McMahon and Shaun Francis both put in solid displays in their debuts for the club, while the side’s leaders from a season ago stepped up in just the fashion Head Coach James O’Connor would have hoped. There’s nine months to go before the USL Cup is presented again, but there’s no doubting that Louisville will be a tough champion to knock off.
USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Niall McCabe, Louisville City FC – The Irish attacking midfielder had a goal and assist in addition to winning possession well and showing off his usual creativity to lead Louisville to victory.
Louisville City FC vs. North Carolina FC – March 24, 3 p.m. ET, Slugger Field
Nashville SC vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC – March 24, 6 p.m. ET, Nissan Stadium