I pretty much had my story done on Sunday.
It appeared that Ryan Thompson’s penalty kick saves in the 85th minute against Louisville City FC’s Matt Fondy — would seal the deal on the Riverhounds second win of the year, pulling them into the top three of USL’s Eastern Conference standings.
With the Hounds leading 1-0 just into beginning of stoppage time, as the stadium was still buzzing about Thompson’s spectacular stops, Louisville City FC’s Kadeem Dacres had other plans, bending in a shot from outside the box that stunned the home team.
And the story changed.
So, what do we take from this performance?
For the Riverhounds it was the same result as the week before. A 1-1 tie.
Soccer can be cruel sometimes. A week ago, the Riverhounds were very pleased with being able to tie St. Louis FC, on the road and playing a solid second half. But this week, the team was left with the disappointment of watching a few points slip away at the very end of the match.
Maybe they can take solace in this quote from Rosie Perez’s character Gloria Clemente from the movie ‘White Man Can’t Jump’ about the meaning of winning, losing — and ties…
“Sometimes when you win, you really lose, and sometimes when you lose, you really win, and sometimes when you win or lose, you actually tie, and sometimes when you tie, you actually win or lose. Winning or losing is all one organic mechanism, from which one extracts what one needs.”
On that note, here are three things that we learned from what went down on Sunday at Highmark Stadium:
1.) MOST COMPLETE GAME PLAYED THIS SEASON – STILL NOT ENOUGH
For most part of each game so far this year, the Riverhounds have been the more creative attacking team, playing more possession-oriented style than their opponents.
Sunday was no exception, as their midfield did a nice job most of the day controlling possession and playing one-two touch soccer, keeping passes on the ground and keeping things going in their favor for much of the match.
The Riverhounds have shown that they have been at their best, and will have to play through their central midfield, and to the width of the field. After the match, Assistant Coach Josh Rife pretty much acknowledged that they’ve been outmatched physically against bigger, stronger teams in each game this season, and to be successful, they’ll have keep the ball on the floor — and control possession.
For about 90 minutes, Rife also made the point that it was the Riverhounds best performance — from beginning to end of the game. But it wasn’t complete enough.
2.) RYAN THOMPSON – WORTH PRICE OF ADMISSION ALONE
In the past two games, what we’ve seen from Thompson, is that he can be a goalkeeper who can make game saving plays. He’s been fun to watch and brings some excitement every time he comes off the line to make a play.
If you haven’t seen his penalty kick save — it’s worth the view on the game feed — near the end of the broadcast…
What the Riverhounds need to do, is play a little bit better in front of him for 93 or so minutes, so he can earn some deserved clean sheets in Pittsburgh.
After the game, Thompson said seeing that goal go in brought tears to his eyes.
Talk about wearing your heart on your sleeve.
This is a guy that is a warrior — a competitor — who is getting better and better at playing with his new teammates each week. His leadership will be important to helping this young team come together as the season progresses. There will be stretches in the season in June and July when the Riverhounds will be without his services, and it will be interesting to see how the younger goal keepers Ryan Hulings and/or Callie Brown will do replacing Thompson in his absence.
Hopefully, Thompson’s Jamaican National Team coaches are seeing his performances so far this season, and he’ll be given a chance to get some starts for the Reggae Boyz as they compete in both the Gold Cup and Copa Americas tournaments this summer. I know he’s gained some new fans here in Pittsburgh — especially after the last two games.
3.) WHITE ELEPHANT AT HIGHMARK
There’s a popular Twitter account out there called Empty Seats Galore. The Riverhounds had better hope shots from Highmark Stadium don’t become regularly shown on this account.
Yes, what I am talking about here is the white elephant at Highmark Stadium through three games thus far this season.
Lots of empty seats.
It makes you wonder, where are the fans? After three home games, the Riverhounds are averaging 1,838 fans per game.
In the USL Eastern Conference, they are lagging behind most teams in overall attendance. It has to be a disappointment, especially to see a potential downturn in attendance, just two years removed from average attendance of nearly 3,500 in 2013, and 2,686 in 2014.
I will tackle this in greater detail in a column about this for Pittsburgh Sports Report, and will also post this here as well.