Riverhounds SC coach Bob Lilley didn’t mince words after his team played to another scoreless draw against Keystone Derby rival Penn FC at Highmark Stadium on Saturday.
In fact, even with the Hounds remaining the lone club in USL without a loss, Lilley expressed his disappointment after watching his team squander chances and play without killer instinct he’s come to expect from championship caliber teams he’s coached over the years.
“At this stage it’s very disappointing. We didn’t do enough on the night. It gets kind of old not doing enough. Or, not taking responsibility,” Lilley said. “We’re not getting shut out because we’re not creating chances. We’re getting shut out because we’re soft right now in terms of really putting the hammer down. We have teams in trouble, and we’re causal in front of goal.”
For the first twenty minutes of the match, the Hounds were crisp, and on the verge getting an early goal.
The Hounds came out in a 4-4-1-1 — working the ball methodically through the midfield in the early stages of the game.
For the first 20 minutes, they looked crisp and created a number of solid chances.
“We know we dropped points (in the first game against Penn FC), and we tried to put our foots down, and shove it down their throats,” Hugh Roberts, Hounds defender said. “We were coming out full-throttle and trying to high press.”
Romeo Parkes made a deep run on the right side, only to be denied by Penn FC keeper Romwuald Peiser on a shot from a tough angle in the third minute.
Making first starts of the season for the Hounds were Connor Maloney, on loan from Columbus Crew and Bakie Goodman.
Maloney had hard driving shot from distance in the seventh minute that was deflected away by Penn FC defender, setting up the Hounds second corner. Kevin Kerr‘s service into the box connected with Hugh Roberts, but the Hounds’ lanky defender’s header misses to right of goal.
“I was going backward a little bit, and I was trying to be a little to perfect,” Roberts said. “I went for the bottom right corner, instead of just trying to put it on frame. I was a little off-balance.”
More chances would come.
Parkes had a number of touches on fringe of attacking third — gave the ball away prematurely a number of times.
Still, the Jamaican forward got loose on right side in the 24th minute, having his shot deflected. The ball bounced back in front of Kerr. The Hounds captian misfired his shot, sending a solid chance over the bar.
Late in the half, Parkes’ service into middle of box, was cleared over end line by Penn FC resulting in a corner, the Hounds knocked it around a bit until Maloney delivered a ball right to Vancaeyezeele in the center of the box, but the first-year pro’s header went wide.
“Headers from six to eight yards that we can’t head it between the rectangles,” Lilley said in frustration. “As long as we’re getting chances, usually I am pretty positive. But we’re wasting chances that can’t be wasted.”
It was a game where Penn FC made things difficult — keeping a fairly well-organized shape.
By the early portions of the second half, they started to look like the better team.
Hounds goalkeeper Dan Lynd had to be at his best to keep the match scoreless when a pass deflected to Penn’s Aaron Dennis clear of the defense, but Lynd was quick off his line to get his body in the way and smother the ball.
Early in the second half Lynd nearly sent the ball into his own net as he was forced off his line to clear, only to send that clearance off Penn’s Tommy Heinemann, but it was Roberts and Todd Pratzner who worked together to deny a shot attempt and clear the ball from danger.
From there, the Hounds stepped on the gas a bit in the final 20 minutes, and had as Lilley described, a few ‘interesting’ moments at the end of the game.
First, they needed Lynd to come up with one more big play in the 83rd minute, as the keeper saved the day for the Hounds as he was able to extend his body, getting a hand to the shot from Penn’s Richie Menjivar that also then hit the post, and cleared away from goal.
With four minutes of stoppage time added, Parkes had a golden chance to hit the game-winner, but missed completely after a nice build-up that ended up with the ball at his feet and plenty of space to drive a shot on frame.
Instead, Parkes took a weak shot that flubbed fairly wide right of the frame.
“Romeo, yeah, he’ll get chances, but frankly he doesn’t do the extra work after training. I’ll call him out because he’s a very good target,” Lilley said. “He’s not working on those things all the time, and because of that, he’s going to miss under pressure.”
In the dying moments, the Hounds did hit the back of the net after a real nice hook-up between two subs, Joe Holland and Neco Brett.
Holland cut a through ball to Brett who was one-on-one with Peiser. The former Robert Morris standout beat Peiser, but the linesman’s flag was up.
Brett took his shirt off. The Steel Army let off yellow smoke.
But the celebration was short-lived.
The Hounds players stared into the night in frustration immediately after the whistle blew, then had to get an earful from their coach at the middle of the field.
Lilley had plenty to say.
“We have to do better, but we can’t keep our heads down. We have another opportunity coming up. We’ve been playing Wednesday, Saturday, Wednesday, and it’s a grind, but we have to be ready,” Roberts explained. “We have to keep fighting. It’s a very tight conference, and we have to keep playing.”
With the draw, the Hounds now remain in the top four spots in the USL’s Eastern Conference (4-0-6 record, good for 18 points). The unbeaten record though, is simply not good enough for a coach that always has championship aspirations, and wants desperately to build a winning culture with a franchise and a City that has lacked a soccer winner.
“This is a low point for me,” Lilley shared. “I know what we’re capable of, but we’ve under-performed. I see upside, sure, but at the end of the day if we’re not performing at a top level. It’s up to them as players, and us as coaches to do better. To demand better.”
Lilley went on.
“Fact that we’re at home, and we play full out from start to finish, maybe we can double our chances. We’ll find a way to get one in the back of the net,”Lilley said of his team’s lack of desire to finish and play with killer instinct. “Lackluster was a good word for it. Still think we were the better team, and had the better chances, but that doesn’t get you anywhere. It’s two points dropped because we didn’t play as well as we could’ve hoped.”
Then he called out his attacking players — and the team’s veterans.
“I don’t think we fought hard enough in the second half to impose our will. You have to impose your will. I think the front three, Romeo (Parkes), Kevin (Kerr) and Christiano (Francois) were poor tonight. I don’t think there were enough runs behind. I don’t think there was enough juice out of them. Very little effort defensively for the most part.”
In addition to pointing out his frustrations with Parkes, he also wanted to see more from Francois and the veterans.
“Christiano runs a lot. He’s a hardworking kid. Tactically, he’s got to get better. Sure, we’re tired, we’ve had a lot of games. But, we’re settling for mediocre performances more than we should. At the end of the day, you can’t win games if you don’t have fighters. Not enough desire and pure will to go after it. I am disappointed in leadership in older players. They’re not driving the bus. They’re waiting for staff to get them going. To me, it’s not, I call it like I see it. Today’s just not good enough,” Lilley said.
“Players need to hear it.
“We’ll need our older players to make good decisions. Drive the group. They have to drive the group. That’s what happened in Pittsburgh in the past. The group wasn’t driven. I am disappointed,” Lilley continued.
“Not just to single out Kevin Kerr, lets talk about all the senior players. There’s not a tenacity to our group. We’ll all be nice guys. Sneak in the playoffs. Maybe win a round if we’re lucky. But you don’t win championships that way.”
Then came another classic soundbite.
“I want to see guys crash into goal posts,” Lilley said. “I don’t see any desire, hunger to smother teams. That’s where that has to change, or where we’re just another decent team. We want to be special.”
But he wasn’t done.
He didn’t want any part of talking about his team remaining unbeaten.
“We’re so easy to play against right now. Everyone’s talking about our shutouts,” Lilley explained. “Being unbeaten is hogwash. We need to start winning games.”
Roberts believes the players will come around.
“We know next game on Wednesday we are coming with the same mentality and trying to get more and more goals. At the end of the day, we might of have not scored today, but we know we are going to score at some point. We need to keep our heads up and keep fighting.”
Riverhounds SC will stay in Pittsburgh on a short week to battle Nashville SC (3-2-4) at 7 p.m. on Wednesday at Highmark Stadium. The two teams met earlier this season, tying 0-0 in Nashville’s first-ever USL home match.
This match will mark the return of two former Hounds, Lebo Moloto and Taylor Washington.
Riverhounds SC – Dan Lynd – Andrew Lubahn, Todd Pratzner, Thomas Vancaeyezeele, Hugh Roberts, Connor Maloney (Joe Holland 86’) – Ben Zemanski (Neco Brett 71’) – Bakie Goodman (Kenardo Forbes 62’) Kevin Kerr, Christiano François – Romeo Parkes
Subs not used: Mike Kirk, Tobi Adewole, Jordan Dover, Ray Lee
Penn FC – Romuald Peiser – Harri Hawkins, Tiago Calvano, Kyle Venter, Marco Franco – Miguel Jaime (Jorge Rivera 77’) Dan Metzger – Freddie Opoku (Jerry Ortiz 91’) Aaron Dennis (Saalih Muhammad 81’), Richard Menjivar – Tommy Heinemann
Subs not used: Sean Lewis, Hamna Shaibu, Prince Baffoe, Pedro Galvão
PGH – Romeo Parkes 21’ (Caution)
PEN – Dan Metzger 48’ (Caution)
PIT – Neco Brett 94’ (Caution)
THE 99th MINUTE:
- With eight total shots in the first half, the Hounds tied their high mark for most shots in the first 45 minutes during the 2018 season.
- This result marks the fourth time the Hounds have recorded a 0-0 tie this campaign. The last time Pittsburgh logged four 0-0 ties in a single season was in 2011.
- Notching their seventh clean sheet this season, the Hounds tack onto their Eastern Conference-leading total of shutouts.
- Making the start at center back, Hugh Roberts posted a game-high eight interceptions, which nearly doubled his season total (nine) heading into the match.