It wasn’t pretty, Louisville City FC coach James O’Connor admitted, but he walked away from Saturday night’s 1-0 win over Bethlehem Steel FC “delighted” to have secured a full three points.
Guy Abend’s 15th-minute goal, combined with a clean sheet by goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh before he heads off for international duty, lifted LouCity to its first win at Slugger Field since July 4.
The victory also came as midfielder Magnus Rasmussen made his first start in 10 months, still on the return from offseason hip surgery.
“I think it’s important that you grind it out and you win, and that’s what we’ve done,” O’Connor said.
Abend finished off an early free kick from captain Aodhan Quinn from the left side but in the process took a shot to the head. He left the game with a concussion, O’Connor said, but made enough of an impact first to be voted Man of the Match by LouCity fans.
From there, the club went on to out-shoot Bethlehem 13-5 while improving its record to 14-4-8, good for second in the United Soccer League’s Eastern Conference standings.
Next time out, in a week at FC Montreal, LouCity will be without Ranjitsingh. The Canadian native’s father hails from Trinidad and Tobago, making him eligible to represent the nation in World Cup qualifiers.
“I think getting back to clean sheets is great,” Ranjitsingh said. “The past few games, we’ve been unlucky to concede some cheap goals, so I think it’s great the team is solid in the back.
“…It’s great to get a shutout before joining Trinidad for the qualifiers. It will give me a little added confidence. I’m happy with how the game went.”
LouCity scoring chances beyond Abend’s were numerous Saturday, most notably a screamer by Quinn taken out of the air in the 80th minute. Rasmussen also put a shot on frame, providing a spark on offense Louisville needed.
Goals haven’t come easily since the club’s 17-game unbeaten streak ended in July. In another change up top, Cameron Lancaster opened at forward before subbed out for Chandler Hoffman in the 72nd minute.
As for his own start, “It didn’t come as a surprise because I was told mid-week that I’d be starting this game,” said the Dane, LouCity’s top returning scorer from 2015. “But it was my first start in 10 months, so it was tough. It was hard. But it was all worth it. It was fun. I love to play football, so I enjoyed it a lot.”
Match: Louisville City FC vs. Bethlehem Steel FC
Date: Aug. 27, 2016
Venue: Slugger Field
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m.
Weather: Mostly clear, 90 degrees
Man of the Match: Guy Abend
Louisville City FC (1, 0, 1)
Bethlehem Steel FC (0, 0, 0)
Louisville City FC: 13-Greg Ranjitsingh, 24-Kyle Smith, 15-Sean Reynolds, 18-Paco Craig, 6-Tarek Morad, 4-Aodhan Quinn, 8-Guy Abend (19′ 36-Paolo DelPiccolo), 7-Kadeem Dacres, 10-Magnus Rasmussen (87′ 14-Ilija Ilic), 9-Cameron Lancaster (72′ 17-Chandler Hoffman), 12-Mark-Anthony Kaye (87′ 77-Andrew Lubahn).
Subs not used: 28-Tim Dobrowolski, 20-Enrique Montano, 22-George Davis IV.
Head coach: James O’Connor
Bethlehem Steel FC: 46-Matthew Perrella, 44-Ryan Richter, 23-Anderson Conceicao, 48-Auston Trusty, 3-Taylor Washington, 42-Bolu Akinyode (71′ 60-Josue Monge), 35-Derrick Jones, 59-Anthony Fontana (65′ 40-Josh Heard), 14-Eric Ayuk, 57-Justin McMaster (56′ 43-Jamie Luchini), 41-Cory Burke.
Subs not used: 32-Samir Badir, 38-Nick Bibbs, 54-Matthew Real, 39-Amoy Brown.
Head coach: Brendan Burke
Stats – LouCity / Bethlehem
Shots: 13 / 5
Saves: 3 / 2
Corner Kicks: 7 / 2
Fouls: 13 / 15
Offside: 2 / 3
Referee: Tony Crush
Assistant Referee 1: Cory Richardson
Assistant Referee 2: Ben Hall-Volpenhein
4th Official: Reiss Baxter