United Soccer League Championship 2021

Discussion in 'Prem talk, Those Other Leagues, and International' started by jumpkutz, Nov 17, 2021.

  1. jumpkutz

    jumpkutz Well-Known Member

    Sep 24, 2011
    Louisville, KY
    The USL playoffs have reached the semifinals, where Hatter's San Antonio FC and my Louisville City FC are playing Saturday night, Nov. 20th, for the right to meet the following Sunday for the USL Cup. If they defeat the Tampa Bay Rowdies at Al Lang Stadium Saturday night, Lou City will host the final for the fourth time in the past five years. They won the Cup in 2017 and 2018, then lost the final in 2019. The final would be the first at 16 month old Lynn Family Stadium, which opened on July 12th, 2020, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
    Louisville City is considered by many to be the gold standard of the United Soccer League and, by extension, the entire second tier and below of American professional soccer. Some say it's better than several MLS franchises. I don't know about that last statement, but here's what I do know. The culture of the franchise has been first class from the beginning. A local architect who was a minority owner in the Orlando City franchise, Wayne Estopinal, founded the club on June 4th, 2014 from the dissolution of the Orlando USL franchise to make way for the new MLS version. He also announced the hiring of Orlando player-coach James O'Connor as the franchise's first manager, with O'Connor retiring as a player. Estopinal designed a retractable pitcher's mound for the club's first home, Louisville Slugger Field, so they could have more flexibility in scheduling around the primary tenant, the Triple A East Louisville Bats. Lou City was the Lion's USL affiliate for the inaugural 2015 season, and a minority owner, thus the purple team colors. O'Connor led them to a 14-6-8 record, good enough for a second place finish in the Eastern Conference. They beat New York Red Bulls II and the Charleston Battery in the USL Cup playoffs to reach what would be the first of seven consecutive conference finals, before losing to Saint Louis FC. The owners and local government leaders began talking about a new soccer-specific stadium after the first season's on and off the pitch successes, especially the more than adequate attendance numbers proved such an investment a sound one. In September of 2016, the club's board appointed original investor John Neace as chairman and operating manager, replacing Estopinal. The founder, it was felt, didn't have the time to pursue the new stadium initiative and run his sizeable architecture firm simultaneously. Neace brought an accountant over from his personal business named Brad Estes as executive vice president the following July, promoting him to club president a year later. Brad picked up the ball and ran with it, full speed, and hasn't stopped running since. While the club keeps winning, he makes sure that the franchise not only stays on it's toes, but dances, ducks and punches nonstop.
    Since 2015, the club's won-draw-lost record is 114-52-40.
    This week the club offered free tickets and transportation to the Rowdies match, starting with a 100 seat charter from Spirit Airlines, to season ticket holders who renew for 2022. The 200 plus who didn't click quickly enough are traveling on free charter buses paid for by the club. They added the second bus yesterday. I'll bet they end up adding at least one more before Friday. This morning the club offered ten newly available seats through the biggest supporter's group's twitter page ON THE TEAM PLANE!!!
    Who does that?
    Before you ask, no, I didn't jump in on the fun. (sorry). Recovering from two knee operations. #bummed.
    But...I will be watching Saturday night, albeit with unprecedented nerves. The prospect of a championship title match at our new ground has more than a few people around here salivating like a pit bull. The stadium's first scheduled match was delayed by COVID-19. When it happened finally happened three months later, capacity was limited to 30%. They played all 15 matches in 2020 at 30%, roughly 4,600 of the 15,304 capacity (they fudged a bit and started at 4,850, then 4,900 for the playoffs). Capacity was raised to 50% at the start of the 2021 season on April 24th, increased to 70% on May 29th, then 100% on June 12th. I went to that match, which drew 12,115, technically a sellout, but not true capacity. There are 11,600 seats, and standing areas that allow the club to let 15,304 in. I suspect that match for the big league trophy would entice enough denizens of Metro Louisville, Southern Indiana and points beyond to, finally, fill this sparkly new jewelbox of a soccer palace. If it happens, I'll be there if I have to commando crawl. Lynn.jpg
    nevzter and MicahMan like this.
  2. BarryWhite

    BarryWhite Well-Known Member

    Sep 24, 2011
    Newburgh, IN
    Attended a couple oh LouCity matches this season. Great fun!
  3. stlouisbrad

    stlouisbrad Well-Known Member

    Nov 24, 2007
    When I drove through Louisville this summer my reaction was "wow that's a minor league soccer stadium". It Made St Louis FC's old digs look ridiculous.
  4. jumpkutz

    jumpkutz Well-Known Member

    Sep 24, 2011
    Louisville, KY
    Gutted. Coughed up a 2-nil lead against the best defense in the league. We’ve all witnessed it in some fashion or form before, but it still amazes me when it happens. Blunders by the team in the lead are always part of the equation, often repeat offenses that managers in particular seem to develop amnesia over. Another ingredient is usually at least one questionable judgment by the referee, which we also had. To be honest, I’m not as aggrieved by the one that occurred last night, as it’s part of the game’s most amazingly arbitrary feature: the true expiration of time at the end of the match. It appeared Tampa Bay scored the equalizer over a minute after the displayed amount of extra time. Apparently you get bonus time, kind of like pinball or video games, if you keep the ball alive inside the penalty area in a highly threatening manner. I’ve never seen a ref blow a play dead for expiration of time in that situation if the chance to score feels inevitable. Didn’t happen last night either.
    The other mistakes were there too. Parked the bus, stopped attacking, became less aggressive with the ball, sat back and absorbed pressure. Check, check, check, check. We compounded the effect by subbing out more offensive players than we really needed to. The opening goal scorer on a yellow since the fifth minute, duh. But not your five other top goal scorers before the end of regulation. Had almost no offense on the pitch for extra time. Danny Cruz has done a wonderful job since the sudden, unexpected sacking of John Hackworth after winning the season’s opening match. But it sure looked like the mistakes of inexperience bit us last night. Good luck to the Rowdies and Orange County SC in next Sunday’s final in St. Pete.
    BarryWhite likes this.
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