Tag Archives: football

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No Lamar, No Problem?

By Zach McCrite

screen-shot-2018-08-20-at-3-40-43-amLIFE IS ALL ABOUT expectations.

We all have expectations about certain aspects in our lives. Whether it be who we marry (shout-out to all the ladies and gents checking out this sportsy column in the midst of this wedding issue), how much money we make, how good we expect to be at a certain trade, etc.

For instance – and I don’t know if this is the smartest way to go – when I tell other people what they should expect out of me when I write these columns or when I do a segment on the radio, I tell them to expect very little.

It’s not that I’m not confident in my abilities. Most of the time, I am (and some people think I’m a little too confident sometimes). It’s just that when I keep expectations low, I end up pleasing more people than I would have had I come in with a bunch of bravado about my column or radio appearance.

In other words: underpromise and overdeliver.

This is a practice used in many places. But it’s seemingly never used in our sports.

Take Bobby Petrino, for example. The head coach of the Louisville Cardinals seems as confident in his 2018 football squad as a TV weatherman is excited when tornado warnings hit his viewing area.

“I expect us to be better,” Petrino told WDRB.com.

Wait. What?

Bobby, on offense, you just lost your Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback. You remember Lamar Jackson – the QB you could only help muster one (one!) top-25 finish in his three years on the field?

“I expect us to be more balanced, the ability to get more guys involved, particularly in the running game,” Petrino continued. “I really like our receiving corps coming back. I really think it’s one of the strongest corps coming back.”

Alrighty then. Fair enough.

Truly, I admire his confidence. That’s certainly what you’d like from your head coach every season, and I truly do believe Petrino when he says these things. He likes his team.

But, I’m not sure it’s the right public relations move for this season.

If Petrino expects his team, especially his offense, to be better than last year while Lamar Jackson roams in and out of the lineup as a rookie with the Baltimore Ravens, you would then have to believe that the expectation he is setting is, at the very least, one additional win to last year’s 8-win regular season total – so, 9 wins in 2018.

What is there to gain from such public confidence? What is there to gain from keeping the expectation level high. Let’s investigate.

MEETING OR EXCEEDING EXPECTATIONS

If Louisville ends up meeting or exceeding last season’s results (that were akin to kissing your sister), that will easily include wins over teams that the Cardinals weren’t able to beat last season.

If that were to happen, it would be a tip of the cap to Petrino, his coaching staff and his players. It would also be an annoying reminder of the season that could have been in 2017 – some would call it “wasted” – when the best quarterback in program history was finishing up his final season in a college uniform before heading to the National Football League.

FAILING TO MEET EXPECTATIONS

If the Cards fail to meet these relatively-lofty expectations set by Petrino, the seat gets hotter. And, I can promise you, the seat warmer was already tested to see if it was working last year. Add the wildcard of a new athletic director who hasn’t been afraid to tear up old contracts and write new ones in the infancy stages of his tenure. Vince Tyra has done many things to make sure his fingerprints are all over this revamped image of University of Louisville Athletics.

And who is to say Tyra wouldn’t want “his guy,” whomever that may be, at the helm of Louisville football? A 2018 season that fails to meet the expectations set by Petrino might jumpstart that, especially for a coach whose base pay (almost $4 million for 2018) was less than only Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher and Clemson’s Dabo Swinney when he signed his latest contract in 2016 and runs through 2023.

But here we are. Petrino expects “better” in 2018.

FANS ARE CATCHING THE EXPECTATION BUG

And if Petrino expects good things, so do his program’s fans, some of which are throwing out eight-, nine-, and ten-win seasons as a 2018 benchmark.

And, by gawd, those may be right.

It might be one hell of a year for the Cardinals. It won’t be the first time that Petrino has worked some magic with the right group. Count me in the group of people that have seen the “Bobby Magic” and wouldn’t be surprised if it returns.

But I’m going to need more evidence than what I got right now.

Fans with high expectations are going through the Cardinal schedule like the menu at Jeff Ruby’s – mouths watering at the victories they are sure to enjoy soon.

Even the staunchest of supporters have UofL dropping their opener to defending national champion Alabama. But, somehow, they believe that the Cards bounce back from last year’s debacles and turn 2017 losses to teams like Boston College and Wake Forest – neither of which have had a winning ACC season in seven years – into 2018 wins.

Why? Because Petrino says you’re better? Is that all it takes?

How much have you seen of new quarterback Jawon “Puma” Pass? Twenty-three career completions and a spring game?

How do you know the opponents you lost to last season will be the same or worse, from a talent and coaching standpoint, this season?

