The Pittsburgh Riverhounds continue to play spoiler as they blanked Orlando City B (OCB) 2-0, on Saturday night at Titan Soccer Complex in Melbourne, FL,
The Hounds (6-15-5, 23 points) won for the third time in the past five games over a struggling OCB team that is hanging onto the eighth and final playoff sport in the USL Eastern Conference standings — as newly signed 2016 PDL MVP and Golden Boot winner Chevaughn Walsh scored his first career pro goal in the first half — and a late tally by Corey Hertzog put the game away in stoppage time.
With the win, Pittsburgh climbs out of the basement in the USL’s Eastern Conference, and remarkably remain mathematically alive for the playoffs with four games remaining in the season. The Hounds trail OCB (32 points – three games remaining), who hold the eighth and final playoff spot, by nine points in the standings with four games remaining.
WALSH SCORES IN FIRST START
I will admit, the late season signing of Walsh seemed a bit curious at first — but the Riverhounds wanted to get a player who may have been a hot commodity among MLS teams in the offseason.
Walsh’s impressive run of goal scoring at a smaller college level — then in the PDL this summer with the Ocean City N’Oreasters earned him the opportunity to sign with the Hounds. In his first start, he came through with a solid performance — and a goal.
A big, strong forward at 6-foot-3, 175 lbs, Walsh provides the Hounds with an athletic presence at the top of the attack with finishing ability that they’ve lacked since Romeo Parkes was notoriously cut loose in May.
Making his first start, he had a few looks at goal early in the match, but in the 23rd minute, he was provided the opportunity to give the Hounds the lead thanks to some nifty work by the team captain — Kevin Kerr.
Kerr worked his way into the box and played a sliding pass between two defenders to a trailing Walsh.
The Jamaican forward found just the right touch to redirect a one-timer past the outstretched hand of Mark Ridgers and into the corner of the net.
The goal, Walsh’s first as a Hound and in his pro career, came after about 40 minutes of action as a professional (he played 20 minutes in 1-1 draw at Harrisburg.
With Walsh signed through 2018, this may be a sign of things to come.
Despite a decent run of form of late from the Hounds backline and with the absence of Danny Earls in the central midfield for the remainder of the season due to suspension, head coach Dave Brandt adjusted his line-up to counter as struggling OCB team that has for much of the season relied on youthful roster, athleticism and high pressure tactics.
As a result, Brandt started a few different players on the back line (Ryan Adeleye and Zak Boggs in place of Willie Hunt and Mike Green) — and Stephen Okai finally got a start in central midfield.
Columbus Crew loanee Zack Steffen remains the primary option in goal — and the talented young keeper proved his worth to the MLS club with another strong performance for the Hounds in his first clean sheet of his pro career
The Hounds remained the better team much of the night — with Lebo Moloto looking fairly comfortable with Kerr and Okai in the midfield — and Hounds used Walsh along with Hertzog and Nick Thompson at the top of the attack.
The game remained in the balance until stoppage time — and the Hounds counted from an Orlando corner kick after the Lions brought everyone forward.
The ensuing scramble for the ball provided Corey Hertzog with a golden breakaway chance which the Hounds’ leading scorer put away without a doubt to give the Pittsburgh side a sure victory.
When the USL Discipline Report was released earlier this week, it was announced that Earls was suspended for eight games.
But in the release, the USL had to include a stipulation that he would be suspended for three games of the playoffs if the Hounds would qualify, since we were told, they were still mathematically alive.
Boy this has been a weird season for the Hounds.
But with OCB losing again, and all of the teams in front of them playing lousy soccer, the Hounds have a chance to finish the final four games with an opportunity to play their way out of the basement — and into some semblance of respectability.
And maybe even get close to the eighth and final playoffs spot?
It’s very highly unlikely, but if for some reason, they can pick up 10 to 12 points in the final four games, and somehow OCB continues to struggle (all remaining games are on the road), and the other trio of teams between them (all struggling Wilmington, Bethlehem Steel and Harrisburg) — it could get interesting.
After getting wins over Bethlehem, Wilmington and now OCB, the Hounds have a tougher schedule in the coming weeks, as they will next face playoff-bound Charlotte in Carolina, and then a pair of home games vs FC Cincinnati, with a road trip to Bethlehem in between.
Any combination of a Hounds loss and OCB win or picking up a few ties will likely put the nail in the Hounds coffin.
But until then, there’s the tiniest sliver of hope.
#ORLvPGH GAME DATA
Riverhounds: Zack Steffen – Marshall Hollingsworth, Ryan Adeleye, Sergio Campbell, Zak Boggs (Mike Green 71′) – Stephen Okai (Willie Hunt 88′), Lebo Moloto (Drew Russell 90’+), Kevin Kerr (c), Nick Thompson (Jack Thompson 45′) – Corey Hertzog – Chevaughn Walsh (Alejandro Aguilar 71′)
Subs not used: Hunter Gilstrap, Jordan Murrell
Orlando City B: Mark Ridgers – Conor Donovan, Kyle McFadden, Craig Nitti, Zach Hayden -Harrison Heath (Antonio Matarazzo 45′), Lewis Neal (c) (Johnny Mendoza 39′), Andrew Ribiero – Richie Laryea (Marius Obekop 75′), Hadji Barry, Michael Cox
Subs not used: Mason Stajduhar, Tyler Turner, Devron Garcia, Keegan Smith
PGH – Chevaughn Walsh 23′ (Kevin Kerr)
PGH – Corey Hertzog 90’+ (Kevin Kerr)
ORL – Andrew Ribiero 16′ (caution)
ORL – Harrison Heath 45′ (caution)
ORL – Kyle McFadden 74′ (caution)
PGH – Ryan Adeleye 81′ (caution)