Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC 1, Louisville City FC 0
It wasn’t pretty, but the Riverhounds SC finally earned its first win of the season after four tries, beating defending USL Championship title holders, Louisville City FC, 1-0, at Slugger Field on Saturday night.
The Hounds leading scorer from last year, Neco Brett scored the lone goal of the match in the 74th minute after the Hounds earned a penalty kick.
“I think we competed well,” head coach Bob Lilley said. “We were a little bit more connected. The balance we had getting forward, but also defending well as a group was better than it has been. We won the tackles. We won the headers. I think we showed some good moments of quality.
In a match that featured four yellow cards and 24 fouls conceded, Pittsburgh executed its counter-attacking tactics to pull away with 1-0 win for the second season in a row in the Derby City.
Louisville City held the possession edge (59/41), but the Hounds had more shot opportunities (11-6, 3-1 on target), as the Hounds made things difficult for the home side to create any scoring opportunities inside the box, blocking five shots and winning almost every ball played into the final third. The defending champs pelted the box with 18 crosses and seven corner attempts.
Louisville’s best chance of the first half came after a Hounds give-away, and a shot from Oscar Jimenez from more than 40 yards out almost caught goalkeeper Ben Lundgaard off his line.
Lundgaard got into proper position in time to bat the ball over the bar.
— Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (@RiverhoundsSC) April 6, 2019
On the narrow field, the Hounds opted to go with a 4-1-4-1 formation, with Thomas Vancaeyezeele in front of the back line, with Mouhammad Dabo playing higher up in the central midfield, along with first-year pro Anthony Velarde making his first start — along with Brett and Kenardo Forbes working up each side.
It was Steevan Dos Santos who played at the top of the attack, causing all kinds of fits for the Louisville City defenders throughout the night.
Louisville City lost not one, but two veteran attacking threats in the first half, as both George Davis IV and Luke Spencer went down with leg injuries.
In the second half, Louisville City’s attack was stifled, as they were limited to winning four corner kicks – with this Magnus Rasmussen bicycle kick attempted shot being what would surmount to the purple and gold’s best chance on frame.
56' | Love the attempt by Magnus Rasmussen there.
— Louisville City FC 🌟🌟 (@loucityfc) April 7, 2019
Pittsburgh started to really create opportunities in the second half.
After last week’s 2-2 result at Bethlehem Steel FC and throughout the week in training, Hounds head coach Bob Lilley preached the importance for the Hounds to be more patient, and to take a little bit more time to possess the ball when they had chances.
That patience paid off in this sequence in the 66th minute, as Dos Santos almost capped off a solid diagonal ball to the far post area, but the header was swatted over the bar by Lou City keeper Ben Lundt.
— Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (@RiverhoundsSC) April 7, 2019
On another counter opportunity, the Hounds finally capitalized in the 74th minute.
Velarde broke into the final third with Brett on his left, and outside back Ryan James making a run to open space on his right side. Velarde laid the ball for James, who had a clear-cut chance to beat Lundt, but the keeper denied James.
As Brett and Velarde converged into the box on the ball punched away by Lundt, Both Hounds were knocked to the ground by Louisville’s Alexis Souahy. The Hounds were awarded the penalty kick.
It was a no-doubt-about-it blast into the back of the net from Brett that gave the Hounds the lead. Brett beat Lundt, who dove to his left.
From that point, the Hounds buckled down. After holding two 1-0 leads in the previous two contests that ended in 2-2 draws, the Hounds made sure Louisville City would be held in check for the remainder of the match.
“I think if we play a little bit better in terms of our possession, maybe there are more goals. I was really happy how they competed,” Lilley added. “It’s not easy to shut Louisville down or limit their chances, and I thought we did a pretty good job of that.”
Next up for Pittsburgh — they finally return home to take on Hartford Athletic FC for its home opener next Saturday, April 13. It will mark the seventh anniversary of the Hounds first game played at Highmark Stadium.
LOT OF FIGHT IN THESE HOUNDS
This wasn’t going to be an easy match for the Riverhounds SC. Even if this Louisville City squad is a shell of what they were a year ago at the end of the season when they reeled off six straight wins at the end of the regular season, then rolled through the USL Cup playoffs for a second straight title.
Not only did they lose leading scorer Cameron Lancaster to Nashville SC in the off season, but both George Davis IV and Luke Spencer went down with injuries in the first half. This forced the home team to resort to trying to make life difficult for the Hounds in every way imaginable. Every 50/50 ball in the middle of the field was hotly contested by both sides.
To make matters worse, the field conditions — especially on the surface that covered the baseball diamond infield on Slugger Field — was causing players to slip numerous times.
When Pittsburgh native Robbie Mertz entered the match — he slipped and nearly knocked down his teammate Kevin Kerr.
