(Courtesy: Lou City Soccer Club) Luke Spencer scored his team-leading seventh and eighth goals of the season in the first half before Greg Ranjitsingh shut down his net over the final 45 minutes, leading Louisville City FC past Bethlehem Steel FC on Sunday by a 3-1 score.
Both of Spencer's goals at Goodman Stadium in Bethlehem, Penn., came on passes from teammate Oscar Jimenez. The defender Jimenez also looped in a free kick late to Cameron Lancaster to solidify LouCity's second straight win.
"He's such a threat in the air," coach James O'Connor said of Spencer, already the reigning USL Player of the Week. "He took his goals exceptionally well. I thought he looked tired late, and we got him off to get some rest. We had multiple players that looked a little bit tired.
"I'm surprised with how tired we looked but, again, that's where that mental aspect and toughness comes in with how they were able to push through and score a third goal."
A victory moved LouCity to within three points of USL Eastern Conference No. 1 Charlotte Independence, and that's with three games in hand. The boys in purple could make up more ground this week with games both Wednesday and Saturday at Slugger Field.
While the game started slow for LouCity, Spencer shifted momentum to his side in the 17th minute by skying for a headed finish on the set piece from Jimenez. Spencer put himself in the running for more USL accolades with another goal on a second-chance effort in the 26th.
"Each week I'm really confident in the service I'm going to get, and I just go out there and attack," Spencer said. "Oscar had a great delivery again today, and I was able to get on the end of it."
Ranjitsingh came up just as big, tallying four saves, including a full extension in first half stoppage time that preserved the lead. In all, Steel FC tried eight shots in the box to keep Ranjitsingh busy.
LouCity possessed well below its average, at just 43 percent, but came away with the better of the game's final 15 minutes, eventually positioning for Lancaster's goal. On as a sub for Spencer, the striker turned in mid-air to score on a no-look header, marking the game's final goal in the 85th minute.
Even before that strike, Jimenez put a ball in the back of the net before the assistant referee deemed him offside. Defender Sean Totsch saw a try go just over the bar, and midfielder Richard Ballard had a one-touch chance fly wide.
"I feel like we've been gaining confidence in our attack and on our shots," Jimenez said. "Everyone's been dialed in during training with that aspect, and it's been showing the last couple of games. We're growing in that aspect, and it's good to see especially now. It's getting to be crunch time in the season."
A 41st-minute goal by Bethlehem's Richie Marquez wasn't enough for the host side. The game's only other negative moment for LouCity came late, when defender Kyle Smith — the club's leader in minutes played — was shown a red card in stoppage time for stepping into the scuffle following a Steel FC foul.
The final whistle blew with Ballard, the shifty rookie from Louisville, past Bethlehem's 18-yard box, ready to perhaps add a fourth goal. Regardless, LouCity improved its record to 12-4-5 through 21 games, this time out using the same lineup that a week ago produced a 5-0 win over rival FC Cincinnati.