Louisville City FC became the first team to win back-to-back USL Cup titles in the league's current era, as they defeated Phoenix Rising FC 1-0 at Lynn Stadium in Louisville, Ken. on Thursday night.
The game, believed to likely be the final one in Phoenix forward Didier Drogba's legendary career — although the 40-year-old didn't close the door on playing in the future — was a typical final: Tense, tight, and with few clear-cut scoring chances overall.
Luke Spencer scored the go-ahead goal for Louisville in the 62nd minute. While it appeared Drogba may have done just enough to clear a ball in a scramble inside the six-yard box, the ball fell to Spencer, who made no mistake with his attempt.
Phoenix had a stoppage-time appeal for a penalty, but that was rejected by the referee, and Louisville became the first team to win consecutive USL Cups in the USL's modern era, stretching back to 2011.
Both teams, curiously, featured midseason coaching changes, with Phoenix's Patrice Carteron leaving to coach abroad, as Rick Schantz stepped in to lead the Arizona outfit to their first USL Cup appearance, while Louisville City's James O'Connor was hired by Orlando City in the summer. Former Philadelphia Union head coach John Hackworth was hired to take over the defending champions.
Both teams featured several players with MLS experience, headlined by Drogba, and two current MLS players, on-loan LAFC rookie Tristan Blackmon and on-loan NYCFC defender Saad Abdul-Salaam, who both started and played the full 90 in defense for Phoenix in the match.