Eythor Bjorgolfsson scored two goals, Aime Mabika played great defense and converted a penalty, and the Cats defeated arch-rival UofL 3-1.
With most other Kentucky/Louisville games in doubt due to the COVID pandemic, the men’s soccer teams were able to play each other. Chris Mack doesn’t want to host a game in 2020 because he would lose the home field advantage. UK Soccer didn’t use that excuse. Playing in front of a mostly empty stadium that would otherwise have been packed if not for the pandemic, was better than not playing at all.
“It feels a lot better than last year, let’s start with that,” said UK Coach Johan Cedergren, referring to last season’s 3-0 loss at Louisville. “It is nice to get a win anytime we play Louisville, especially the way the game went last year.”
“We kind of had a chip on our shoulder from last year,” said UK forward Daniel Evans. “It is always for bragging rights.”[caption id="attachment_316889" align="alignnone" width="1162"] Eythor Bjorgolfsson. Kentucky defeats Louisville 3-1. Photo by Eddie Justice | UK Athletics[/caption]
A chilly, rainy, night in Lexington led to players slipping and sliding everywhere. Kentucky took advantage.
UK’s first goal came when, Mabika, a First Team All-American defender, fired a 50-yard pass that somehow scooted through U of L defenders, and Bjorgolfsson was there for an easy tap in goal in the 27th minute. The Louisville goalie had fallen to the ground in the wet, slippery conditions and could only watch helplessly from the ground.https://twitter.com/teeroyhowell/status/1310733157558173698?s=20
“(Mabika) is an unbelievable player. We are so fortunate. We didn’t think we would get him back for his redshirt year, but we did, which is awesome,” Cedergren said of the Henry Clay graduate. “6’6, fast, really good passer of the ball, good in the air because of his size. He has probably put on 20 pounds of muscle since his freshman year. Sometimes it feels like it’s almost men against boys when Aime is playing.”
Mabika’s defense allows the Cats to take more chances on offense.
“We are sending an extra guy in the midfield because we know that Aime and his partner Leon (Jones) will be able to D up with most of the stuff the other team throws our way," said Cedergren.
Louisville tied it up on a header from a corner kick in the 55th minute, but Kentucky answered six minutes later.
Junior Marcel Meinzer’s hustle helped manufacture the 2nd goal in the 61st minute. He out-fought a UofL player and won the ball to Evans, who immediately fired a shot from outside the box that UofL’s goalie could only punch away. The rebound looked to be headed for a UofL player, but Meinzer again outhustled him and played a beautiful back heel to Evans. Evans blasted another shot that went off to a Cardinal defender and bounced straight to Bjorgolfsson, who knocked home his 2nd goal of the night.https://twitter.com/teeroyhowell/status/1310747649717477378?s=20
“All week in training we practiced taking more shots and getting more balls in the dangerous area and you never know what is going to happen. Today it proved true, so I’m happy that we were able to score and get a penalty kick off them,” said Evans.
The penalty kick was earned when Kalil ElMedkhar, a 2nd team All-American, passed to Evans, who fired a shot that was punched away, but bounced to Colin Innes, who was fouled in the box. Mabika calmly converted the penalty in the 84th minute. He takes penalties because he keeps his cool and doesn’t panic.https://twitter.com/teeroyhowell/status/1310753403451117568?s=20
UK sophomore goalie Ryan Troutman, a Louisville Trinity graduate, defeated his hometown in his first career start. He finished with two saves. The Cats have several quality options in goal.
“He was very excited to start. He was even more excited to get the win. I am proud of Ryan. He transferred in. He has worked really hard and we are very fortunate to have three unbelievable keepers.” said Cedergren.
Cedergren talked about making the change from Enrique Facusse to Troutman.
“It is hard but after the Duke game and the way we have been training, if we were going to make a change (at keeper) now was going to be the time. I told Enrique, who was the starter going into the Duke game, that it will be the same for you. If you train consistently and do the best job in training, then you will be looked at to maybe get the job back. Ryan was asked to come in and start and he did a fantastic game. Very calm with his feet. I’m sure he was a little nervous (at first) because it was a special game for him.”
All three Louisville natives on Kentucky’s roster (Troutman, Chase Cox and Brandon McManus) got playing time in the victory. UK is now 2-1, having defeated Duke and Louisville in their last two games. Wins over Duke and Louisville will make every UK fan proud!