Louisville City FC started its USL Championship season with a 1-0 win at North Carolina FC Saturday, notching three points on the road vs. a 2019 Playoff team. LouCity striker Cameron Lancaster scored the game-winner in the 63'.
"It was a tough opening game for both us," Louisville City Head Coach and Sporting Director John Hackworth said. "I think at the end of the year you are going to see both of us among the top teams because there's a lot of quality. I think they are really well-coached, I think we are pretty well-coached, but I do see a lot of areas we can both improve on."
Lancaster returned to Louisville City on loan from Nashville for the 2020 season after leading the USL Championship in goals in 2018 and signing an MLS deal with Nashville SC for the 2019 season. With the score knotted at 0-0 for 62 minutes, Lancaster got a little space on the left side of the box, and passed to teammate Speedy Williams. The captain midfielder rared back for a shot, but his shot was blocked by a North Carolina defender and skittered to the foot of Lancaster who quickly slotted the chance into the left side of the goal for the game-winner.
"It feels good to be back because I know the philosophy around the team, I know the way we want to play, I know the way we want to press," Lancaster said. "It is a nice, easy transition. I'm enjoying it so far."
In addition to Lancaster's big goal, Louisville City got a strong performance from goalkeeper Ben Lundt. The 6-foot-6 German notched a pair of saves in the clean sheet. He was aided by center backs Wes Charpie, who led all players with nine clearances, and Jimmy Ockford, who had five interceptions, four tackles and a block.
"Given how evenly matched these teams are, I thought it was going to be a one-goal game either way and so it was huge for Ben to get that save in the first half," Hackworth said. "I thought we did a better job trying to control things in the second half so I was pleased with my team's response after halftime."
Going on the road for the first of four road matches to start the season, Louisville City was able to withstand early North Carolina pressure. LouCity blocked a shot from Nazmi Albadawi in the 3' and a shot by North Carolina's Steven Miller was saved in the 7'.
LouCity's first shot on target came in the 29' when Lancaster had a right-footed blast collected in the center of the goal by North Carolina keeper Alex Tambakis.
Brian Ownby had a shot blocked in the 35' and Lancaster had a long-range shot miss in the 37'. Ownby had another shot on goal in the 41', but it was caught by Tambakis.
Both teams had a pair of shots on goal in the first half, with Lundt's 40' save being the standout play of the half. Louisville City regrouped at the half, working to press more effectively in the second half.
"I think they had a very high line, and they pressed us effectively, and we couldn't get our press going in the first half as well as we wanted to," Lancaster said. "So we addressed those things at half, and I think in the second half, we went out and did a lot better with that."
While the shots were even at 5-5 in the first half, Louisville City dominated the second half with a 9-2 shot advantage and a 6-2 advantage in corners kicks.
Louisville City's added effectiveness in the press led to more scoring chances, including the game-winner by Lancaster. North Carolina could only muster a blocked shot in the 73' and a missed header in the 84' in the second half as Louisville City successfully defended its 1-0 lead.
Louisville City will stay on the road for the first four weeks of the season before opening Lynn Family Stadium on April 11 vs. Birmingham Legion. Next Sunday's match will be at Atlanta United in Kennesaw, Ga.