Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC 1, Atlanta U2 0
The Riverhounds SC were running against a blistering wind for much of the second half on Saturday night at Highmark Stadium against a young and strong Atlanta United 2 side, but pulled out yet another 1-0 win to remain unbeaten after six games.
Neco Brett scored the game’s lone goal in the 26th minute, and goalkeeper Kyle Morton held on for his second shutout of the season with a defense in front of him that didn’t allow a single shot on goal as the Hounds picked up its third win of the season at home.
“It was a great team win. It was probably our most complete game from start to finish this year,” Bob Lilley, Hounds coach said. “They’re a good team and they’re going to be a handful for anyone. The wind was pushing things their way in the second half. We did well to limit their chances.”
Despite not having majority of possession, the Hounds remained in control, and played composed for a full 90 minutes — running another impressive streak now playing 540 minutes plus this season without ever trailing.
Lilley likes to talk about being on the front foot at all times — and in the first half, coming out in a 3-5-1-1 or 3-5-2 — the Hounds were patient and content to allow Atlanta United 2 to have the majority of possession (60% to 40%) throughout the match.
Despite being out possessed, the Hounds still generated the edge in shots (9-7, 3-0 on target) and crosses (18-17).
The Hounds though, methodically began to exploit a few seams in the Atlanta United 2 back line in the first half.
At first, it was Ray Lee on the left flank who swung in a pair of dangerous balls in the 10th and 18th minutes that forced ATL2’s keeper Paul Christensen off his line to have to react quickly to prevent any further danger.
One of those balls came to Christiano François in the far post area, and François’ one time chance sailed over the bar.
Then the Hounds started to switch things over to the right side, where the familiar tandem of François and Jordan Dover started to work the ball to each other — and looked to find some cracks.
“Jordan is very good offensively and it’s our second year playing together since Rochester. It’s easier for us to understand each other,” François said of the versatile outside player who’s been playing higher up on the pitch when the Hounds go with a three-man back line. “We have been working very hard in training which made it easier to give a good performance tonight.”
In the 26th minute, François’ persistence paid off bringing high pressure to the right end line beating ATL2 defender to the ball that was making its way to the line. François took a touch, took a look up — then used his right foot to send it over to Neco Brett on top of the goal box.
Brett calmly maneuvered the ball from his right to left foot, then tucked away his shot past Christensen for his fourth goal of the season to give the Hounds the 1-0 lead.
— Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (@RiverhoundsSC) April 28, 2018
“Every time I come out — I just want to come out and score and make things happen. That’s my job as a winger. That’s why I play a lot — because coach believes in me and I come out and want to give a good performance and help the team to win,” François said.
And here was the goal from another angle.
???? cookin' for @necobrettj.
That's now 4️⃣ goals in 3️⃣ starts at home. #PGHvATL
— Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (@RiverhoundsSC) April 29, 2018
Lilley was glad to see his attackers stay on the front foot of course, but also show composure and patience.
“On the goal, it was a perfect example. Christiano paused a bit, and allowed Neco to get open. And Neco rather than shoot, and get the shot blocked, he was able to pause,” Lilley explained. “We seemed a lot more relaxed and confident, and made some good choices to get guys into good spots. I think we were unlucky not to add another goal or two tonight.”
In the second half, the Hounds continued to push forward, and created a few dangerous moments into the edge of the box, but couldn’t double the lead.
Then Atlanta started to spend more time in their final third — including generating four second half corner kicks.
Midfielder Andrew Carleton was at the center of its attack, and even drew a foul on Hounds sub Ben Zemanski just outside the box in the 77th minute.
Carleton’s bending shot over the Hounds wall sailed over the top right corner.
The Hounds brought forward Romeo Parkes in for Brett in the 71st minute, and ten minutes later the Jamaican got loose on the left side for a potential breakaway, but was nicked by ATL2 defender Miles Robinson, who was sent off after receiving his second yellow card of the match.