The answer to most of these questions is this: None of us fans know. All we really got are Petrino’s expectations for this bunch. And he erred in how he delivered those expectations to his fans after Lamar Jackson went to the NFL.

The correct course of action should have been to underpromise on expectations. And then overdeliver.

Because life is all about expectations.


IF LOUISVILLE ENDS UP MEETING OR EXCEEDING LAST SEASON’S RESULTS (THAT WERE AKIN TO KISSING YOUR SISTER), THAT WILL EASILY INCLUDE WINS OVER TEAMS THAT THE CARDINALS WEREN’T ABLE TO BEAT LAST SEASON.

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Magnus Rasmussen

screen-shot-2018-06-05-at-2-27-18-pmA Story Sweeter Than a Danish

BY KEVIN KERNEN | COURTESY PHOTOS

AS IS THE STORY with most Louisville City FC players, Magnus Rasmussen is a fan favorite. As is also the case with most LouCity players, “MagRam” isn’t a stranger to the pitch either, getting plenty of time on the field along with just about every other player on this lean roster.

It isn’t his playing time, his chiseled, Scandanavian good looks, nor his deft touch that have earned him a place in the hearts of Louisville City fans. No, it’s largely thanks to the midfielder’s actions from nearly three years ago.

On March 28, 2015, Magnus scored the first goal in Louisville City FC’s competitive history, the winning goal in a 2-0 triumph over Saint Louis FC. It was a day of many firsts: first competitive match for either club, the first win in club history and the first professional match for Magnus outside of his native Denmark.screen-shot-2018-06-05-at-2-29-23-pm

The journey for Magnus began from a young age. After he outplayed most kids around him in his kindergarten class, he was urged onto a bigger club, when he would go to school from eight in the morning until two in the afternoon and practice in the early evening, spending the interim playing soccer in the street around school. After showing promise in Copenhagen’s youth football scene, Magnus signed his first contract at the tender age of 15, joining the Danish Superliga team Nordsjaelland, a relatively new team in the domestic top tier who pride themselves on youth development in particular.

After playing nearly every game available in his youth career, Magnus became a victim of his senior team’s success when Nordsjaelland won the 2011-12 season of the Superliga, which qualified them for the top club competition on the European continent, the Champions League. Winning the league and earning automatic qualification to the group stage of the Champions League comes with a sizeable influx in cash (they earned 20,402,000 Euro, per UEFA.com). Nordsjaelland, who play in front of about 10,000 fans on average, were drawn into a group with the Champions League title holders Chelsea FC, perennial Italian powerhouse Juventus and Ukrainian giants Shakhtar Donetsk. With the incoming money, Nordsjaelland manager Kasper Hjulmand and the team looked to build a more international roster and compete in the continental competition. None of this boded well for the then 19-year-old Magnus who, after deliberating with his manager, decided to make the move back to the club he was a part of earlier in his career, BK Soelleroed-Vedbaek, and finish his schooling.

It was there his visions of grandeur and adventure led Magnus to set his sights on leaving his native country and playing abroad. He shared his thoughts with a teammate at the time, who knew a futsal coach with international connections, Bo Holden. He was the manager of the domestic futsal powerhouse Jaergersborg-Gentofte Futsal (JB Futsal), who got Magnus in touch with James O’Connor ahead of LouCity’s inaugural season in late 2014. After seeing Magnus’ highlights, O’Connor invited the Dane to try out for the forthcoming team and made Magnus part of the first raft of singings ahead of the 2015 season, a year in which Magnus played 29 games, scoring eight goals and notching five assists from his attacking midfield position. Most of the offense ran through Magnus, who with 2015 MVP Matt Fondy, cut an imposing sight for the opposition’s defense.

Magnus remained with the Louisville outfit for the 2016 season but was slow off the mark-rehabbing from offseason surgery to repair a labral tear in his hip, which meant he didn’t see the pitch until the latter half of the season. He could only record 16 appearances and 777 minutes before time ran out on his and Louisville City’s season.

Meanwhile, the time spent from home had been wearing on the Dane. Back home in Denmark, a country that’s about half the size of Indiana, a 30-minute car ride is considered quite the trek to go see family, who traditionally live close to home. Magnus had also left his girlfriend, Camilla, as she finished her equivalent of high school.

