RIVERHOUNDS 0, INDY ELEVEN 0
Following a familiar formula that has kept them unbeaten this season through eight games, Riverhounds SC battled Indy Eleven to a physical stalemate that ended in a scoreless draw at Highmark Stadium on Friday night.
This formula for the Hounds centered around another stifling defensive effort, limiting the Eleven without a shot on target, as goalkeeper Kyle Morton picked up his third shut out of the season. And remarkably, Morton has only needed one save in posting three clean sheets.
The Hounds continue on with its most impressive start in franchise history.
They still have yet to trail in a match and have surrendered only three goals in this span.
Yet, on this night, they came up short in picking up three points at home against a team they’re battling with at the top of the USL’s Eastern Conference.
“My guess is that both teams could play better. It was competitive, it was physical,” Riverhounds coach Bob Lilley. “We had a little more urgency in the first half to lock them in, to recover the ball, and sustain pressure. It was a little disappointing in the last 20 minutes. At times we could have pushed more guys in. We settled for a draw a little bit. Would have wanted a little more pressure late in game.”
Despite the blank scoreline — both teams were looking to attack — especially in the first half.
The Hounds came out in a 3-4-1-2 — playing through its experienced central midfielders, especially a poised and sharp Kenardo Forbes, who played a bit deeper in the central midfield, while moving forward methodically. Forbes was efficient in extending possessions and using spaces that Indy was providing, to push the Hounds deeper into the final third.
“He’s always had it. He finds the game. He’s been really good recently. I expect him to keep it up. He’s been very consistent for me for three years,” Lilley said of Forbes, who’s been with him since their championship season together in Rochester in 2015 but only joined the Hounds late in the preseason after playing indoor soccer this Winter. “We know where his strengths are — and his probably a little bit fitter. He had good moments.”
Forbes appears to be connecting better with some of his newer teammates in Pittsburgh – especially fellow seasoned USL veteran Kevin Kerr and it showed again on Friday.
“We are starting to build better chemistry,” Forbes said. “They’re getting more used to me, and I’m getting more used to them. It’s getting better from here.”
In the first half, Pittsburgh clearly wasn’t sitting back — swinging 13 crosses into the box, setting up five corners. Crosses were coming, but the Hounds weren’t connecting on many. The Hounds were moving the ball well into the final third, but they were running up against a formidable side that wasn’t giving in — especially inside the box where they were playing with a pretty compact flat four.
“They’re a good team, they move the ball well, and they’re big and physical,” Forbes said. “It was a physical challenge for us — and we represented ourselves well. It’s a man’s game. ”
Very little would materialize for the Hounds in terms of quality scoring chances — with a few exceptions.
The only shot on frame in the game — for either side – came late in the first half by Pittsburgh’s Christiano François who received a nice through ball from Kerr. The speedy Haitian’s left footed attempt on frame from a difficult angle went to the center of the goal area, and an easy save for Indy’s goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams.
Indy Eleven held slight possession edge (51/49) throughout the match, and in the first half countered into edge of box a few times with a pair of shots by Soony Saad, who had some room to shoot on two occasions, but missed one over the bar and other that he scooted through the box and left of the goal.
Otherwise, most of its attack has centered around sending diagonal balls forward trying to find seams in the Hounds’ three-man back line. Each time, they forced Morton to come way off his line to play the ball.
“We dealt with some very dangerous players — and limited their scoring chances to the outside,” Lilley said. “I think Kyle’s style points were very good. He was connected to the back four. One way not to give up or lose a ball in the back, we keep banging it out of there.”
The early parts of the second half played out much the same as the first half — with both teams picking their spots to get forward.
Pittsburgh almost took the lead in the 59th minute as a low cross by Forbes found Francois, but the winger couldn’t control his finish.
That was the Hounds best chance of the night — and in a game where getting a good look in the box was rare.
Moments later, Saad flashed a free kick just wide of the right post from 35 yards after Thomas Vancaeyezeele was called for an inadvertent handball.
Then as the game reached the 70th minute, and the Hounds even brought in subs Romeo Parkes and Joe Holland for Kerr and Francois, both teams seemed to hit a wall, and each got stronger on the defensive side.
Even with six added minutes of stoppage time, chances dwindled for both sides. In the dying moments, Forbes did get a look from the top of the box, but his shot went over the bar.
The Hounds are now 4-0-4 — good for 16 points and a spot currently in the top three of the USL’s Eastern Conference standings.
Forbes believes they’re on track.
“With Bob, you always know you get a championship team. He is very hard on the guys and push the guys each and every day. We know nobody can relax,” Forbes said. “This is a good organization and we’ve got some good things going on here.”
The Jamaican midfielder had a certain level of conviction and confidence with that response — prompting this reporter to follow-up by asking — so you’re happy with where this team is going?
“Yeah, oh yeah,” Forbes responded with a smile.
This tie though, left the Hounds head honcho a bit unfulfilled on Friday night.
“Especially at home, we want to create more clear-cut chances. At the end, it’s a tie. It’s not great. It’s not what we were looking for, but there’s lessons in this game,” Lilley said. “There’s another big game in the league next Saturday in Tampa. I am looking forward to that one. We’ll learn a lot more about our team next week.”
Beyond the Box score
- Kyle Morton competed in his second straight game where he did not record a save in an entire match, but still posted a clean sheet.
- Thomas Vancaeyezeele held Indy in check for most of the game, collecting three tackles, five clearances and two interceptions defensively for Pittsburgh.
- Kevin Kerr accumulated three chances created in the draw against Indy. This ups Kerr’s team-leading total to 17 on the season.
- The Hounds combined to outshoot the Eleven 13-7 in the match, including collecting the lone shot on target.
Riverhounds keep busy next week with two tilts, beginning with opening its Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup campaign on Wednesday, May 16 to take on Erie Commodores FC at 7p.m. in Erie, Pennsylvania.
They return to league play with a trip to Florida to face the Tampa Bay Rowdies (4-4-0) at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 19 at Al Lang Stadium.
Riverhounds SC – Kyle Morton – Ray Lee, Tobi Adewole, Thomas Vancaeyezeele, Todd Pratzner, Jordan Dover – Kenardo Forbes, Ben Zemanski (Hugh Roberts 85′) – Kevin Kerr (Joe Holland 75′) – Neco Brett, Christiano François (Romeo Parkes 75′)
Subs not used: Dan Lynd, Andrew Lubahn, Noah Frankie, Bakie Goodman
Indy Eleven – Owain Fon Williams – Brad Ring, Carlyle Mitchell (Brad Rusin 35′) Karl Ouimette, Ayoze Garcia – Nico Matern (Juan Guerra 62′) – Nathan Lewis, Zach Steinberger, Justin Braun, Soony Saad – Jack Mcinerney,
Subs not used: Jordan Farr, Seth Moses, Matt Watson, Ben Speas, Amass Amankona
IND – Brad Ring 77’ (Caution)