“Good to get Romeo back in the fold. He’s going to be dangerous for us,” Lilley said after getting Parkes back on the field after a three-game absence.” We brought Romeo in — and hoped to create a goal or a breakaway opportunity. and we were able to take a big center back (Robinson) for them out of the game as a result.”
Hounds keeper Kyle Morton was pressed into action in the late going too.
At the outset of stoppage time, he was forced to dive for a ball that got loose in the box after a corner kick. It wasn’t recorded as a save, but it was a solid reaction that prevented any further danger.
— Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (@RiverhoundsSC) April 29, 2018
Lilley was pleased with his team’s ability to close out yet another tight contest.
“We limited their looks, and the wind played factor tonight. We did well. I would have like to have in stoppage time to make them chase a bit more,” Lilley said. “But, we stayed on the front foot. You could certainly see their quality. Some dynamic, quick players. They’re not easy to keep a lid on. I think we did that, and showed a little bit more patience.”
With the win, the Hounds (3-0-3) are now 3-0-1 at home, and under Lilley’s guidance and pushing his players to the limit — they’re are going places they’ve not been — moving higher up in the USL’s Eastern Conference standings currently tied for second place with 12 points along with Tampa Bay Rowdies and NY Red Bulls II, as they all trail defending champion Louisville City FC (16 points).
“Playing for Bob is not easy. It’s very hard. Every time you come out, you have to give your best. If you don’t give your best, you come out. We want to work for him, and for us, and put ourselves in a good place,” François said.
“When we are at home, we have to win. It doesn’t matter who we play. That’s my sense. We have to make it hard — and we did that tonight.”
THE 99th MINUTE #PGHvATL:
- With his fourth tally of the campaign, Neco Brett becomes the first Pittsburgh player since teammate Romeo Parkes (five goals in six games to begin 2016) to score four goals within the first six games of the season.
- Goalkeeper Kyle Morton recorded his second shutout in his second appearance this season. Dan Lynd also had two shutouts in his first two 2018 games played, and the Penfield, New York native later would notch a third clean sheet in his third start.
- Morton now has more clean sheets (2) than saves (1) this season.
- Although Pittsburgh did not record a goalkeeper save, outside back Jordan Dover led the squad with three blocks.
- With the completion of the match, center back Tobi Adewole now leads the Hounds in interceptions (14) and clearances (41).
Riverhounds SC will hit the road for a match against Toronto FC II (0-4-2) at 7 p.m. on Saturday at Marina Auto Stadium (formerly Capelli Sport Stadium) in Rochester, New York. The match will mark head coach Bob Lilley’s return to his old stomping grounds, as he coached the Rochester Rhinos for six seasons before arriving in Pittsburgh.
Riverhounds SC – Kyle Morton – Ray Lee, Tobi Adewole, Thomas Vancaeyezeele, Todd Pratzner, Jordan Dover -Mouhamed Dabo, Kenardo Forbes, Jordan Dover – Kevin Kerr (Ben Zemanski 71′), Christiano François (Hugh Roberts 91′) – Neco Brett (Romeo Parkes 69′)
Subs not used: Dan Lynd, Kay Banjo, Bakie Goodman, Andrew Lubahn
Atlanta United 2 – Paul Christensen – Mikey Ambrose, AJ Cochran, Miles Robinson, Jack Metcalf – Andrew Kendall-Moullin, Ollie Shannon, Chris Goslin (Lagos Kunga 53′), Andrew Carleton (Laurent Kissiedou 89′), Jon Gallagher – Devon Sandoval
Subs not used: Nico Caraux, Kevin Barajas, Jose Carranza, Jackson Conway, Shawn Nicklaw
PGH – Neco Brett 26’ (Christiano François)
PGH – Christiano François 61’ (caution)
ATL – Miles Robinson 75’ (caution)
ATL – Miles Robinson 81’ (caution + red)
ATL – Jack Metcalf 84’ (caution)
I will have more on Monday with Analysis/Player grades.