Lexington Sporting Club’s professional soccer debut in USL League One was a losing effort, although it came with plenty of fight along the way.
LSC’s first match in USL League One — the third tier of American pro soccer — came Saturday night at Regal Soccer Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee, against One Knoxville Sporting Club, another team making its professional debut.
All the scoring was done in the opening 45 minutes, with One Knoxville connecting from the penalty spot via Jimmie Villalobos in the 17th minute and on a rebound by Jake Keegan in the 40th minute.
Sandwiched in between those goals was a watershed moment for LSC.
Don Smart — by far the oldest player on the LSC roster at age 35 — scored on a penalty kick in the 28th minute that briefly tied that match and will go down as the first goal in Lexington SC history.
LSC earned the penalty kick after Khalid Balogun was tripped in the penalty box.
Smart went into the record book again in the second half, although for different reasons.
Smart was shown a straight red card in the 70th minute for violent conduct, and LSC played the final 20-plus minutes of the match with only 10 players.
The ESPN+ broadcast of Saturday’s match didn’t offer a clear view of what earned Smart the red card. The incident occurred prior to an attacking free kick by One Knoxville, and with a crowd of players gathered in the LSC penalty box.
“Obviously, we’re very disappointed with the result,” LSC head coach Sam Stockley said in a news release. “To lose one away from home for our first game of the season is disappointing with all the work that we’ve done. I thought we had a good response that came out in the second half. I felt at times we had the ball and we dominated the ball. The boys worked very hard and moved it, and never gave up. They always keep responding.”
Stockley began Saturday’s match in a 4-4-2 formation and named 28-year-old midfielder Charlie Machell the captain for LSC’s first match.
The game saw two of Lexington SC’s three local connections log playing time.
Defender Kaelon Fox — who was born in Louisville, played club soccer locally for both Javanon SC and Lexington FC and had a four-year playing career at UK — played the full match.
Diallo Irakoze — who is listed as both a defender and midfielder and formerly played for Lexington FC, Bryan Station High School and the University of Louisville — was a late substitute.
Saturday’s match was supposed to begin at 7 p.m., but it was delayed until 7:30 p.m. due to a lighting issue at Regal Soccer Stadium.
Lexington Sporting Club will not be in action next weekend.
LSC’s next match is away at North Carolina FC on April 1. Its home opener against Forward Madison FC is on April 8.
Goal: Jimmie Villalobos (One Knoxville-17th minute).
Yellow Card: Yesin van der Pluijm (One Knoxville-23rd).
Goal: Don Smart (Lexington-28th).
Goal: Jake Keegan (One Knoxville-40th).
Yellow Card: Sean Lewis (One Knoxville-45+1).
Yellow Card: Khalid Balogun (Lexington-52nd).
Yellow Card: Terique Mohammed (Lexington-61st).
Substitution: Jalen James replaced by Nico Brown (Lexington-65th).
Substitution: Khalid Balogun replaced by Will Baynham (Lexington-65th).
Substitution: Callum Johnson replaced by Ilija Ilić (One Knoxville-65th).
Substitution: Jake Keegan replaced by Ahinga Selemani (One Knoxville-65th).
Yellow Card: Angelo Kelly-Rosales (One Knoxville-67th).
Red Card: Don Smart (Lexington-70th).
Substitution: Terique Mohammed replaced by Ates Diouf (Lexington-80th).
Substitution: Yesin van der Pluijm replaced by Frank Ross (One Knoxville-80th).
Yellow Card: Frank Ross (One Knoxville-86th).
Substitution: Tate Robertson replaced by Diallo Irakoze (Lexington-90th).
Substitution: Sean O’Hearn replaced by Dani Fernández (One Knoxville-90+1).
Yellow Card: Jimmie Villalobos (One Knoxville-90+5).
Lexington Sporting Club at North Carolina FC
When: 7 p.m. Saturday, April 1
Where: WakeMed Soccer Park (Cary, North Carolina)
Live video stream: ESPN+