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CINvPGH analysis & player grades: Exciting ‘chess match’ at Nippert ends in draw

Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC 2, FC Cincinnati 2

Highlights and Opta Box Score

Game Summary and Analysis

It was a back-and-forth affair, and in the end, the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC and FC Cincinnati played to a deadlocked affair, 2-2, at Nippert Stadium before 24,505 fans on Saturday evening in what was probably the most entertaining game in the three-year series history.

“That was an exciting soccer game,” Alan Koch, FC Cincinnati head coach said in his post-game interview. “It was a bit of a tactical chess match. They adjusted. We adjusted. They adjusted. We adjusted. I am very proud of our group in how we responded.”

The Riverhounds came out with a clear game plan to get the ball forward quickly, and create scoring chances on countering opportunities.

Bob Lilley‘s Hounds squad may have conceded more possession then they had all season (64% to 36%), but they clearly weren’t going to be sitting back and hoping for a scoreless draw.

Lilley went with a 3-5-1-1 formation at the start of the game — and the Hounds didn’t waste any time trying to get a quick strike.

In the sixth minute, a long ball forward by Thomas Vancayezeele, who was playing center back, deep into the final third forced FC Cincinnati defender Forest Lasso who’s clearance was taken away by Hounds’ Jordan Dover.

Dover then made his way into the edge of the box with a pair of defenders converging on him, but the Canadian pushed the ball through and past FC Cincinnati goalkeeper Evan Newton.

Going into half, Koch knew he needed to make adjustments to get his attack, which was getting plenty of possession, to create more dangerous chances against a Hounds team that hadn’t surrendered a goal all season.

Down 1-0 at halftime, the home side came out of the gates with better energy as it searched for an equalizer.

Koch’s FCC squad opened things up more — using the width and connecting more passes deeper into the final third, getting the ball effectively to the endlines where they were then able to connect passes into and around the box, exposing Pittsburgh’s three-man back line.

In the 59th minute, with his team scrambling a bit to keep up with FCC’s attack, Lilley was hoping to get a pair of fresh new subs in the game as his team was clearly on the ropes.

Before fresh legs and tactical adjustments could be made for Pittsburgh, FCC’s Danni Konig received a pass from Corben Bone before hitting a right-footed shot past Pittsburgh netminder Dan Lynd.

It was the first goal in more than 414 minutes against Pittsburgh.

Christanio Francios and Hugh Roberts did get on the field, and the Hounds switched things up to move Vancaeyezeele into the attacking midfield spot, and dropped Roberts back into the back line.

Things began to open up for the Hounds.

Vancaeyezeele scored Pittsburgh’s second in the 73rd minute, though, hitting a low blast past Newton after receiving a pass from Kenardo Forbes to silence the large crowd on hand.

But Cincinnati kept fighting, adjusted to the Hounds changes by keeping the pressure on as there were continuing to be chances for both sides.

Substitute Kenney Walker smashed in the game-tying goal in the 78th minute after the ball fell to his feet in the center of the penalty area.

The final 13 minutes saw FCC with more chances in the final third, but the Hounds did have a golden chance in stoppage time with a free kick from 21 yards after Francois was fouled on a counter.

Taking the set piece, Francois’ bending kick sailed a few feet over the bar, and the clubs battled to the third draw in the all-time series history.

With the result, the Hounds move to 2-0-3 on the year, while Cincinnati is now 2-1-2.

For Pittsburgh, it may have felt like three points that got away, and their three-man back line was exposed a bit, but still in a tough environment, against a determined side that had more than 24,000 fans, a 2-2 draw was not a bad result.

6’ – PGH – Jordan Dover
59’ – CIN – Danni Konig (Corben Bone)
73’ – PGH – Thomas Vancaeyezeele (Kenardo Forbes)
78’ – CIN – Kenney Walker


Dan Lynd (GK) – 5 – the first goal he didn’t have much of a chance. The second — wondering if there could have been better communication to tell Adewole to push up and mark someone. Otherwise, Lynd was calm and composed under pressure.

Jordan Dover -6 – going the full 90, Dover was strong on both sides of the pitch. He made a nice play to create goal after high pressure and pushing up after poor FCC clearance. In addition to completing 85.7 percent of his passes, had five interceptions, two clearances and one tackle. And for good measure, in the first half, Dover picked up a yellow card for foul on Jimmy McLaughlin that probably saved a dangerous counter chance.

Ray Lee – 5 – Cincy has more success on Lee’s side pinging the ball around in possession, making it more difficult for him to get forward the way I am sure that Lilley would have wanted him to for much of the game.

 Tobi Adewole – 5 – was pretty strong in first half, but poor clearance resulted in the second goal. Struggled in second half to cover ground and keep the line high as Cincy used space better to open up the three-man Hounds back line.

Todd Pratzner5 – like Adewole, was solid in first half, but once FCC exploited more space in final third — struggled to cover space effectively and was scrambling to prevent shots.

Thomas Vancaeyezeele – 6 – each game Lilley finds a way to use him effectively. In the first half, having the versatile player start at center back, where he played when winning a National Championship was bold, but it worked as he served as the distributor from the back — sending accurate long balls when needed, and also in keeping possession.

Mouhamed Dabo – 5 – another workmanlike performance from the USL veteran sitting above the three man back line, but in second half he was also scrambling to cover.

Kevin Kerr – 5 – Hounds veteran was part of attacking trio subbed out with a decent first half, but again was subbed out in the 62nd minute.

Kenardo Forbes – 6 – solid in connecting passes on some possessions, winning balls back, and finally had his impact play — setting up Vancaeyezeele by keeping ball alive in the box on the second goal.

Ben Zemanski – 5- seemed a bit out of position on the outside attacking mid spot, but his quality can’t be denied. Will be interesting to see how Lilley uses him in future road games where he preferred to go with the scrappier Dabo as the deeper holding midfielder.

Neco Brett -5-  work-rate was pretty strong for 90 minutes, but had a few touches in box and couldn’t pull trigger quick enough.

Christiano Francois (62′) – 6 – proved to be a solid sub off the bench, sparking the Hounds push to get the second goal, and even in stoppage time.

Hugh Roberts (62′) – 5 –  came in to relieve Vancaeyezeele of his center back duties.

Andy Lubhan (83′) – n/a – yet another game where Lubhan was a late sub

John Krysinsky has covered soccer and other sports for many years for various publications and media outlets. He is also author of 'Miracle on the Mon' -- a book about the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, which chronicles the club, particularly the early years of Highmark Stadium with the narrative leading up to and centered around a remarkable match that helped provide a spark for the franchise. John has covered sports for Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, DK Pittsburgh Sports, Pittsburgh Sports Report, has served as color commentator on Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC broadcasts, and worked with OPTA Stats and broadcast teams for US Open Cup and International Champions Cup matches held in the US. Krysinsky also served as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach at his alma mater, Point Park University, where he led the Pioneers to the first-ever winning seasons and playoff berths (1996-98); head coach of North Catholic boys (2007-08), associate head coach of Shady Side Academy boys (2009-2014).

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