Purple Reign

Professional soccer comes to Louisville

Jose Aponte, Staff Writer

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With over 100 minutes played, the score was nil all. Then the Louisville City FC scored.

The roar was deafening.

When it comes to sporting events in Kentuckiana, we have two main choices. Basketball and football reign supreme in the high school and college levels.

That is, until March 2015 when the Louisville City Football Club took to the field at Slugger Stadium for their first match as the city’s professional soccer team.img_8997-2

A city-funded stadium feasibility study released in August 2016 put the average attendance during the team’s first season at 4,500 people. By the end of their inaugural season, the average attendance swelled to around 8,500 people, a better record better than any other sport in the region.

LCFC is one of the newest teams in the United Soccer League (third tier in professional soccer behind Major League Soccer and the North American Soccer League) and is lead by head coach James O’Connor.

O’Connor came to LCFC after 18 years of experience playing for various teams in his native Ireland and in England. He spent another two years as an assistant coach and player for the Orlando City FC.

The LCFC was the brainchild of local TEG Architects owner and president Wayne Estopinal. He is also the principle owner of the club and operating manager.

Estopinal has said he’s loved the sport of soccer for a long time and wanted to see a club in his native Louisville to serve as a sort of farm team for the MLS team Orlando City SC, which it did until the beginning of the 2016 season.

Early on, while the team was still being formed, Estopinal appointed Amanda Duffy as president of the club. This made her the first woman president of a soccer club in USL’s history.Duffy made some changes of her own and under her direction, the team performed well all season.

img_91022By the end of the 2015 season, the LCFC came in third place overall out of a field of 24 teams. This made the LCFC
the only team in the league’s history to have earned a top three position in their first season.

The club played their way into and won their first ever conference semi-final, but ultimately lst in the conference final.

The club earned three major award nominations from the USL in 2015. James O’Connor was nominated for coach of the year, Matt Fondy was nominated for most valuable player and Bryan Burke was nominated for defender of the year. Fondy and Burke would go on to win the most valuable player and defender of the year awards respectively.

Because of how well the club has performed there is naturally a strong sense of pride among fans and players alike.

There was a sense of uncertainty when the club lost two notable players. Matt Fondy, who lead the league in goals in 2015, was called up to the next level of soccer, the North American Soccer League, in Jacksonville, FL.

Then, just a few months ago, the club lost the goalkeeper Scott Goodwin to Harvard Medical school.img_9116-2

Since before the team was officially formed the club has its own support group called The Coopers, a term for someone who makes bourbon barrels and a reference to the special place bourbon production holds in Kentucky history.

These dedicated super fans have been a part of the club since day one. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, perhaps the most noteworthy Cooper, can be seen chanting and drumming with his fellow Coopers during most home games.

In an ever growing field consisting of 29 teams this year, the LCFC is currently second in the league, according to points.

For those not familiar with the soccer point system, a win is three points, a tie is one point, and a loss is zero points.

With only four games left in this season the LCFC has already secured a spot in the playoffs.

Time will tell how far they will go but all indications and hopes are that they will go at least as far as they did last year.