It took nearly 87 minutes, but Riverhounds SC finally came through with an elusive goal to earn its second consecutive win against a pesky Ottawa Fury FC, 1-0, at Highmark Stadium in tense match on Saturday.
The match’s elusive goal came from an unlikely source and maybe most fittingly — a defender — Tobi Adewole, while goalkeeper Dan Lynd‘s save late in stoppage time preserved the Hounds fourth consecutive clean sheet to open the 2018 campaign.
“I am proud of the fact that we kept at it,” Bob Lilley, Riverhounds head coach, said. “You wonder if you’re going to get it. They (Ottawa) were killing clock. We were able to get it to the corners, and send in crosses. We kept the pressure on and I felt like the goal was coming. It was important to win this. We’ll have to be able to fight through these moments. Every game in this league will pose new challenges. Every week you have to be ready. You have to fight for every inch that you get — and today we competed well and I am happy we got the result because Ottawa came ready to play.”
The tension of the match built as the Hounds (now 2-0-2, 8 points) dominated possession throughout with 62 percent of the ball, send waves of crosses (30 to be precise), but could not find the back of the net as Ottawa jam packed the box.
In the 87th minute, the Hounds finally connected.
It started when Ray Lee made a nice run into the box, and delivered a cross that went over everyone but veteran midfielder Kevin Kerr who got to the bouncing ball first in tight space on the right end line to make another big play — in a big moment.
Kerr calmly delivered a ball inside the box to the top of the six — and that’s where Adewole took it from there reacting quickly enough — as he was falling over — to redirect it in the back of the net.
Everything about this goal…beauty.
— Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (@RiverhoundsSC) April 15, 2018
And while it was a terrific, instinctive play by Kerr to keep the ball alive — everyone acknowledged after the game the goal was a result of something that they work on quite a bit in training.
“We work on it an awful lot. I feel we should execute that ball — and get on the end of stuff more than we do,” Lilley explained. “That’s one of Kevin’s strength’s — technical quality — and he put the ball in a dangerous area and Tobi was able to stroke it home from two yards.”
Then the coach chuckled, and added.
“It was a sweet finish in my mind.”
On a rare night where he didn’t get the start, but entered in the 72nd minute as he became third on the Hounds all-time list with 134 appearances, Kerr came up with another big play when his team needed him most.
“Just played it along the line. It’s something we go over and over in training. Playing that ball in between the keeper and the six-yard box,” Kerr said. “Tobi did his bit, and we needed someone to step up and get it over the line. It was a great play from him.”
Lilley wasn’t joking though, when he said that he wants all of his players, center backs like Adewole included, to have a nose for the goal.
“On restarts, center backs should want to score goals when they’re up higher on the pitch. We’re a team that has guys that can score out of the back. They do their job of course, but they can chip in when they can,” Lilley added. “You don’t know when the goals are going to come, so you stay after it.”
Despite dominating most of the match, the Hounds faced some physical play from Ottawa and a few tense moments late in stoppage time.
At one point when the teams were still deadlocked in a scoreless battle — Ottawa’s Christian Portillo and Hounds Ben Zemanski got tangled up in the middle of the field and there was a lot of pushing and shoving after Portillo fell over the Hounds midfielder.
“That’s two center midfielders. They’re in close quarters all game,” Lilley said. “I’m happy no one joined in. I’m not big on getting cards. Knock on wood, we don’t need to get caught up in the extra stuff.”
“There’s only one or two players on our team that could throw a proper punch anyways.”
In the late stages, after Adewole’s goal, the Hounds would hang on but not without getting it’s goalkeeper involved.
Ottawa midfielder Christian Portillo had a very good look from 35 yards that nearly tied it and ended the Hounds shutout streak.
The save to seal it. #PGHvOTT
— Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (@RiverhoundsSC) April 15, 2018
“We had some guys out of position there,” Lilley said. “If Dan’s a little bit out of position, if he plays that sloppy, that could have gone differently. But he was right there and was able to get a hand on it.”
“We believe in each other. We’re covering for each other. And we all know that keeping the clean sheet is the number one priority for the back four,” Adewole said. “Lot of pride in our job back there, and I thought we did a good job today.”
“The number one thing I was thinking was attack the ball, and be dangerous in the box,” Adewole said. “I got to contribute to the team any way I can. Getting shutouts is one thing, but getting a goal is another. I’m blessed to get.”
“Look, it’s going to be a long season. We’re not playing at our best level yet, but we’ve shown a little more resilience than we did vs Harrisburg (Penn FC) in the home opener (0-0 draw). I’m looking for improvements each week. We held serve two games in a row,” Lilley said, after the Hounds won its second straight game a home.”If we keep posting shutouts at home, I think we’ll win our fair share of games.”
The Hounds hit the road to face FC Cincinnati next Saturday, Apr. 28. This will be the Hounds’ first match away from the Steel City since the season-opener against Nashville SC on March 24.
Riverhounds SC – Dan Lynd – Todd Pratzner, Tobi Adewole, Andrew Lubahn (Kay Banjo 72′), Ray Lee – Mouhamed Dabo, Ben Zemanski (Joe Holland 78′) – Christiano François (Kevin Kerr 72′), Thomas Vancaeyezeele, Kenardo Forbes – Neco Brett
Subs not used: Kyle Morton, Hugh Roberts, Jordan Dover, Bakie Goodman
Ottawa Fury FC – Maxime Crépeau – Eddie Edward, Colin Falvey, Chris Mannella, Sergio Manesio- Christian Portilla, Kevín Oliveira, Gerardo Bruna (Jamar Dixon 61′) – Tony Taylor, Michael Salazar (Adonijah Reid 87′), Steevan Dos Santos (Carl Haworth 65′)
Subs not used: Callum Irving, Jamar Dixon, Thomas Meilleur-Giguère
PGH – Tobi Adewole 85’ (Kevin Kerr)
OTT – Gerardo Bruna 57’ (caution)
OTT – Christian Portilla 75’ (caution)
PGH – Ben Zemanski 75’ (caution)
PGH – Todd Pratzner 92’ (caution)
OTT – Eddie Edward 94’ (caution)
The 99th Minute
- It was another less than stellar crowd on what was a nice weather day in Pittsburgh, as 1,838 fans came through the gates.
- Adewole’s marker in the 85th minute was his first professional goal. The second-year defender from George Washington University also recorded his first career shot on the play.
- With the victory, the Hounds are one of only six teams to remain unbeaten in the USL. Louisville City FC and Atlanta United 2 are the only other teams in the Eastern Conference to join the Hounds with that honor.
- After picking up back-to-back wins against Toronto FC II and Ottawa Fury FC, the Hounds unbeaten record against its Canadian counterparts improves to 8-0-3.
- The Hounds two wins this season have both come at Highmark Stadium, meaning that they have already equaled half of last season’s home wins through only three matches. A year ago, the Hounds didn’t pick up home win No. 2 until May 3, their then-fifth match at Highmark Stadium.