The Pittsburgh Riverhounds broke open a tight contest with Toronto FC II with three second half goals en route to 5-1 victory at Highmark Stadium on Saturday night.
Taking advantage of playing with a man advantage from the 42nd minute on, Rob Vincent scored twice, along with goals by Danny Earls, Tyler Pasher and Kevin Kerr to give the Riverhounds their second win of the season.
“We had a ball out there. (We were) knocking it around. Had great work rate on both sides of ball, said Mark Steffens, Riverhounds Head Coach.
It was an especially sweet win for a team that had not won since their first game of the season last month, and was coming off a tie at home against Louisville on Sunday, when they gave up a tough, equalizing goal in stoppage time.
“We know we’re a good team. Adversity is going to come in every game,” said Earls, the team’s captain.
“You just get on, and do the best that you can. It’s about sticking to your game plan. They could have 9, 10 or 11 men against us, but knew we had to keep coming at them.”
The game turned on a play late in the first half.
As the Riverhounds were trailing 1-0, in the 42nd minute, Mike Green, playing attacking midfield position, played a through ball to Kerr who got behind Toronto’s Tarik Robertson. As Kerr took one touch on the ball, Robertson took him down pretty hard from behind as he just got into the goal box. Referee Matt Kreitzer signaled for a penalty kick and also sent off Robertson with a red card for the dangerous tackle that deliberately thwarted a goal scoring chance.
“Unbelievable ball from Greeny, that got through. It was right there,” raved Kerr about the pass he received from Green.
Kerr stepped up to deliver the penalty kick into the upper right side of the net, and the Riverhounds were back in business, grabbing the momentum of the match, bringing things level before halftime.
In the second half, the Riverhounds took advantage of a 10-man Toronto squad, leaning on the experience from USL veterans like Kerr, Vincent and Earls.
“We like to high press a lot, and we were looking to take advantage of mistakes,” said Earls.
The Riverhounds scoring onslaught began in the 56th minute, as Vincent made a nice play to steal the ball on a poorly played pass. He passed it to Kerr, then made a wide run on the left side. Kerr laid the ball back to Vincent, in stride, and he was able to bury it past TFCII goalkeeper Quillan Roberts with his left foot for the 2-1 Riverhounds lead.
After midfielder Stephen Okai drilled a laser shot at Roberts in the 69th minute, and Toronto had cleared the ball toward the far sideline, Riverhounds forward Vini Dantas sent a very high ball forward. The ball took a big bounce. As two TFCII defenders waited to play the ball, Vincent scooted in on a timely run to get the first touch on the ball, moved to the right of both defenders, and drilled a right-footed shot past Roberts to give the Hounds a two-goal edge.
Two minutes later, Earls collected a ball that Toronto tried to clear away. From about 30 yards, Earls quickly delivered a picture perfect strike into the upper right corner for the commanding 4-1 lead.
The Hounds would add another goal in the 90th minute, as Tyler Pasher, a former Toronto FC academy product, delivered the final blow, driving home his first goal as a Riverhound, after receiving a nicely played ball from Kerr.
Making his first start of the season for the Riverhounds, 2013 USL assist leader Matt Dallman got into the action early on, receiving a nice back pass from Kerr, and delivered one of his patented right footed crosses into the box. Stephen Okai also delivered a strike from about 28 yards that TFCII’s Quillan Roberts had to dive to his right to clear away from the goal.
Toronto would capitalize first though.
In the 17th minute, LFCII’s Mo Babouli had a few Riverhounds defenders in front of him, but still found enough space to drill a low shot through the back line, and into the left side of the goal to give Toronto the early one goal edge.
Things got worse for the Hounds, as Dallman went down with an injury in the 25th minute, and would have to come off. Pasher, a former Toronto FC academy player, came in for Dallman.
Down 1-0, the Hounds stayed the course, and delivered a much needed win. Kerr was confident and knew it would take one important thing.
“We knew chances would come. Kept banging on the door. And it did. The goal fest came,” said Kerr.
Steffens feels like this is just the beginning.
“I think we’re just starting to build our chemistry right now.”
— Kerr and Vincent are the leading goal scorers for the Riverhounds — with 4 each. Kerr picked up another assist to bring his total to 3 for the season.
— In two wins at Highmark Stadium, the Riverhounds have outscored their opponents 10-3. With Kerr and Vincent contributing seven goals.
— Riverhounds starting eleven included: Ryan Thompson (GK), Anthony Arena, Willie Hunt, Matt Dallman, Sterling Flunder, Stephen Okai, Danny Earls, Kevin Kerr, Rob Vincent, Mike Green and Vini Dantas
— Green made his first start in an attacking MF role after playing the first four games at outside back.
Steffens used his full allotment of substitutes. In addition to Pasher coming in, Miro Cabrilo came in for Flunder in the 70th minute. Former West Allegheny and St. Francis (PA) product, Nick Kolarac made his first appearance for the Riverhounds in the 89th minute.
In addition to Pasher, Cabrilo and Kolarac. Calle Brown, Miro Cabrilo, Anthony Virgara, Nick Kolarac, Amara Soumah, Seth C’deBaca were available on the Riverhounds bench. Fejiro Okiomah, Drew Russell, Lebo Moloto and Max Touloute were all unavailable due to injury, and Steffens said after the match that he feels really good about the depth that they have on their roster.
“We have a lot of guys that we can use, and go to. It’s a good thing and will help us as the season goes on.”
— Toronto FC starting eleven for tonight included: Quillan Roberts, Wes Charpie, Daniel Fabrizi, Thomas Skylar, Raheem Edwards, Tarik Robertson, Chris Mannella, Jay Chapman, Marcos Nunes, Babouli and Jordan Hamilton.
— Attendance tonight was a bit better than their first three games, but still well below the Riverhounds averages from the past few seasons, as they announced a crowd of 1,689.
— An aside to one of the bigger sports stories of the day, Steffens confirmed with me after the game, that he indeed coached the last game MISL game ever played at the Nassau Coliseum, where the New York Islanders may have played their last game today. Steffens was the last coach of the NY Express franchise during the 1986-87 season, when they folded during the All-Star Break.
— Next Up for the Riverhonds – they travel to Red Bull Arena, in Harrison, NJ, to take on NY Red Bull II on Sunday, May 3 at 2 p.m. Their next game at Highmark Stadium will be on Saturday, May 16, for 7 p.m. kickoff against Richmond.