One game at a time, James O’Connor always preaches, and the standings will take care of themselves.
The Louisville City FC coach’s words rang true Saturday night as his club avoided a dangerous underdog and moved into sole possession of first place with a 3-0 win over the Pittsburgh Riverhounds at Pennsylvania’s Highmark Stadium.
The Riverhounds entered with just one loss in their last 10 games amid a run that had the club within a win of playoff contention. Instead, LouCity used a victory to move three points clear of the USL Eastern Conference’s No. 2 side, the Charlotte Independence, who are off this week.
“Our focus was on Pittsburgh," O'Connor said. "They’re in great form and playing very, very well. It’s important we focus on them in that particular game and stay in the present with what you control. I thought the guys did a great job of that.
"...All in all, the guys’ efforts, the way they handled themselves and the way they played — they played some excellent football tonight.”
In two previous meetings this season with the Riverhounds, LouCity opened scoring in the seventh and eighth minutes, respectively. This time, the boys in purple needed until the 33rd minute to hit the back of the net — but the result was the same.
On his return from international duty with the Canada National Team, Mark-Anthony Kaye fed a ball through multiple defenders and to forward Luke Spencer, who needed just two touches to finish off his team-leading ninth goal of the season.
From there, the floodgates opened. Defender Kyle Smith recovered a loose ball and finished with a rocket from the right side in the 43rd minute before Devon “Speedy” Williams converted a penalty in the 54th minute, one earned by Spencer.
Williams’ goal marked his first of the season as he became the USL-high 16th scorer on LouCity’s roster in 2017. The club has parlayed a diversified attack and stingy defense — Saturday marked goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh’s seventh clean sheet — to a run at a No. 1 USL Cup Playoffs seed.
“Yeah, I guess word on the street was that Speedy was one of the only ones on our team who hadn’t scored this season," Smith said. "I was happy for him. He deserves it. He’s one of the hardest workers. He shows up every day, and I can tell in every practice and every game. He’s someone I look up to because of his work ethic. It’s great to see him get a goal.”
The club appeared worth of it in Pittsburgh, out-shooting the host side 15-6. Only two Riverhounds tries landed on target, with both in the opening 10 minutes. Offensively, Pittsburgh didn’t successfully create a cross in, either, as LouCity possessed for 55.6 percent of the game.
A victory marked LouCity’s seventh win in its last nine games.
Seven more fixtures remain in LouCity’s regular season, with the next up on Friday as Bethlehem Steel FC visits Slugger Field for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.
For the boys in purple, it's one game at a time.
“Absolutely," Spencer said. "It’s about knowing that if we take care of each game and give maximum effort individually, we’ll have the body of work at the end of the season.”