As Penn FC prepared to kick off for Saturday night’s match, their official Twitter said that their plan for the evening was to “shock” Louisville City FC at Louisville Slugger Field. While they didn’t end up with the win when the final whistle blew, they managed to deliver multiple shocks that the defending champs won’t be forgetting any time soon.
In the time it took most people to read that first paragraph, Penn FC had already scored on Louisville. Louisville was sloppy with the opening kickoff and Penn FC’s Harri Hawkins booted a bouncing ball into Louisville territory that Paco Craig attempted to recover. But Lucky Mkosana hustled to dispossess him and ended up with the ball at the top of the box. Louisville goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh came out to try and snatch the ball away but Mkosana popped it past him for the opening goal of the night after about fourteen seconds. It was the fastest USL goal of 2018 so far.
Going down a goal in the first minute seemed to impress on Louisville that they were going to have to pick things up for the next 89 minutes, and they immediately increased their offensive output. It didn’t take long for them to find the equalizer. Louisville appeared to have an opportunity in the 9th minute that was broken up by the Penn FC defense. But several players slipped on the grass covering the infield and they couldn’t get the ball clear. Ilija Ilic slipped the loose ball to midfielder Paolo DelPiccolo who rocketed it towards the far post for the equalizer.
With Penn FC on their heels, Louisville quickly doubled their advantage. This time it was Sean Totsch collected the ball on the right side of the field and send a curling cross for Ilic. Ilic was able to slip behind his defender and headed it in to put Louisville up 2-1.
The remainder of the half was a mostly back and forth affair with both teams having some quality chances. Mkosana and Freddie Opoku halped drive the offense for Penn FC as they both spent a lot of time working their way up the left side. Mkosana nearly found an equalizer when he curled a long range ball from the left side, but it kissed off the crossbar.
There was a lengthy delay just before stoppage time as Penn FC’s Issac Osae went down in the box and he came off the field due to the injury. Louisville may have caught Penn FC a little flat footed when play resumed as they quickly sent the ball into the Penn FC box. This time it was Kyle Smith who sent a headed pass that Ilic slipped past Lewis at the near post. After a horrible start, Louisville returned to the locker room with a 3-1 lead.
As the second half began, it felt possible that things could still get worse for Penn FC. After all, Louisville had defeated the Harrisburg City Islanders by a 5-0 scoreline when they visited last year. But Head coach Raoul Voss must have given an incredible pep talk at halftime, because Penn FC came back pushing hard to erase their two goal deficit.
Richard Menjivar sent a direct free kick just over the bar right after play resumed and it was the first of twelve second half shots for Penn FC. They continued to supply most of the pressure, although they weren’t getting many chances on frame. Mkosana nearly found a second goal in the 60th minute, but his redirected header off the Marco Franco cross glanced off the far post.
Penn FC finally narrowed the deficit in the 63rd minute, and it was the Franco-Mkosana connection that made it happen. This time, Franco worked closer the the endline and sent a ground pass instead of a cross. Mkosana went with a right footed backheel shot that fooled Ranjitsingh who never had a chance to save it. Penn FC was back to within one with about thirty minutes to work with.
Louisville responded to Penn FC’s first goal by going on an offensive tear, but they didn’t have as much energy after the second. The hot, humid weather had taken its toll and Louisville’s smaller roster (along with several current injuries) meant that the players haven’t been getting much rotation. This allowed Penn FC to keep on the gas and push for an equalizer.
As time was running out, Louisville pulled more men back on defense to try and prevent the Penn FC equalizer. But it was ultimately a Louisville defensive error that opened the door for Penn FC. After a turnover, Oscar Jimenez made a simple pass for Speedy Williams in front of the Louisville box that Williams didn’t get to fast enough. This gave Penn FC sub Prince Baffoe a chance to steal in a dangerous area. Baffoe then slipped past three Louisville defenders before shooting the equalizer between Ranjitsingh’s legs.
It was a whole new ballgame with about ten minutes left to play and there was no gas left in the tank for Louisville. They failed to register a shot in the final minutes and it was Penn FC who came closest to getting the win. Prince Baffoe lined up for a free kick half way through added time that he sent for the far post. But Ranjitsingh was able to make the save, probably saving the point for Louisville. The final whistle blew just a short while later and Penn FC walked off the pitch with what’s sure to be one of their most hard-earned points of 2018.
- Lucky Mkosana’s brace means that he now has 22 career USL goals across three seasons. I’m not sure where that puts him on the all-time list, but it should be top 20.
- Louisville rebounded well in the first half, but they were completely spent in the second. They only managed two shots in the second half and neither was on goal.
- Penn FC’s offensive rejuvenation continued on Saturday night. They’ve now scored multiple goals in the last three matches. The last time they did that was back in May of 2016.