By Andrew Melnykovych
It was probably too much to expect the University of Louisville men’s soccer team to deliver a repeat of their last match with UCLA when the two soccer powers got together again Saturday night.
After all, last time – the 5-4 UofL win in last season’s NCAA quarterfinal – was likely the most electrifying soccer match ever played in Louisville – and with much more at stake.
In large part because of that game, Louisville arrived as a big-time soccer program last year. The question going into this season was whether they could sustain the momentum of last year’s College Cup final run, both on the field and in the stands.
The soccer Cards delivered an emphatic “YES” on both counts.
With UofL’s No. 1 national ranking on the line, they thoroughly dominated the second-ranked Bruins in every phase of the game, especially for most of the second half. UCLA is very good, but Louisville was much the better team. The final score, 2-0
But what made this game really special was the atmosphere. A record-shattering crowd – announced at 7,821 – arrived early, and the vast majority stayed until the final whistle, even though the outcome had not been in doubt for a while.
The turnout was all the more impressive because there was plenty else to do in Louisville tonight – Bats game, St. X football down the road at Papa John’s, Kentucky State Fair. That great turnout bodes well for building a solid fan base – it looks like many of those who jumped on the Cardinal soccer bandwagon last year are back, and have brought their friends along.
Tonight they were treated to pre-game fireworks, the Lady Birds, the Cardinal pep band, and a cracking good performance on the field. Of course, not every game this season will feature the first three elements, but it’s the fourth one that matters, and should keep the fans coming back.
What a great way to get it started!