Hopefully for the Hounds sake, this will be the last game they’ve played at Slugger Field. Louisville City will be opening a new stadium in the Butchertown neighborhood beginning in 2020.
Through it all, the Hounds scrapped and clawed their way through against a tough opponent, and in difficult conditions for the second straight season, and executed their game plan.
Sure, they played direct a lot, and struggled to have long-sustained possessions. Still, when the Hounds had the ball in the final third, they connected more passes and looked like the better team especially as the match wore on.
Despite the ups and downs through the first four games, the Hounds are now 1-1-2 (five points), and will have three straight games at home coming up through April.
Ben Lundgaard – 7 – first shutout of the season for the Hounds, and the Columbus Crew loanee didn’t have to make many saves (only one on a 45 yarder from Jimenez), but was very busy as Louisville City played 18 crosses and seven corners into the box. There was that one moment late in match when he came out to the edge of box to grab ball but quickly let it go to his feet as he came out. Louisville pleaded for the call, but Lundgaard did a convincing job to immediately let go of the ball.
Joe Greenspan – 7 – was in command most of the night — with 11 clearances — many on those crosses and corners played into the box. The big fella heads away balls into the box with regularity and makes it look easy.
If you want to get really drunk, take a shot every time Joe Greenspan has a headed clearance. #LOUvPIT
— Mark Asher Goodman (@soccer_rabbi) April 7, 2019
Tobi Adewole – 6 – wasn’t as busy as Greenspan, but did his part on his side.
Ryan James – 4.5 – played a ball back to Lundgaard that was nearly a bad giveaway. Also had yellow card for hard foul. Made a nice run to space on the counter to receive ball from Velarde, but couldn’t beat Lundt on golden chance. I counted a few times where he failed to close out defender, and lost corner kick.
Jordan Dover – 6 – Not really involved in any attacking chances as he tucked back into formation on Hounds right side. Battled hard and won his share of duels.
Mouhamad Dabo –5 – I don’t think I’ve ever seen Dabo in the box as many times as I did tonight. It was intentional as he played a bit higher up in the formation than usual deeper holding midfield spot. Won only one of eight duels, rare night with very low passing accuracy (only 40%), had one shot that went way over bar, and conceded two fouls. Still, he did what was asked, battled hard and kept possessions alive further up the field.
Kenardo Forbes – 6 – solid as usual. Completed 71% of his passes — most of them short ones — but sometimes would like to see him in the center of the field more.
Thomas Vanceyezeele – 6 – solid defensively working with and in front of the back line — and moved forward a few times, creating one chance.
Anthony Velarde – 6 – Made his first pro start. Did well for himself in the middle, in a real physical match. Was winning balls, and created a chance. Most of his passes were short and on target. Missed two shot chances.
Steevan Dos Santos – 7.5 – the strategy appeared that Dos Santos would play as high as possible on the narrow field, doing his thing to win balls, redistribute the ball and draw fouls. He was an absolute pest for Louisville’s back line. Missed a shot to left on run into box, then had the header that forced Lundt to punch over bar. Late in the match, with the Hounds holding the lead, his high pressure was effective.
— Matt Gajtka (@MattGajtka) April 7, 2019
Neco Brett – 7 – give him the benefit of the doubt on the chance from the left side, as Lundt did a nice job to cut off his angle, and Neco still managed to hit the woodwork. Capitalized on the penalty, and that’s what he’s paid to do.
Kevin Kerr – 6 – his knack for playing accurate balls forward continued as soon as he entered the match. Otherwise no real impact, but I can see him being an effective sub.
Robbie Mertz – 6 – the Pittsburgh native made his debut for the Hounds with an important task — provide solid work in the defensive midfield — which he did winning a few duels and making accurate passes.
Riverhounds SC – Ben Lundgaard – Ryan James, Tobi Adewole, Joe Greenspan, Thomas Vancaeyezeele, Jordan Dover – Mouhamed Dabo – Anthony Velarde (Robbie Mertz 77’), Kenardo Forbes, Neco Brett (Kevin Kerr 77’) – Steevan Dos Santos
Subs not used: Kyle Morton, Sammy Kahsai, Ethan Kutler, Caleb Smith, Christian Volesky
Louisville City FC – Ben Lundt – Oscar Jimenez, Shaun Francis, Alexis Souahy (Paco Craig 82’), Taylor Peay – Devon Williams – Abdou Mbacke Thiam, Magnus Rasmussen, Niall McCabe, George Davis IV (Lucky Mkosana 22’) – Luke Spencer (Sean Totsch 34’)
Subs not used: Tim Dobrowolski, Geoffrey Dee, Napo Matsoso, Pat McMahon
PIT – Neco Brett 74’ (penalty)
PIT – Joe Greenspan 29’ (caution)
PIT – Ryan James 75’ (caution)
LOU – Lucky Mkosana 78’ (caution)
LOU – Magnus Rasmussen 89’ (caution)