It was after the 2016 season when a healthy dose of homesickness led Magnus back home, where he linked back up with Bo Holden and JB Futsal, and joined the club for their 2017 campaign, one that ended with them hoisting the Danish Championship. Magnus, like most Danish kids, was no stranger to Futsal, the version of the sport played on a court, with five players per team plus a goalkeeper. The fact that Futsal is played indoors meant that it was usually all that was available during the long, bleak Scandinavian winters, and it also meant that players had to develop the technical side of their game, yielding more well-rounded players. It harkened back to those afternoons spent between school and soccer practice for Magnus, too.

Magnus kept playing on the pitch, too. He signed on with Boldklubben Frem, members of the third tier of Danish soccer, in order to keep fit for Futsal. After being called up to the Danish national Futsal team, Magnus got to explore some exotic locales, such as Kazakhstan and Dubai, with his countrymen.

All this time, he kept in close contact with Coach O’Connor and the LouCity teammates he left behind. He watched most of the games from wherever he was and knew that there was something special going on here. The door never closed on Magnus, and when Camilla got the opportunity to study Bioinformatics for her master’s thesis at Harvard, he knew the time was right. Magnus signed back on with Louisville City on Jan. 4 of this year, returning to the club that he had come to be an important part of. Ask any LouCity player about the locker room atmosphere, Magnus included, and they’ll tell you it’s a professional one, but also feels like a family. For Magnus, it was family that took him back home to Denmark, and it’s family that brought him back to Louisville.

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Louisville City: Get on The Bandwagon Now

1By Kevin Kernen | Photo by Christian Watson

In a city and a state divided along

college lines, Louisville City FC has become a

confluence of local fans, red and blue alike. Having

started their 2018 season in March, LouCity is on

the campaign to defend the laurels of the most

fruitful season to date, when the team collected

their conference regular season and playoff titles

en route to winning the league last November.

If you’ve been living under a rock since 2015,

LouCity has quickly branded itself as the most

exciting sports experience in the area. The vocal

support has created a pressure cooker of a home

advantage at Louisville Slugger Field, a reputation

that precedes the team across the league.

The league that “The Boys in Purple” makes their

home in is the United Soccer League (USL), which

occupies the second division of American soccer,

second only to Major League Soccer (MLS). The

USL counts cities such as San Antonio, Las Vegas,

Cincinnati, Phoenix and Indianapolis among their

markets and continues to add franchises each

season. The league has grown threefold since 2012,

and LouCity has kept pace with the exploding

number of competitive teams joining the fray.

The team brings an exciting roster to Slugger,

managed by the scrupulous Irishman James

O’Connor.

O’Connor imparts a pragmatic, yet positive

playing style on the international collection

of players. LouCity’s squad features members

from eight countries, a wealth of domestic and

international experience, as well as a number of

players with local ties, like Richard Ballard. The

Louisville native attended Manual High School and

Indiana University for four years before signing his

first professional contract last season for LouCity.

He cemented his reputation as an exciting young

player who played a part in eight goals.

From further afield, London, England, natives

Paco Craig and Cameron Lancaster have both

had a palpable impact on the club. Entering his

fourth season for the club, Lancaster scored the

decisive goal in last November’s USL Cup Final

for LouCity. On the opposite end of the field,

central Craig made headlines last season as the

only LouCity player to feature in the USL Team

of the Season, the leader of a defensive unit that

O’Connor hangs his hat on. From top to bottom,

the roster is full of talented players, all of whom are

upstanding people in addition to being successful

on the field.

Off of the field, Louisville City is also no stranger

to success. Last October, Louisville’s Metro Council

voted 20-4 to allocate some $30 million of public

money toward a 37-acre site in the Butchertown

neighborhood that is to become the home for a

bespoke 10,000 seat stadium for the team. With

plans for seating to be expandable to 20,000 and

inclusion of retail and hotel space, the project

is sure to transform the area, which is currently

occupied by an auto salvage yard and a storage

facility, among other things. There are a few other

hurdles for the project to clear before ground can

be broken. The team targets a 2020 deadline set by

the USL for all teams to play in their own stadium.

The team is also part of a number of media

agreements, entering their second year of hosting

game broadcasts on the local iHeartRadio network

of stations, chiefly on News Radio 840 WHAS.

New for this season, local radio personality Tony

Vanetti hosts a weekly Coach’s Show with James

O’Connor, along with select players on News Radio

840 WHAS at 8 p.m. Monday nights. Rounding out

the radio programming is the revamped Soccer

City Radio show (find more details on the Thursday

night program below). LouCity games are also live

streamed on YouTube and on TV locally across

WDRB, WMYO and WBNA.

All of those outlets are useful, but nothing quite

compares to the experience of attending a game.

