“I think Louisville could certainly be MLS,” said Heath, whose club in June severed an affiliation with Louisville to start up its own USL team next season. “Obviously, they need to get their own stadium and sort one or two things out, but I don’t see any reason why they can’t. They have great fans and it was a great evening. I was really impressed with everything they have done here.”
Former Lions player James O’Connor, who retired in December, coaches Louisville, which is second in the USL Eastern Conference and downed an Orlando City team of mostly backups with goals by Matt Fondy, Juan Guzman and Charlie Adams. A team-record crowd of 9,434 attended the game at Louisville Slugger Field that is shared with the Louisville Bats, a triple-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds.
“I couldn't be prouder of the players,” O’Connor told the Louisville Courier-Journal. “I think they really excelled tonight – really had a good performance. The level of the performance and level of the intensity was really, really impressive.”
Of the OCSC regular starters, only midfielders Darwin Ceren and Rafael Ramos played in the match. Danny Mwanga scored for the Lions. Midfielder Brek Shea made a meet-and-greet appearance prior to kickoff but didn’t play. Shea is recovering from sports-hernia surgery performed last month.
Louisville isn’t on any shortlist of MLS expansion plans, though owner Wayne Estopinal was one of the Lions' original investors, and when O’Connor took the coaching job he brought along former Lions Aodhan Quinn and Bryan Burke.
“I knew James would do well,” Heath added. “That was one of the reasons we put him in for the job. We said to them, ‘Listen, if you’re looking for a coach, James O’Connor would be fantastic.’”
For Orlando City, the friendly marked a return for midfielder Tony Cascio sidelined since March with a back injury. Without Kaka and most of the starters, the Lions were outplayed for long stretches by USL foes many of them may be facing on a regular basis next season.
“It was nice for our younger guys,” Heath said. “I think the one thing it shows them is that it’s tough down there [in USL]. Next year, we will have our own USL team, and it’s also going to be tough in that league.”
Louisville resumes USL play Saturday against Pittsburgh.
Work starts on new training facility for OKC Energy
Construction began Wednesday on fields that will serve as the home base of OKC Energy and also be used for camps and clinics and recreational activities for the community.
OKC Energy has formed a partnership with the OKC County Health Department as well as Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma. Representatives of all groups were on hand Wednesday for a ground-breaking ceremony held at the Northeast Regional Health and Wellness Campus in Oklahoma City.
The fields are scheduled to open during the fall. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma (BCBSOK) has provided a grant to support construction of sports fields as part of its Healthy Kids Healthy Families program.
“Energy FC is delighted with our partnership with the OKC County Health Department’s in their mission to improve the wellness of our community,” said Energy FC general manager Jason Hawkins. “The Northeast Regional Health and Wellness Campus is a perfect fit for the continued growth of our soccer club.”
USL Player of the Week
Forward Myron Samuel racked up USL Player of the Week honors after scoring two goals and assisting on another in a 3-2 Seattle Sounders 2 victory against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC Samuel received 62 percent of voting by a national media panel. Rochester Rhinos forward Steevan Dos Santos, scorer of two goals in a 4-0 defeat of Harrisburg City, was second with 23 percent.
USL Team of the
Santiago Castano, New York Red Bulls II
Jonathan Grant, FC Montreal
Sam Fink, Saint Louis FC
Fernando Timbo, Austin Aztex
Tony Walls, Rochester Rhinos
Yudai Imura, Richmond Kickers
Dairon Asprilla, Portland Timbers 2
Enzo Martinez, Charlotte Independence
Matt Fondy, Louisville City FC
Myron Samuel, Seattle Sounders FC 2
Steevan Dos Santos, Rochester Rhinos