Diary of a Captain (TAYLOR): Trip to Louisville includes preparation, redemption

Joe Taylor

Playing the Louisville men’s soccer team at their home is never an easy prospect, regardless of how good your team may be. Less than three weeks ago, the Cardinals upset No. 2-ranked St. John’s 2-1, handing the team its only loss this season. Louisville entered the contest unbeaten in all seven of its home matches this season. However, we didn’t need to observe these statistics in order to understand the tough challenge we were about to face, for we had been victimized by Louisville’s home dominance merely two seasons ago.

The juniors and seniors on our team were present in 2006 when Louisville turned a competitive 0-0 halftime scoreline into an embarrassing rout in its favor. Needless to say, we were looking forward to a re-match with our conference counterparts.

In the week leading up to this game, we recounted the humiliating defeat to our underclassmen, who were lucky enough to have missed the match. Coach Carlin used the lopsided result as a motivational tool as well, stating that the loss was a black eye for the entire program, not just for the players who were involved on that day. With this on our minds, we trained hard the entire week in hopes of producing a blowout victory of our own. This would be no easy task though, as Louisville carried an impressive 9-2-2 record as well as a No. 10 national ranking into the game. Furthermore, it was Louisville’s homecoming night, which guaranteed a large crowd.

On Oct. 17, we departed for the Philly airport at 7:30 a.m. Once the bus dropped us off at the terminal, ditzy senior Farris Fakhoury realized he left his cell phone on the bus. I laughed with delight at his misfortune as he scrambled to call the bus company. Much to Fakhoury’s relief, they had his phone. Seizing the opportunity to make a few easy dollars, I quickly bet Fakhoury that he would have zero missed calls and zero text messages in his inbox upon our return two days later. Unfortunately, he allegedly had 13 text messages when we returned. Speaking of ditzy seniors, I must have immediately forgotten our wager, for two of the text messages came from me.

After settling in at our comfortable hotel, we drove a few minutes down the road to Louisville’s campus. As we stepped out onto the practice field, it became obvious to our whole team why Louisville was having such success on the recruiting trail. A McDonald’s sits so close to their practice field that one of our balls rolled past the drive-thru window during a shooting drill. As we warmed up, we could smell the delicious French fries wafting through the air, causing most of us to ignore stretching altogether.

Despite the ridiculous distraction, we eventually found our focus and got down to business. When the coaches were done with their scouting report, a bunch of us headed for my room where we watched Will Ferrell’s latest masterpiece, “Step Brothers.” Things got a little tight with a dozen people trying to fit onto two beds, so sophomore Connor Esposito volunteered to cuddle up with Fakhoury. Apparently the volume on the TV was turned up way too high, causing the coaches to whine that they could hear the movie from down the hallway. Maybe if they didn’t yell at us so much we wouldn’t be half-deaf. (Just kidding … sort of.)

After a good night’s rest, we strolled around Louisville’s luscious Bermuda grass field. With game set for 7 p.m., we had most of the day to ourselves for napping and homework. 5:15 p.m. arrived, and we headed to the stadium with our sights set on righting the wrongs of 2006. From the opening whistle, we came out strong, creating a few early scoring chances. Within 15 minutes, we were rewarded for our bullish approach when Fakhoury drilled a half volley into the back of the net. Fittingly enough, the senior captain decided to celebrate his goal in style, planting a juicy kiss on Esposito’s cheek – true story.

Less than 10 minutes later, Louisville responded to our opening score by heading home a free kick much to our chagrin. This didn’t help the team morale; we went into halftime disappointed to be tied, yet we remained upbeat thanks to our dominant display. Coming out of the halftime break, we stunned the home crowd of 1,986 by scoring two quick goals.

The first of the two scores came when junior Mike Seamon was chopped down in the box by a Louisville defender handing us our first penalty kick in three years. Thankfully, I converted the spot kick, giving us our second lead of the game. Disappointingly, Fakhoury neglected to kiss me after the goal. Six minutes later, Seamon put the game out of reach as he smashed home a gorgeous goal from 22 yards out.

Despite conceding a goal in the second half, our defense refused to break and we held on for a most gratifying victory. We celebrated the win by enjoying a post-game tailgate hosted by senior Miles Harrison’s parents. The food tasted better than usual this time around; we had finally exorcised our demons by redeeming ourselves from the debacle in 2006.

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Joe Taylor is a senior communication major from Southampton, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected]