Riverhounds SC 1, Toronto FC II 0
The Riverhounds picked up three points beating a determined young Toronto FC II, 1-0, on Saturday at Highmark Stadium, with some late heroics from well-orchestrated counter and a big save by goalkeeper Dan Lynd.
Neco Brett scored the game winner in the 81st minute on play that started with a nice lunging defensive effort by defender Joe Greenspan. Greenspan found play making midfielder Kenardo Forbes, who worked some magic in middle of field to evade TFCII pressure, then found Dennis Chin in the far left corner. Chin flicked a quick pass to Christiano François who made a run into the box.
François took a few touches toward the left side of goal, then delivered a lining ball to the far post area which Brett swooped in to banged a one-time shot home.
— USL (@USL) August 5, 2018
“It was a good goal. Dennis Chin made a great run early in the sequence. Cause we found an outlet. We made the next pass, because someone made a nice run,” Hounds head coach Bob Lilley said. “That was a great moment. Great goal. We didn’t close out the game well. Maybe tonight we were more lucky than good.”
After Brett’s go-ahead goal, his 11th of the season, the Hounds held on against a dangerous late push from the Young Reds.
In the dying moments of stoppage time, Lynd made a fantastic save to thwart a free kick attempt and redirected header from TFCII forward Shaan Hundal that was on target from the center of the penalty area.
— Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (@RiverhoundsSC) August 5, 2018
With the win, the Hounds improve to 11-3-7 (40 points), to move into second place in the USL’s Eastern Conference standings. Pittsburgh also swept the season season series, winning all three games and extending its dominance in the all-time series between the clubs (8-0-2).
“That’s what a good team does. Still finding goals. Still finding clean sheet. Ultimately find way to get the three points,” Lynd said. “We have things to work on this week in training, but we still got the three points.”
Despite the win, Lilley wasn’t pleased with his team’s performance, zoning in mostly on the Hounds inability to string together possession and connect passes.
“If you don’t play well, you’re going to be lucky not to drop points. Tonight we were lucky not to drop points,” Lilley said during a near 15 minute post-game session with the media. “That’s the bottom line. There’s no gimmies. We have to pass the ball better. It feels like after a game like this we have to go back and review everything.”
The Hounds, who held the game’s possession edge (58-42) and a 9-5 advantage on shots (4-2 in shots on target), had numerous chances in the second half leading up to the game winner, but they were far from dominant against the team with the worst record in the league (1-16-3).
“They were ready to play tonight. They were quicker to the loose balls,” Lilley added about the feisty challenge from Toronto’s talented young bunch. “They got behind us numerous times, flicking ball over our defenders. They played well enough, they deserved at least get one goal.”
In the 76th minute, after ball squeaked through the box, Noah Franke had a solid chance, but dribbled his shot just right of the post.
The Hounds used their final sub in the 75th minute, bringing on veteran forward Chin to replace captain Kevin Kerr.
In the 58th minute, starting top man Kay Banjo came out after being shaken up, forcing Lilley to make a few substitutions. Thomas Vancaeyezeele and François would enter for Banjo and Tobi Adewole.
The Hounds started off the second half the same as the first, with an advance deep into the final third in the opening seconds. Kerr couldn’t pull the trigger quick enough as a pair of TFCII defenders closed in quickly.
Even with Brett jumping on a very early scoring chance in the opening seconds from the left side that sailed wide, the Riverhounds SC met a tough challenge from TFCII in a first half played to a scoreless stalemate.
The Young Reds were doing everything they could to disrupt Pittsburgh efforts to set the tone and control possession.
As the Hounds came out in a 5-4-1 formation that morphed into a 3-4-3, high pressure from TFCII was effective enough to set up four first half corner attempts, including one that caught Hounds keeper Lynd out of position by near post in the 8th minute. On that sequence, the ball in sailed past Lynd, but fortunately for Pittsburgh, TFCII couldn’t get a clean shot on target in the scrum that followed.
Near the half hour mark, the Hounds set up consecutive corner kick chances and a free kick after Noah Franke was fouled.
The free kick in from Kerr sailed to the far post as Tobi Adewole pinged a one-time shot off the bar.
That would be as close as the Hounds would get from a set piece opportunity.
