It’s been almost two weeks since FC Cincinnati made their early exit from the 2017 USL Cup Playoffs. While it was an abrupt end for the Orange and Blue faithful, the football keeps going until a USL Champion is crowned. In the East, Louisville City FC faces New York Red Bulls II in the Conference Final this Saturday. With FCC’s roster already dismantled and coach Koch traveling the globe looking for new talent, you might ask yourself, “Why should I care?”
Here are a handful of good reasons to tune in.
An Upset Could Be in the Cards
New York Red Bulls II and Louisville City FC have met six times since 2015 in USL regular-season league play, and the home team has won only 50% of the time. While Louisville City won both regular-season contests this year, Red Bulls II are finding form at the right time and will prove a tougher opponent on their second trip to Slugger Field in 2017. The Baby Bulls toppled #2 seed Charleston and #3 seed Tampa Bay in the previous two rounds. There’s no reason why they can’t knock off #1 Louisville, especially if they can keep LCFC’s offense under wraps. Baby Bulls goalkeeper Evan Louro had a man-of-the-match performance last weekend against Tampa Bay. If he can keep his team in this game, the Baby Bulls offense is capable of doing damage.
Queen City Talent
Two Cincinnati natives feature for Louisville City FC and have assembled impressive seasons for our Southern rival. LaSalle High School and Cincinnati Dutch Lions product Kyle Smith (#24) is a right-sided defender for LCFC. He is third on their roster in minutes played and has logged four goals and three assists this season. He’s a part of a defense that accumulated 13 clean sheets, the second highest total in USL in 2017. The second Cincinnati native is a name everyone will recognize. Luke Spencer (#12) is a Winton Woods and Xavier University product that spent the 2016 season on John Harkes’ FC Cincinnati roster. Although he struggled to break into the first team at home, he’s thrived in Louisville. He’s their leading goalscorer with 11 goals and has four assists despite starting only 17 matches.
This conference final pits the two teams tied for #2 in USL goalscoring against each other. Each team bagged 63 goals in 2017 and are surpassed only by Reno 1868 in total goals. New York and Louisville have scored 11 goals combined in four playoff games. To add to that, New York’s Stefano Bonomo leads the USL in playoff goals with 3 total so far. Louisville City has been able to shut out their past two playoff opponents at Slugger Field, but New York will pose a much bigger offensive threat than either Rochester or Steel FC.
While Cincinnati has led at the turnstiles in their first two years, these two teams have been the standard bearers from a footballing perspective in the Eastern Conference. These teams finished #1 and #2 in the East ahead of FC Cincinnati in 2016. Furthermore, Saturday’s contest is a rematch of the 2016 Conference Final, a match where New York edged Louisville City on penalties at Red Bull Arena. While many point to an increase in the strength of USL in 2017, these two teams have managed to stay on top despite losing key pieces of their roster last offseason. As Alan Koch and FC Cincinnati look to revamp and rebuild their roster, these are the two teams they will take aim at in 2018 with the intention of getting to the top of the heap in the Eastern Conference.
Tebbetts on Fire 🔥🔥🔥
Orange and Blue Press’ Geoff Tebbetts has been tracking the Eastern Conference playoffs closely and is predicting the outcomes of each round. He’s called the outcome of each and every match correctly so far. So who does he have winning Saturday’s match and advancing to the USL final? Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for his prediction tomorrow.
The Eastern Conference final will be played at 7:30pm on Saturday, November 4th at Slugger Field in Louisville and will be streamed live on USL’s Youtube Channel.