Kovacevic: Hounds’ historic highs just weren’t high enough


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Louisville's Paco Craig clears Neco Brett's shot off the line Saturday night at Highmark Stadium. - MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

It all came with the rancid taste of rotten luck.

Ryan James, the Riverhounds' most dynamic midfielder on the evening, had just executed an academy-grade sliding tackle, one that should've pushed the ball from peril. But it backfired right away. The first Louisville pass dissected two defenders. The next slid through Neco Brett's legs, then banked off Kenardo Forbes' foot, then became a point-blank save by Kyle Morton, then ...

Well, watch:

And then, the ball popped so high, so helplessly far from the fallen Morton, from 6-foot-6 clearance machine Joe Greenspan, from a panicking Thomas Vancaeyezeele that only the opponents' Paolo DelPiccolo could soar into it for uncontested header.

"Really frustrating," Vancaeyezeele would recall for me of watching that ball. "You can see it going in, and you can't do anything about it. In my head, I was like, 'Maybe we're going to score another one.' But I couldn't reach it, couldn't get it. Really frustrating."

It was the 118th minute, deep into overtime and a few ticks away from going to kicks.

It was 2-1, with the two-time defending USL champs getting the result in his Eastern Conference semifinal over the bracket's No. 1 seed, deflating another franchise-record overflow crowd of 6,073 crammed into Highmark Stadium.

It was, as Greenspan would tell me in the entirety of an answer while struggling for words, "Disappointing. Really disappointing."

It was, beyond a doubt, all of those things.

But here's what it wasn't: It wasn't about luck.

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