The Pittsburgh Riverhounds bounced back Saturday to beat Bethleham Steel FC 2-1 at Highmark Stadium on Saturday as veterans Corey Hertzog and Kevin Kerr each scored.
After getting pummeled by last place FC Montreal, 4-1 on Wednesday with a depleated roster, the Hounds put forth a much stronger effort that included Hertzog’s early go-ahead goal– his ninth of the season and fourth game in a row in which he’s scored.
Then, in the second half in the 62nd minute, with the game tied 1-1, team captain Kerr, who missed Wednesday’s fiasco, connected some nice passes with Marshall Hollingsworth, then made a run into the box for a nice 1-2 with Hertzog to score the game winner that was eerily reminiscent of the final goal of the ‘Miracle on the Mon’ clinching tally from the same spot.
In a season in which a lot that hasn’t gone well, Hertzog was glad to have a positive result.
“I mean, you can never count it out. A win, no matter what your record is, feels good,” said Hertzog.
“You always want to win. Coming out of every game you can always improve.”
The Hounds (4-14-4, 16 points) picked up their first win at home since June 18, and have won twice in the past four matches. The new expansion Bethlehem Steel FC (6-9-8, 26 points) extends its winless streak to five games, and saw their playoff hopes falter with the loss.
The teams will play a rubber match at Lehigh Valley on September 18. Steel FC won the first game in July 2-1.
COUNTING ON HERTZOG & KERR
The Hounds have a common theme when playing well and scoring goals this season.
Get the ball to Kerr and Hertzog.
“I wouldn’t say it’s because of me – everyone is playing well – it’s just as a team. We train well as a team. [Over the past four matches], the only parts we haven’t played well were the first 20 of Montreal. After that we’ve been playing well. We played better than the teams than came out. Maybe a little more against Louisville, but we’re coming out and doing our best.”
Both goals were products of what each player does best.
For Hertzog, it was having a nose for the goal, and using his ability to finish in and around the box. This time, for the fourth consecutive game, it was receiving a quality service in the box from Danny Earls, and a header that he beat everyone to the ball.
Hertzog’s getting into a groove much like we’ve seen from others here in recent years, like Jose Angulo in 2013, and Rob Vincent a year ago. His persistent work-rate has paid off. With eight games to go, seeing how many goals he can score may become one of the things of interest to watch as the Hounds attempt to finish strong.
As for Kerr’s goal, it was a product of terrific passing, a wonderful build up of of play and making a perfectly timed run that were his trademark for when things were clicking for him a year ago.
“Kevin owed me that goal,” remarked Dave Brandt, Riverhounds Head Coach in his post game remarks.
“I’ve seen him score that goal on tape before I got here like eight times. He’s scored for me before, but not that goal. We missed Kevin badly on Wednesday in Montreal, not only his play, but also his presence.”
As I mentioned in the opening of this article – that goal was very similar to the game winner last May when Kerr and Lebo Moloto hooked up to put finishing touches on a remarkable 6-5 win after trailing by three goals.
Much like watching Brazil’s men’s Olympic team awaken to play enjoyable and attractive soccer again this week, it was eye pleasing to see a goal like that by the home team at Highmark Stadium.
Hopefully for Pittsburgh soccer fans, there will be more to come.
THINGS PICKING UP WITH COLUMBUS CREW AFFILIATION
The Riverhounds more or less for the last four months used one player on loan from the Columbus Crew with any regularity – Marshall Hollingsworth.
After Wednesday’s game, in which three new players (Rodridgo Saravia, Chad Barson and Cristian Martinez) were added by loan on a game-by-game basis, the Hounds added young goalkeeper Zach Steffen, who was recently acquired by Columbus. Steffen started and earned his first pro win on Saturday.
“Our depth has been tested,” said Brandt.
“Clearly in Montreal we were out of sorts, three, four guys didn’t travel. So it was a little better tonight. More in sync.”
Steffen made his Hounds debut in goal, starting in place of Mauricio Vargas, who was scratched due to a back injury. Steffen stepped up to stop six of seven shots faced on net – the most by a Hounds keeper since Vargas stopped six of eight shots at Rochester on June 25.
Martinez came in for a sluggish Moloto, and Saravia replaced an injured Jack Thompson.
While Crew’s homegrown product Ben Swanson had only made a few appearances for the Hounds, it appears that with these additions, the MLS team is now using Pittsburgh to get more players some more game action.
This will be very intruiging to see how this plays out for the remainder of the season.
With the Riverhounds season mostly lost in terms of pursuing a playoff spot and with a lot of questions about the future make-up of what this team’s identity and roster will look like, does this give Columbus and coach Gregg Berhalter more of an opening to make more use of this affiliation?
And who knows, it also brings up an even more fascinating question, with the Riverhounds not having a general manager or personnel director, could or would the Crew want to become a larger partner, have more say, and invest in more resources in nearby Pittsburgh. With so many MLS teams running their own USL franchises with success (NY Red Bulls II, LA Galaxy, Orlando City and Saturday’s opponent Philadelphia Union’s Steel FC), the prospects of Pittsburgh being a place for the Crew to operate its own team may be more and more possible then previously thought of at the beginning off this season.
A realistic possibility that might make the most sense is a hybrid affiliation, much like one between MLS Houston Dynamo and Rio Grande FC, which was a first for the USL.
Under this arrangement, the Dynamo are responsible for the tactical part of the club – selecting players and coaching staff. The ownership group of Rio Grande, Lone Star, are responsible for operations and day-to-day management of the club.
If you look at what Riverhounds management has done in recent months, hiring a general manager to manage operations side of Highmark Stadium, but no soccer personnel hires, it’s almost a potential foreshadowing to the possibility of a hybrid agreement or that Columbus could have more of a say in what the team on the field will look like.
I’m getting a feeling that this is something we will want to watch very closely in the coming months.
Riverhounds – Zack Steffen – Willie Hunt, Ryan Adeleye (Marshall Hollingsworth 58′), Sergio Campbell, Mike Green – Danny Earls, Stephen Okai (Zak Boggs 78′), Kevin Kerr, Lebo Moloto (Cristian Martinez 47′) – Corey Hertzog, Alejandro Aguilar (Nick Thompson 47′ (Rodrigo Saravia 65′))
Subs not used: Hunter Gilstrap, Jack Thompson
Bethlehem Steel FC – Samir Badr – Ryan Richter, Anderson Conceicao, Austin Trusty, Taylor Washington (Amoy Brown 78′) – Boluwatife Akinyode, James Chambers, Leo Fernandes (Gabriel Gissie 89′) – Eric Ayuk, Josh Heard (Jamie Luchini 64′), Cory Burke (Justin McMaster 80′)
Subs not used: Nick Bibbs, Anthony Fontana
PGH- Corey Hertzog 18′ (Danny Earls)
BST- Cory Burke 28′
PGH- Kevin Kerr 62′ (Corey Hertzog)
PGH- Danny Earls 23′ (Caution)
BST- Ryan Richter 37′ (Caution)
BST- James Chambers 66′ (Caution)
PGH- Corey Hertzog 90+’
BST- Anderson Conceicao 90+’