Bob Lilley knew that his Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC were in for a tougher match than most expected when taking on last place Toronto FC II on Saturday at Highmark Stadium.
The Hounds pulled out a 1-0 victory thanks to some late heroics that included a Neco Brett goal in the 81st minute and some big saves by Dan Lynd before 3,125 fans.
Lilley often talks about having moments that can help win games. That’s what the Hounds were able to do last night — rise to the occasion in big moments.
A spectacular goal came on a counter-attack which everything came together.
— Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (@RiverhoundsSC) August 5, 2018
The Hounds would also hold on for yet another clean sheet (league leading 14th of season), thanks to Lynd’s late game saves, including this one that denied Shaan Hundal’s header attempt on a terific free kick in the dying seconds.
— Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (@RiverhoundsSC) August 5, 2018
While Lilley acknowledged Toronto’s tenacious effort, and while he was glad to take the three points, Lilley’s ire with his team’s play came out in full force in a near 15 minute post-game session with media.
Simply winning isn’t going to cut it.
Not with the standards set by the man in charge of the Hounds, who has won multiple championships at this level — and has aspirations for to bring a soccer title to Pittsburgh.
He’s not going to let up. And after the game, he was more than happy to cite numerous examples of his team’s shortcomings.
“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.”
Although after the match, Lilley commented his team conceded 50 percent possession to the Young Reds, the stat sheet actually had Pittsburgh carrying 58 percent of the ball, making more passes (442-334) and were more accurate than its opponents (70% to 59%).
After the game, upon review of those stats, Lilley probably scoffed because his Hounds were lacking value in building up its attack. While they boast the league’s worst record, TFCII brought a strong, athletic and hard working effort that did everything to disrupt the Hounds rhythm.
“There were so many basic mistakes with our passing. With keeping our lines together and our players connected,” Lilley pointed out. “Lot of guys with average to poor performances.
He also pointed out more specifics.
On the team’s shape:
“Early in game we were trying to press our back were too deep.”
On the team’s (lack of) desire:
“Every time there was a head ball won, their guys were first to the ball. Every time we played a ball through, our guys stood.”
Even Lynd, who came up with two big saves on the evening, wasn’t escaping Lilley’s wrath:
“He had some mistakes as well. Thankful he made some key saves. I am happy for that. It was the most he’s been tested all year. Dropping two balls he could have held. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. He made some key saves.”
Importance of working together and closing out games strong:
“There wasn’t a player out there that was fully locked in. It’s not really okay. Sure, we beat Richmond 3-0, and everyone thinks everything is fine. I really think we’re mentally tired as a group and that’s why I am trying to rotate different guys. Honestly, we had Christiano François in their late in the game, and maybe he helped create the goal, but they got in around Noah Franke, who played 90 minutes the other day, and Christiano wasn’t willing to help him defend?”
“We’re up 1-0 at the end of the game, and Christiano is not getting back there defending on the other side? To me, that’s not what we’re looking for as a team. They got a few throw-in’s, corners and crosses because you have a tired player with a fresh player that’s thinking about going forward and not protecting a 1-0 lead. This to me is a problem that has to be addressed.”
And with that, Lilley essentially said enough, and left on this final snippet.
“You guys have plenty of controversial stuff from me,” Lilley said as he walked away.
There were some things he also said about losing duels and tackles, which may have been the case in some instances, but thanks mostly to the dominance of Hugh Roberts and Joe Greenspan in the middle of the back line (winning 22 of 29 duels), the Hounds did win 57% of duels in the contest.
There won’t be time to savor this victory.
It will be back to the drawing board for the Hounds and Lilley, who pronounced that they’ll be starting all over, going back to school of hard knocks this week in training. Lilley proclaimed it’ll be preseason all over again — a second half preseason where to get everything back in order.
But guess what?
The Hounds picked up three points. They are now sitting alone in second place, trailing the MLS-bound, player grabbing FC Cincinnati, who drew Nashville 1-1 on Saturday, by a mere five points with a game at hand as they embark on a 13 game trek through the final two and a half months of the regular season.
Among those will include games against FCC, and defending champs Louisville.
Lilley is sensing his group of Hounds must play with more killer instinct on every night against every opponent.
The Eastern Conference is still there for the taking, and the Hounds can’t rest on the laurels of winning games on late heroics that overcome glaring flaws.
So, Lilley will demand more.
We’ll see how the players respond in the coming weeks and down the homestretch of the season.
Dan Lynd – 7 – those two saves late in contest showed his resolve and why he’s legitimately in contention for USL Golden Glove.
Ray Lee – 5.5 – wasn’t much quality service from left side
Tobi Adewole – 6 – won his share of aerial battles against big, athletic group
Thomas Vancaeyezeele (61’) – 5 – picked up yellow card, subbed in for Adewole filling in to back line. Seems less effective on side of Greenspan than when he’s in front of him.
Joe Greenspan – 8 – really was pretty dominant, won every duel but one.
Hugh Roberts – 8 – much the same as Greenspan.
Noah Franke – 4 – thought he played hard, but at times was over matched by more athletic TFCII wingers.
Neco Brett – 6 – Seemed out of place on the wide attacking spot. Didn’t get involved in creating chances. what a timely run to knock home the winner. He’s knocking on the door in the Golden Boot race with 11 goals for the season, second best in USL.
Kenardo Forbes – 6 – through stretches probably not his best game, but those nifty moves to evade TFCII’s pressure to get that counter started on the goal were plain dirty.
Mouhamed Dabo – 5.5 – he’s a steady force, continues to do the dirty work and passing accuracy was among highest on team on night when it wasn’t good overall.
Kevin Kerr – 4 – was a pretty quiet night from the Hounds captain, stats backed it up too (won 3 of 13 duels, 43% passing accuracy).
Dennis Chin (75’) – 6 – got into position on the counter, and made key pass that led to goal.
Kay Banjo – 4.5 – work rate was decent, but seemed limited in holding the ball up, and not taking turns when had ball in box to create on his own. Zero shots from the top man. Not what you want.
Christiano François (61’) – 5 – take away the assist (a great play, great moment), but struggled to tuck back and help defending.
Subs not used: Mike Kirk, Jordan Dover, Ben Zemanski, Ben Fitzpatrick