The Pittsburgh Riverhounds battled Saint Louis F.C. to a 1-1 draw for the second time this season this afternoon at Highmark Stadium.
Rob Vincent scored his USL leading ninth goal on a penalty kick in the 72nd minute, but Saint Louis would get the equalizer on Jeremy Lynch’s header eight minutes later.
“It was disappointing,” said Mark Steffens, Riverhounds Head Coach.
“All week we worked on defending because of five goals we gave up last game. I was happy with how we did on one side of the ball, but we didn’t do enough in attacking.”
It looked like one goal would be enough for the Riverhounds in a match that both teams were not creating a lot of dangerous scoring chances.
After a scoreless first half, and as things began to open up in the second half, the Riverhounds found their opportunity as midfielder Stephen Okai was taken down in the box by Saint Louis’ James Musa as he was trying to get to a long ball sent from Danny Earls.
Referee David Mon called for penalty kick. The Riverhounds looked to Vincent, the USL’s top goal scorer to take the shot.
Vincent lined up — took a shot that beat SLFC’s goalkeeper, Mark Pais — but Mon called one of the Riverhounds’ players for crossing the line into the box before the shot was taken.
For Vincent, that was not a problem, as he delivered the finish to the right side, past a diving Pais, and the Riverhounds were up 1-0.
“In a game like that, one goal should be enough,” said Steffens.
Nursing a one-goal lead, Riverhounds became victim of another defensive mistake.
This time it came from their goalkeeper Ryan Hulings.
Hulings had to come off his line a couple times after the Vincent goal to secure a few balls that were played into the penalty area. The first two times he came out, he was able to make the plays needed.
The third time, in the 80th minute, Hulings wasn’t so fortunate.
As a very high ball was played toward the far post, Hulings came running out to make a play on it. But Saint Louis FC’s Jeremy Lynch was able to get a head on it first, and the ball sailed past Hulings, and into the open net.
“I’m not a goalkeeping coach, but he probably didn’t make a good choice,” said Steffens, on Hulings coming out.
“He’s a young keeper. He’s been thrown into the fire, and has performed well. We win as a team and we lose as a team. Ultimately, we didn’t create enough scoring chances to win the game.”
Defender Anthony Arena stood by his goalkeeper after the game.
“We have a good set of goalkeepers. They’ve been solid all year. Hulings has had our only shutouts of the season so far. He’s really stepped up for us. It was unfortunate today, but we’ll be fine,” said Arena.
Arena and the back line that included Mike Green, Tyler Pasher and Willie Hunt, played the entire 90 plus minutes.
It was a pretty evenly played and relatively quiet first half for both teams. Quite a contrast to the Riverhounds wild, come-from-behind win over Harrisburg last week in which they came from behind from deficits of 3-0, 4-2 and 5-3, to win with a miracle finish.
“We knew it was going to be a tight one,” said Vincent.
“Especially after 6-5 last week, it was inevitable that it would be a tightly played game.”
Saint Louis were highly organized in the back — and the Riverhounds began to sending balls forward to the width, mostly to Kevin Kerr on the right side. Kerr created a few chances including a cross that found Vincent and he set up a few corner kick opportunities.
On their first corner, Lebo Moloto served a low, grounder just away from the goal that Vincent dummied, then Kerr followed with a shot right at Pais.
It also appeared that Vincent had some times where he wasn’t able to get his shots, and passed the ball off to an open teammate on a few occasions.
“It was very difficult. They had four in the back playing tight. TThey didn’t give us a lot of space. They were closing gaps. We had to be a little more cute in and around the box,” added Vincent.
Saint Louis midfielder Bryan Gaul, the team’s leading scorer, seemed to be orchestrating much of their first half attacking chances. He played a nice ball back to Oskar Gasecki, who fired a shot from about 25 yards that Riverhounds goalkeeper Ryan Hulings had to make a nice save.
Gasecki also gave the fans a bicycle kick later in the first half, as a ball from a corner kick was deflected away from goal in the air, he redirected it toward the far post, but it went wide.
The Riverhounds starters included Hulings (G), Willie Hunt, Tyler Pasher, Anthony Arena, Mike Green, Lebo Moloto, Kevin Kerr, Rob Vincent, Stephen Okai, Danny Earls and Miro Cabrilo.
Okai was issued a yellow card in the 48th minute. His sub, Drew Russell also picked up a caution. In addition, Boris Zivanovic and Vini Dantas were brought on in the second half for Cabrilo and Moloto.
Starting eleven penciled in for St. Louis included Mark Pais (G), Patrick Doody, James Musa, Sam Fink, Oskar Gasecki, Chad Vandergrift, Brial Gaul, Jamiel Hardware, Brian Ciesiulka, Parker Maher and Jeremy Lynch.
With the draw, both teams move up a point in the USL’s Eastern Conference standings. The Riverhounds (4-3-4, 16 points) stay three points ahead of the expansion St. Louis F.C. (3-3-4, 13 points) in the final game of the season between the two teams.
The Riverhounds will next face the expansion Charlotte Independence next Saturday, June 13, as Mark Steffens will return to the City where he coached for nearly 20 years.
After that, comes the highly anticipated match against D.C. United of Major League Soccer in the 4th Round of the Lamar Hunt Open Cup on Wednesday, June 17 at Highmark Stadium. Riverhounds officials have said that ticket sales were really good this week, and only a few tickets now remain. The team was promoting to fans that it will be a “Gold Out” at Highmark Stadium that night.