Winning road matches in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup can be challenging for any side, even a pro team against an amateur side.
The Riverhounds SC finally won an elusive road match in the Open Cup, beating an inspired Erie Commodores, 2-1, in Erie at McConnell Family Stadium at Gannon University on Wednesday. It was Pittsburgh’s first road win in the Open Cup since 2008, after losing in its last eight tries.
Despite racing out to an early 2-0 lead, on goals by Thomas Vancaeyezeele and Kevin Kerr, the Hounds would have to hold off a valiant effort from the NPSL club.
“I like the way we started. We decided to go all in from the start. We dominated the first 15-20 minutes. But then the field started to stretch,” Bob Lilley, Hounds coach said. “All of a sudden they started to get into the game, but when we got the second goal, I was thinking lets tack one more one, and I can start thinking about our subs and getting ready for Saturday(‘s league match at Tampa Bay).”
Things didn’t quite go that way for Lilley’s Hounds. Instead they were pushed for more than 90 minutes to secure the win.
Early on, it looked like it would be a rout.
The Hounds didn’t waste any time getting on the board — as Thomas Vancaeyezeele moved into the center of the box without much resistance on its first corner attempt of the match — and sent his header into the back of the net in the game’s fourth minute.
Kevin Kerr swung the ball in to pick up the assist.
It was the Hounds first goal from a set piece this season.
“We knew if we press high early, that we would set the tone,” Noah Franke, Hounds midfielder said.
After scoring the early goal, the Hounds were very methodical as they were in command of the match — navigating around the narrow field.
Joe Holland almost doubled the score in the 21st minute, as the Englishman used some nifty foot skills to get into the box, but Erie’s keeper Nicolau Neto made a nice close range save.
Earning his first start as a Riverhound — Franke was providing fits for Erie’s back line on right side of the attack. The Creighton University product set up a free kick in the 17th minute from close range, then was fouled just inside the right side of the box to set up a penalty kick in the 30th minute.
“I just try to use my pace, and my shiftiness, and found a little gap, and they clipped me a little,” Franke said. “Luckily, we got the PK and took the two goal lead.”
Indeed, Franke did the dirty work — and Hounds captain Kevin Kerr took it from there — sliding in his penalty attempt into the lower side of goal for this third Open Cup tally of his career.
Despite the Hounds early dominance, Erie played through the first half living up to its team motto — not giving up the ship.
The only significant chances had for the first forty minutes from Erie came from accurately played free kicks into the box.
Then things got interesting when Erie’s Jack Simpson had a close range shot opportunity in the 41st minute, forcing Hounds keeper Mike Kirk to make a quick reaction save.
In the 45th minute, Erie’s Ashley Phillips‘ cross got through the box to an unmarked Cam Philpot, who hammered home a shot from 10 yards past Kirk to cut the Pittsburgh lead.
“We conceded a goal early, but we kept at it, and we kept going, and going,” Philpot, a native of New Zealand who plays collegiately for USC Upstate, said. “I was lucky to get in a good position, and knock one home.”
It would be Philpot’s second goal in as many Open Cup games.
Having scored the late first half tally, Erie came out confidently in the second half matching possession with the Hounds in the early going.
The Hounds were on the verge of a third goal numerous times, but often times would be content to get near the box, and knock the ball around the attacking third.
This went on for much of the second half, without getting inside the box to create anything substantial.
“We need to be a little bit more dynamic, and we would have been able to put the game away,” Lilley said. “I thought they were competitive physically, and they worked. They deserve a lot of credit. They’re a couple games in, and forced us to play solid to the finish. It wasn’t easy, but we got the result we needed.”
Like Franke, Kirk also made his team debut against Commodores FC. For the match, the Hounds keeper faced three shots and posted two saves.
The La Salle University product’s second save occurred in the 78th minute. Following a shot from midfielder Jack Simpson, Kirk deflected the ball away from trouble and out of bounds for an Erie corner kick. Commodores FC could not convert on the ensuing set piece, as the ball was cleared to the halfway line.
The Hounds did its best to try to elongate every possession in the final 10 minutes of the match, and would eventually hold on for the victory.
With this win, Riverhounds SC will next clash with league rival FC Cincinnati (USL) for a third round Open Cup match at 7 p.m. on May 23 at Highmark Stadium.
Beforehand, the Hounds will return to USL action and travel to St. Petersburg to battle the Tampa Bay Rowdies at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at Al Lang Stadium
Riverhounds SC – Mike Kirk – Andrew Lubahn (Ray Lee 78’), Tobi Adewole, Hugh Roberts, Jordan Dover – Thomas Vancaeyezeele, Bakie Goodman – Kevin Kerr, Noah Franke (Christiano François 81’), Joe Holland – Neco Brett
Subs not used: Dan Lynd, Kenardo Forbes, Romeo Parkes, Todd Pratzner, Ben Zemanski
Erie Commodores FC – Nicolau Neto – Kwame Opoku, Ashley Phillips (Tulio Melo 84’), Andrew Bennett, Casey Bartlett-Scott – Fernando Martinez, Cameron Philpot, Craig Quinn (Gabriel Dos Santos 67’), Jack Simpson, Austin Solomon – Steven Rigg
Subs not used: Rolpshon Clervoix, Arthur Le Gall, Tulio Melo, Christopher Ralph, Tajay Reid, Gabriel Dos Santos, Max Aken-Tyers
PGH – Thomas Vancaeyezeele (Kevin Kerr) 4’
PGH – Kevin Kerr (penalty) 30’
EFC – Cameron Philpot 45’
EFC – Andrew Bennett (caution) 70’
PGH – Andrew Lubahn (caution) 76’