If you haven’t been to a LouCity match before,

ask someone who has. If you don’t know anyone

who’s attended a match, I’ll give a brief synopsis

of what a typical match day looks like to an ardent

supporter. Firstly, matches typically kickoff at 7:30

on a Saturday evening, which means tailgating

begins in the early afternoon, maybe in the late

morning if it’s an important match. Libations and

food are aplenty as the purple loyal find their way

to the tailgate, the largest of which takes place in

the parking lot situated across Preston Street from

Louisville Slugger Field. While the doors open 90

minutes prior to kickoff, the majority of supporters

don’t leave the tailgate until about 30 minutes

before kick and are usually well lubricated by then.

Led by the talented Coopers drum corps, named

the Groove Machine, the fans parade around the

ground, singing their LouCity-centric songs all the

way to their reserved section behind one of the

goals. Once there, they stand and sing all match

long, breaking from their repertoire only for the

tradition of singing “My Old Kentucky Home.” If

a goal is scored, purple and yellow smoke billows

from the supporters’ section, and the fans rejoice.

Ninety minutes later, the fans cheer the players

off the pitch – win, lose or draw. The players

exchange high-fives with the crowd en route to

the locker room, where they mingle with fans

after the game as well. In all, it’s a thoroughly

exciting experience, with multiple levels to

engage on. For people looking for a more subtle

experience, a sideline seat is more appropriate.

With a better sightline on the proceedings, this

section gives an ideal vantage for absorbing

the percussive atmosphere while following the

match’s progression.

The outlook for the season at hand is a positive

one. City returned 15 players from last season’s

squad that won the USL Cup- something unheard

of at this level of the game. The team brought on an

important combination of youth and experience for

the 2018 campaign. Headlining the new signings

is the return of fan favorite Magnus Rasmussen

and MLS veteran Shaun Francis. MagRam, as he

is affectionately called by the supporters, was

part of the purple team in the 2015 and 2016

seasons before returning to his native Denmark

for last season. The midfield dynamo faces some

competition to make the starting lineup, but he

is certain to get some good minutes this season.

Francis, a versatile wing player, who’s represented

his native Jamaica on the international stage over

a dozen times, played in nearly a century of MLS

matches over a 7-year foray into the league.

The pair join an already stacked LouCity cadre

of players who are separated from retaining their

trophy by a grueling season, their path paved with

opponents and flanked by supporters. Soccer is

happening in a big way here, the only question

is, will you join them?


Soccer City Radio

New for this seas on, Extol writer Kevin

Kernen is taking to the airwaves on

Soccer City Radio show. Kevin appears

alongside longtime co-host La nce

McGarvey, the voice of Louisville City. Join

the duo on the hour-long weekly show

that covers all forms of soccer, from

Louisville City to local colleges to the US

National teams. Tune in to 1080 WKSK 7 p.m.

Thursday and on the iHeart Radio app.

asiwassaying1

As I was Saying | What’s the big Kneel?

By Scotlyn McConnell

This preseason, Colin Kaepernick who quarterbacks for the San Francisco 49ers, decided to kneel during the national anthem. While Kaepernick’s original reason for taking a knee was that he was not going to show support for a country that treats the black community so poorly, the movement has spread.

All around the country, professional, college and high school athletes have started to kneel or sit during the “Star Spangled Banner.” These actions of peaceful protest have put the country into a fit. Left and right, there are different opinions; everyone has something to say. Including me.

I believe that instead of condemning him, we should be commending him.

Kaepernick, and the other athletes, are standing up (or sitting down) for what they believe in. People are saying that he should be arrested for this, for disrespecting his country. However, our country gives him the right to do this. Freedom of speech and the right to peaceful protest protect these people. You can’t have these things and just decide to get rid of them when someone does something you don’t like.

Others say that he signed up for this job and he knew what he knew what he would have to do, but nowhere in a football contract does it say “must take part in national anthem.” Just because he is being paid millions of dollars doesn’t mean that he’s given up his rights. Colin Kaepernick is still a person.

In Kaepernick’s contract it does say that you need to represent the team well. I think he’s doing this. By standing up for his beliefs in a peaceful way on a platform that millions and millions of people will see, he shows us that we can stand up, too. He’s teaching kids that you don’t need to be violent to get your point across.

I don’t think it matters whether or not you agree with what he’s doing. He’s still allowed to do it. In the end, he’s just a person, an American with rights. No amount of money or fame is going to change that. He and others are getting punished or threatened and you might think that’s proper action, but I don’t think so.

I think that all of the people who are doing this are brave for standing up to our country and it’s injustices. America gives them the right to stand up against America, and I think that’s beautiful.