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Riverhounds advance in U.S. Open Cup; Will face D.C. United in fourth round

Rob Vincent‘s stoppage time goal propelled the Pittsburgh Riverhounds to a 1-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the third round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup at Highmark Stadium on Wednesday night.

With the win, the Riverhounds advance to the fourth round of the Open Cup, and will now face Major League Soccer’s D.C. United at Highmark Stadium on June 17.

In a pretty evenly played match, that became more physical in the later stages, the Riverhounds leading scorer, Vincent, found some space just outside the box, after receiving a ball from Tyler Pasher.

With room to spare, he drilled a shot that gave the Riverhounds the lead just as the announcement came over that there would be three minutes of stoppage time added to the match.

“Every time Robbie gets the ball in attacking half — I say — shoot Robbie, shoot,” said Mark Steffens, the happy Riverhounds head coach.

It was an intense match, as both teams exchanged possessions and found various counter chances. The Riverhounds were able to keep the ball for longer stretches — and attempted 17 shots, forcing Rowdies goalkeeper Matt Pickens to make four saves, and the home side set up 11 corner kicks (to just four for the Rowdies).

Steffens was concerned about the potential of the matching going into extra time, and was hoping for a goal in regulation as his team was playing its fourth game in the past 11 days, while the Rowdies hadn’t played since May 16.

“I knew we needed something magical, and we got it,” said Steffens.

In the opening stages, the Rowdies came out, as Steffens described, “with a lot of intensity,” setting up a corner kick in the first minute. They continued to advance the ball in the first 20 minutes numerous times with overlapping runs, crosses — but only tested the Hounds first-year goalkeeper Ryan Hulings a few times.

In the 18th minute, Hulings had to make a nice save, going to his right to thwart an attempt by Martin Munez that was heading just inside the post.
Pittsburgh’s best chances of the first half came in a few sequences beginning in the 38th minute, on the second of three consecutive corners, when Kevin Kerr headed a high service from Rob Vincent that sailed past a few heads and went past the left post.

Kerr had a great one-time chance moments later, but he hit the right post, and the teams would go to halftime knotted up. Lebo Moloto was creating problems for the Rowdies back line at times — making runs into the box, but was unable to set up any quality finishes.

But momentum swung toward the home side early in the second half.

“It seemed like as we were able to develop some rhythm, and get going, they (the Rowdies) seemed to lose their intensity. I thought we played very well and had momentum going into the second half,” added Steffens.

In the 51st minute, Vincent had let loose a blast, again from the top of the circle, that forced Pickens to make a diving save.
In one strange sequence in the 69th minute, Moloto battled Rowdies central defender Stefan Antonijevic for a ball by the right end-line in the box. Antonijevic then fell, with the ball lodged between his legs. Moloto fiercely tried to nudge it away from him, and for a moment everyone seemed to look to referee Chuck Murphy to make a decision.

Murphy awarded the Hounds with an indirect kick, for Antonijevic’s dangerous play, from the far right side just inside the penalty area. The kick was played back to Stephen Okai near the top of the box, but sent his shot that sailed over the bar.

In the late stages, the Rowdies were looking for an opportunistic counter, but were not able to sustain any dangerous chances, as a few runs into the box by Darwin Espinal, were stymied by a wall of black shirts defending the Riverhounds goal.

The Riverhounds outshot the Rowdies 17-11. Hulings made two saves while Pickens made four. Both teams had eight fouls.

The Rowdies drew the only two bookings of the match, as Ben Sweat knocked over Mike Green in the 15th minute and Robert Hernandez pushed  Pasher as the Riverhounds defender was shielding a ball head to go over the end-line.

After Vincent’s goal, the Rowdies had three minutes of stoppage time to get the equalizer, but the Riverhounds parked the bus pretty effectively.
With the win, the Riverhounds remain unbeaten in five U.S. Open matches played Highmark Stadium since it opened in 2013. The Rowdies bow out of the competition in the Third Round for the second consecutive season.

For Vincent, it was his eight goal of the season in all competitions, and his second in Open Cup games.

Steffens’ starting eleven for Pittsburgh included: Hulings (G), Anthony Arena, Hunt, Pasher, Green, Kerr, Moloto, Okai, Vincent, Danny Earls and Miro Cabrilo.

Tampa Bay’s Head Coach Thomas Rongen, a former Cup winning coach of the D.C. United, who was dressed in his trademark bow tie, penciled in the following starters: Pickens (G), Darnell King, Richard Menjivar, Sweat, Antonijevic, Nunez, Marcelo Saragosa, Georgi Hristov, Tamika Mkandawire, Hernandez and Maicon Dos Santos.

Darwin Espinal replaced Saragosa at the beginning of the second half. Corey Hertzog replaced Dos Santos in the 63rd minute.
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John Krysinsky has covered soccer and other sports for many years for various publications and media outlets. He is also author of 'Miracle on the Mon' -- a book about the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, which chronicles the club, particularly the early years of Highmark Stadium with the narrative leading up to and centered around a remarkable match that helped provide a spark for the franchise. John has covered sports for Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, DK Pittsburgh Sports, Pittsburgh Sports Report, has served as color commentator on Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC broadcasts, and worked with OPTA Stats and broadcast teams for US Open Cup and International Champions Cup matches held in the US. Krysinsky also served as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach at his alma mater, Point Park University, where he led the Pioneers to the first-ever winning seasons and playoff berths (1996-98); head coach of North Catholic boys (2007-08), associate head coach of Shady Side Academy boys (2009-2014).

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