When playing in a one-and-done tournament like the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, all that matters for each club is to survive and advance to the next round.
Nobody knows that better than Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC’s veteran head coach, Bob Lilley and one of his most trusted players, Kenardo Forbes.
While Lilley’s Hounds struggled to create many scoring opportunities for much of its 3rd Round Open Cup match against USL Championship foe Indy Eleven, all they needed was one opportunistic moment to pull out a 1-0 win at Highmark Stadium on Wednesday night.
“I like that we dug in a little bit in the second half and at least got in the game,” Lilley said. “In the first half, I don’t think we had a shot on goal. We had two long range efforts by Neco (Brett), but nothing in the box.”
With a scoreless match hanging in the balance, Lilley found salvation from a player that’s been the field general for his teams since 2015, when they were in Rochester together.
Lilley turned to Forbes as his first substitute in a match that was in danger going to extra time.
Four minutes after entering the match, the 31-year old Jamaican midfielder received a pass from Noah Franke, who broke toward the box from the right side, drawing a trio of Indy Eleven defenders, then found his veteran teammate in a wide open space to his left.
With plenty of room and space to work, Forbes drilled a shot into the lower left side of goal in the 85th minute to deliver some Open Cup magic that turned out to be the game-deciding strike.
Kenardo Forbes puts the @RiverhoundsSC up 1-0 late in the 2nd half!💥
— U.S. Open Cup (@opencup) May 30, 2019
“You know it was open, like 10 yards open, like 20 yards out, so I had to shoot it,” Forbes said, as he provided a simple explanation.
On the other side, Indy had its share of chances, and failed to capitalize.
At the center of many of its best chances, was Eleven forward Thomas Enevoldsen — who was denied twice by diving saves from Riverhounds keeper Kyle Morton, who earned the clean sheet for the Hounds, finishing the night with five saves.
The Hounds changed things up tactically, slightly from what they’ve doing for most of this year, opting to come out in a 5-3-2 formation intended to press Indy’s possession efforts.
In the first half, Indy had its way in this chess match, keeping the ball at a 63 percent rate, with the only two shots on target, the only three corners and attempting a hundred more passes than the Hounds.
The first dazzling save came in the 41st minute, when the Danish striker waiting just outside the center of the Pittsburgh 18-yard box. Enevoldsen would strike first time, unleashing a right footed effort that would have found the upper left 90 – if not for the outstretched paw of Morton.
“It’s just one of those things you gotta shuffle over make sure you kind of have your part of the hole covered right,” Morton said after the match.
Then in the 50th minute, Enevoldsen struck a shot from outside the box. The driven shot resulted another top-notch stop by Morton. Former Riverhound, Tyler Pasher nearly redirected the rebound into net.
To that point, the Hounds couldn’t muster a shot on frame.
Then, they started to bring a bit more energy and finally began to disrupt Indy’s ability to possess the ball out of the back, which they seemed to be doing with ease for most of the first 55 minutes.
Brett finally earned the Hounds’ first shot on target of the night in the 59th minute after taking advantage of an Indy give-away.
The striker sent a low blast at the cage, which was corralled by Indy’s goalkeeper Jordan Farr.
In the 71st minute, Thomas Vancaeyezeele sent in a cross to Anthony Velarde, who was sitting right in the center of the box. The first-year pro opted not to shoot, but then dumped it off to Sammy Kahsai.
Kahsai took a rip, then the ball stayed in the air, redirected by both Brett and Ryan James, who dropped a header into the waiting hands of Farr.
As the match entered the final ten minutes of regulation, both teams subbed on All-USL veterans. Indy brought on the USL’s all-time leading scorer Dane Kelly in the 73rd minute.
While it was Forbes who found the game-winner after coming on for Kahsai in the 81st minute, a 20-goal scorer in USL a season ago, Enevoldsen had yet another shot at redemption in the 88th minute after midfielder Kenney Walker played in a header that found the Danish forward wide open at the back post.
With a chance to slide the shot inside the near post, Enevoldsen instead tried to sneak it under Morton to the right side, and the ball dribbled wide of the post.
The Hounds held on, and earned an opportunity to take on an MLS club for the first time since 2015, even if it wasn’t exactly what Lilley drew up.
“Second half at least we made runs in behind them. We did press at times and we put some balls in good areas,” Lilley explained. “But we didn’t execute well.”
Forbes though, made the most of his chance in a rare opportunity to come on as a sub to help his team out when they weren’t playing its best.
“For the first time in a while, I got on the field when a couple of guys are tired, advantage for me, so I take advantage of it,” Forbes said. “It was good even though we made a couple errors in the back. It was just one of those games.”
For the second time in five years the Hounds have now advanced to the Open Cup’s 4th Round, as the last time the Hounds advanced this far, they beat the Tampa Bay Rowdies on a late regulation strike from Rob Vincent that proved to be the difference in 2015.
On Thursday morning, Pittsburgh will find out its next opponent (a Major League Soccer club that will enter the tournament at this stage, at a site and date, most likely June 11 or 12, to be determined).
While the two sides take different paths in this tournament, with Pittsburgh getting an additional shot at Open Cup glory, the clubs are just getting started with each other, as they’ll meet again in a USL Championship match on Saturday, and again later this season.
“The game is about scoring goals.” Indy Eleven Head Coach Martin Rennie. “Tonight we hardly gave up any chances and ended up with a defeat. In the first half we actually played really well. We were in complete control of the game and passed the ball well and again had a couple of decent chances. We have to take those, because, if you don’t, the game stays tight and there’s the chance that if you don’t take the next one, or the next one, or the next one then the other team might get one, and that’s what happened tonight.”
Riverhounds SC – Kyle Morton – Ryan James, Uchenna Uzo, Joe Greenspan, Tobi Adewole, Noah Franke – Thomas Vancaeyezeele, Sammy Kahsai (Kenardo Forbes 80’) , Anthony Velarde (Robbie Mertz 82’) – Neco Brett (Dani Rovira 87’), Steevan Dos Santos
Subs not used – Austin Pack, Mark Forrest, Kevin Kerr, Christian Volesky
Indy Eleven – Jordan Farr – Matthew Watson, Neveal Hackshaw, Karl Ouimette – Patrick Barrett, Macauley King, Kenneth Walker, Tyler Gibson – Tyler Pasher, Thomas Enevoldsen, Joshua Penn (Dane Kelly 72’)
Subs not used – Alioune Diakhate, Ayoze Garcia Perez, Emerson Nieto, Mitchell Osmond, Mario Perez
PIT – Kenardo Forbes 85’ (Noah Franke)
PIT – Ryan James 43’ (caution)
PIT – Joe Greenspan 74’ (caution)
Open Cup Photo Gallery (all photos courtesy of Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC)
"We haven't seen the Hounds live dangerously under Bob Lilley too much."@RiverhoundsSC survived the razor's edge in another @opencup win, setting up their first MLS showdown since '15.@PghSoccerScribe & @MattyIcePGH joined me on #PghPostgame!
— Matt Gajtka (@MattGajtka) May 30, 2019