ROCHESTER, NY – In a game played in a constant, torrential downpour, the Pittsburgh Riverhounds fell to the Rochester Rhinos, 1-0, on Saturday night at Sahlen Stadium.
With the win, the Rhinos continued their unbeaten streak to start the season to 14 games (9-0-5), tying a team record, with a bit of help from a controversial call late in the second half.
Riverhounds defender Anthony Arena was called for a foul in the box as he slightly bumped Alex Dixon as he was playing a ball from Tony Walls off his body.
Referee Jamie Hererra awarded the penalty kick to the Rhinos — and Walls converted the kick by sending a shot just under the middle of the crossbar.
“It’s unfortunate to put it in the referee’s hands. If you do something to force the referee to make a judgement call, then that could happen,” said Jose Rife, Riverhounds assistant coach after the game.
Rife filled in for Head Coach Mark Steffens in the final 15 minutes, after both Steffens and assistant coach Niko Katic, were sent off by Herrera after contesting the call.
The wet field, with many standing puddles, wrecked havoc for both teams trying to connect passes, maintain possession and develop a good rhythm to the game.
Despite the conditions, with players on both sides slipping and having trouble sending passes through the water drenched field, both teams created their share of dangerous chances.
“Conditions are conditions. We had to persevere through it. And for much of the match we had better of play. I give a lot of credit to our guys tonight,” said Rife.
The Riverhounds were outshot in the first half, 9-2 despite having long stretches of possession. Rochester were creating chances on counter attacks — as Kenardo Forbes was giving Hounds left back Sterling Flunder fits, getting behind him a few times on long, direct passes.
In the second half, the Riverhounds were able to get five shots at Rhinos goalkeeper Brandon Miller. Rob Vincent and Tyler Pasher took opportunistic long attempts at Miller, trying to catch him out of position in a few sequences.
Then in the 75th minute, came a play that may have summed up the night for the Hounds.
Kevin Kerr beat Miller to a ball that was sent to the right edge of the box. With a clear path near the right end line, and with Miller behind him, Kerr mustered a shot toward goal that stopped when it hit a standing puddle near the goal.
As the teams battled in adverse conditions, the game became more and more physical and heated — with 31 total fouls called (16-15 Pittsburgh).
The Riverhounds were issued a number of cautions — including Willie Hunt twice, along with Danny Earls, after hard sliding tackle and Arena in the 90th minute. Hunt was sent off after his second card, disputing Herrera’s call on Arena’s tackle.
About 50 members of the Riverhounds supporters group made the trip to Rochester — taking up a section in the lower left corner of the field. They certainly made themselves present and heard, at a game when Rochester fans mostly stayed away due to the poor weather.
“I’ve never been a part of an organization that’s had this kind of support. I give them (Steel Army) so much credit. That’s the kind of support that will help drive this club forward,” said Rife about the bus full of fans who made the trip.
Calle Brown – (Goalkeeper) – 7 – held his own despite many dangerous counter chances by Rochester and corner kicks.
Anthony Arena – 4 – foul on Walls set up winning goal.
Fejiro Okiomah – 6 – was very strong on ball and defending. Was brought to top of attack in late stages.
Willie Hunt – 2 – under pressure from Rhinos counters all night, and lost composure with two yellow cards
Sterling Flunder – 5 – Kenardo Forbes was giving him fits on the right flank, but settled down and played better in second half.
Rob Vincent – 4 – was a quiet night for USL top goal scorer. Only chance was from way out.
Kevin Kerr – 6 – was creative as usual. Had one of Riverhounds most dangerous attempts near end of 1st half on breakaway, and got behind Miller in second half for shot that was slowed by puddle.
Danny Earls – 7 – was winning balls in the middle,
Stephen Okai – 5 – started off very strong, but was injured in the second half.
Mike Green – 5 – had a dangerous shot attempt and was able to maneuver in tight spots effectively.
Drew Russell – 4 – didn’t get any scoring chances at top of attack
Riverhounds starting eleven:
Calle Brown (g), Anthony Arena, Fejiro Okiomah, Willie Hunt, Sterling Flunder, Rob Vincent, Danny Earls, Kevin Kerr, Mike Green and Drew Russell.
Substitutes included – Miro Cabrilo (60′), Tyler Pasher (63′) and Vini Dantas (74′).
The Riverhounds (5-5-4, 19 points) return to Highmark Stadium for their now annual Fourth of July game — on Saturday at 7 p.m. against NY Red Bulls II in a match between two teams that are battling near the playoff line in USL’s Eastern Conference.