“We’re sending balls in that no one is anywhere near. We’ve got guys making runs to the same places,” Lilley said. “I got to find guys who can pass the ball. I got to find guys that can tackle. We got pushed around. Even when we crossed the ball. There’s no spacing. We work on it more than any other team in the league. It’s a lack of composure and awareness at times. So, we don’t carve out those chances.”
By the end of the first half, the Hounds were dominating possession, but could not convert.
In the 45th minute, Pittsburgh’s Ray Lee chipped a ball into left side of box for Kay Banjo, who appeared to be tripped up going for ball. But, referee Darth Neuman didn’t go for his whistle, instead awarding TFCII with a goal kick.
Here’s another look at that non-call.
— Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (@RiverhoundsSC) August 5, 2018
“I’m not going to talk about the officiating, but it was challenging,” Lilley said. “I need to look at the tape. But I was left scratching my head.”
Lilley wouldn’t go beyond that.
A coach that’s won championships at this level is going to demand more from his team, despite picking up the win.
Enough for him to let everyone know where he stood after this match.
“It’s just us playing bad. It’s just us not winning tackles. Not even challenging for balls in the box,” Lilley said. “Teams will have games where they’re not at their best. People may have said ah Toronto will be easy. We went to North Carolina and they had 50 percent of the ball. Toronto probably had that much tonight. They’re not brilliant, but they had some chances. We broke them down. If we passed it better, we could have broke them down a bit more. They’re competing hard. They have athletes. They have strong players. They have movement. (Tsubosa) Endoh comes on and he plays in MLS, they brought (Jordan) Hamilton on, he played 15 games for Toronto’s first team this year, he’s a handful. We could play a lot better. If you don’t pass the ball well, we talk about how small the margins are in this league. You better be good. We made so many basic mistakes with our passing. With keeping our lines together,”
It was enough for Lilley to believe that with an eight day break between games, he declared that his team will be starting from scratch with training on Monday.
Even offering up that it will be a second half preseason.
“We’ll be starting new this week,” Lilley added. “We’ll have a mini preseason before we go to Bethlehem Steel. A second half preseason.”
- With FC Cincinnati (1-1 vs Nashville) and Charleston (0-0 vs North Carolina FC) — settling for draws, coupled with Hounds’ win tonight, Pittsburgh moves up to 2nd place with 40 pts, five points behind FCC with a game at hand.
- Coming off the bench to log 29 minutes, Thomas Vancaeyezeele’s streak of playing every minute of the 2018 campaign comes to an end. He was the last remaining player to have had this distinction for the club.
- Midfielder Mouhamed Dabo led the Hounds with five tackles and 15 possessions gained, as he patrolled the center of the field for a full-90 minutes.
- Kevin Kerr amassed his 150th career appearance with the Hounds. He is the second player in team history to reach this milestone (David Flavius had 183 games played for the club).
- Pacing the squad with three chances created during the match, Kerr adds to his team-leading total and now has 40 key passes on the season.
Riverhounds SC will hit the road for an in-state showdown against Bethlehem Steel FC (8-9-6) at 5 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 12 at Goodman Stadium. This will be their first meeting this season.
Riverhounds SC – Dan Lynd – Ray Lee, Tobi Adewole (Thomas Vancaeyezeele 61’), Joe Greenspan, Hugh Roberts, Noah Franke – Neco Brett, Kenardo Forbes, Mouhamed Dabo, Kevin Kerr (Dennis Chin 75’) – Kay Banjo (Christiano François 61’)
Subs not used: Mike Kirk, Jordan Dover, Ben Zemanski, Ben Fitzpatrick
Toronto FC II – Caleb Patterson-Sewell – Tim Kübel, Lars Eckenrode, Robert Boskovic, Kyle Bjornethun (Terique Mohammed 83’) – Gideon Waja, Dante Campbell (Jordan Hamilton 59’), Aidan Daniels (Tsubasa Endoh 60’), Matt Srbely, Luca Uccello – Shaan Hundal
Subs not used: Borja Angoitia, Malyk Hamilton
PGH – Neco Brett 81’ (Christiano François)
PGH – Kevin Kerr 20’ (caution)
TOR – Luca Uccello 73’ (caution)
PGH – Thomas Vancaeyezeele 80’ (caution)
TOR – Matthew Srbely 84’ (caution)
PGH – Joe Greenspan 90’+4 (caution)