FC Cincinnati 1 Pittsburgh Riverhounds 0
In a game that was billed as “THE Rivalry” by the home team in a first-ever meeting, FC Cincinnati took advantage of a second chance goal by Jimmy McLaughlin, and rode a strong defensive effort in beating the Pittsburgh Riverhounds 1-0 before a USL record crowd of 23,375 at Nippert Stadium on Saturday.
I think we always see sacrifice with our team. Doing the right things, it just takes a lot of focus. That was a tough game and credit to Pittsburgh,” said John Harkes, FC Cincinnati Head Coach to media after the game.
Here’s the McLaughlin goal that was the difference in the game…
HOUNDS ATTACK FIZZLES
After terminating the contact of Romeo Parkes, the Riverhounds played their first game without the team’sbest scoring threat from this season. In the five games prior to Saturday, Parkes found the back of the net each game.
The question heading into the match with FC Cincy would be — could they find some way to generate some quality attacking chances in a tough road game.
The answer was clearly that while they showed some signs of some stretches of decent possession and getting the ball into the final third — and valid attempts at pressuring Cincy’s backs enough to draw seven corner kicks. But they were not able to get many clear-cut shots at FC Cincy goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt, with the exception of a few deep runs on counter attacks from Kevin Kerr.
With Corey Hertzog as the lone forward, and Kerr returning the outside right wing spot, Drew Russell on the left wing and Lebo Moloto in attacking central midfield along with Steven Okai in the middle, there were times that the Hounds outplayed FC Cincy’s midfield.
But they never really provided for any dangerous chances inside the box.
Some credit should go to FC Cincy’s highly organized back line and midfielders who kept Hounds attackers in front of them most of the game — limiting the Hounds to three shot attempts in the final 45 minutes — with only one shot at goal.
It was also confusing watching an attack that was contradicting itself at times as they were resorting to long throw-ins by their striker (Hertzog) which were easily cleared by FC Cincy each time — and when they won corner kicks — resorted to playing a handful of short corners.
What happens when you play against a team that is pretty well organized like that, is you hope for a few things.
- Keep possession enough to draw fouls in and around the box — hope for free kicks or penalties to generate goals on set peices.
- Use as much of the width of the field as possible and try to get as many balls into the box into to create dangerous chances.
- Have a player who can create scoring opportunities where there isn’t much there.
And right now, with Cincy’s disciplined backs and midfield giving little ground, the Hounds diagonal long ball attempts were mostly being swallowed up by Cincy’s midfield and backs.
And they don’t have that player who can be dangerous when they’re generating little else.
They had it in 2013-14 with Jose Angulo (who had great chemistry with guy who could get him pinpoint passes in Matt Dallman).
They had it in 2015 with Robbie Vincent (built along with chemistry with Kerr)
And early this season, Parkes was a guy who could create goals, even as they couldn’t generate a lot of possession.
With U.S. Open Cup game on Wednesday, and then Toronto FC II coming for the next USL match on Saturday at Highmark Stadium, they need to find some way to score goals.
ROOKIE KEEPER VARGAS AND CENTER BACKS SOLID
There were a few silver linings for the Riverhounds in this game. Starting in his first-ever professional match, goalkeeper Mauricio Vargas held his own in a game played before the most people ever at a USL regular season game.
In the early going, it looked like Vargas came out way too far to play a ball in a mix up with right outside back Mike Green, and it almost cost him.
And despite giving up a goal to McGlaughlin after he was unable to secure the initial shot, leaving a chance for the rebound goal, Vargas had a solid game.
At times, the Hounds withstood some pressure from FC Cincy attack, and Vargas made some nice diving saves (officially had eight saves) — and came off the line to make some athletic plays to secure dangerous balls from crosses and corner kicks.
Here’s one of those saves…
The center back tandem of Willie Hunt and Sergio Campbell provided Vargas with a solid pairing in front of him. Hunt and Campbell continue to play well together, and may be the one consistent area of strength for the Hounds this year.
Head coach Mark Steffens has made an effort to make sure the Riverhounds have a strong back line to keep them in games this season, even when the attack is not surmounting many chances.
Late in this game, the Riverhounds had a glimmer of hope mainly because the center backs and Vargas were anchors in a solid defensive effort.
Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, the attack wasn’t up to the task.
AS CINCY BRINGS RECORD CROWD, IT’S SIMPLY ANOTHER GAME WITHOUT WIN FOR HOUNDS
First of all — kudos to FC Cincinnati. Generating the fan support that they have has really set the standards high for the rest of the teams in USL (and NASL/MLS) for that matter.
The season has now started with seven games and no wins to show for it.
Steffens said there would be changes — and his biggest change came in goal. The line-up as a whole seemed to be pretty similar to what they’ve been doing this year.
The way things went down with Parkes incident last week, and the ensuing media attention, and black eye it brought the organization, certainly made it for a challenging week — and trip to Cincinnati to play a game before a large record crowd.
Now it’s time to get the monkey off their backs.
With a U.S. Open Cup game on tap Wednesday night — and then Toronto FC II making a visit to Highmark Stadium — two wins would be exactly what would cure their ills.