PITTSBURGH — There was much rejoicing at Highmark Stadium tonight as veteran standout Kevin Kerr broke the all-time club record for assists, local hero Robbie Mertz scored a brace, and the Riverhounds SC won their third straight match to send a robust crowd of 3,866 screaming fans home happy.
Head coach Bob Lilley paid high praise to his captain on the auspicious night. “I think Kevin is just a technical genius. He can whip a ball, he can feather a ball. He has always had an eye for that pass. There are a lot of forwards who have benefited from that pass.”
Kerr was modest about his achievement, as is characteristic of his team-first nature. Kerr said of the game, “Obviously (setting the record) not the main focus. When you turn up day-to-day, it’s not on your mind. It’s nice. The ball was out of play when the big picture went up on the board. It was a nice moment. You stay somewhere long enough, you hopefully rack up a record or two.”
Kerr’s assists came on the second and third goals for the Hounds, and both went to Robbie Mertz on long, laser-guided crosses from the right side. With the river at his shoulder and only a few yards to go before the end line, Kerr lofted a ball with perfect arc to the dead-center of the 18-yard box. Mertz coiled his neck like a spring and pounded it into the back of the net to give Kerr the record at the 26th minute.
Kerr’s 27th assist was almost a carbon copy of the record-breaker – except this time it was a few yards farther toward the back post, requiring Robbie to bang it home with his foot on the volley. That goal, in the 39th minute, made the score 3-0, and essentially put the game away before referee Thomas Snyder could even blow the halftime whistle.
The first goal came essentially on a Birmingham error due to poor communication. A goal kick from Matt Van Oekel came to midfield, where both Mikey Lopez and Tyler Turner came to meet it, colliding with each other like this was the 1962 New York Mets.
The ball bounced free to Neco Brett, who struck a low cross to Steevan Dos Santos streaking behind the defense on the right. Dos Santos fielded it cleanly and chipped the keeper for the first goal.
The Hounds kept their foot on the gas throughout the half — controlling possession, making runs at and behind the fullbacks, and generally challenging the Legion. Meanwhile, Birmingham were having a hard time finding their way through the forest of bodies that the Hounds had used to defend.
In the second half, the Hounds were unchallenged and what little pressure Birmingham could mount did little to rattle the home team. On a break down the right wing, the ball came into Anthony Velarde, who took his time to dribble his opponent left, then right, before serving a cross into the box which found Christian Volesky‘s head at the 75th minute.
Birmingham would find a goal in the 83rd minute to break the Riverhounds streak of clean sheets, but the result was still essentially the same – a thunderous and dominant win for Lilley’s boys, made all the more sweet by the fact that it put Kevin Kerr into the proverbial Riverhounds history books.
The Riverhounds will have short rest to prepare for their July 4th home game against Bethlehem Steel FC, their second meeting this season. The first game ended in a 2-2 stalemate. The match will be another chance to get revenge for the October match in which Bethlehem knocked Pittsburgh out of the playoffs on penalty kicks after 120 minutes.
And of course, after the game will be a fireworks show over Downtown Pittsburgh and Point State Park. In honor, of course, of mighty Kerr and his historic contribution to the people of Pittsburgh.
Credit: Rachael McKriger
Minute by Minute Recap
90 +2 Sudden break and Velarde feeds Kevin Kerr, but it’s deflected over the net by Birmingham keeper Van Oekel.
86′ Vancaeyezeele forces a bad pass out of the back that Brian Wright fires at goal. High and wide, still 4-1.
83′ Goal, Birmingham. Chandler Hoffman scoops up a ball that Tobi Adewole meant to clear, but didn’t, and it’s 4-1.
75′ GOOOAAAALLLL, Riverhounds!!! Anthony Velarde dribbles, and dribbles, and dribbles, and serves a left-footed ball from just inside the 18-yard box to Christian Volesky, who easily heads it home. 4-0, Hounds.
70′ SUB. Pittsburgh’s Neco Brett is subbed off for Anthony Velarde.
60′ SUB. Pittsburgh’s Steevan Dos Santos is subbed off for Christian Volesky.
59′ Free kick by Prosper Kasim, saved by Kyle Morton.
58′ Hounds foul Daniel Johnson as he works a pair of 1-2s all the way to the front edge of the 18-yard box. Free kick, Birmingham.
50′ Long cross comes in from Birmingham’s Mathieu Laurent to Chandler Hoffman. Hounds keeper Kyle Morton leaps for it and misses, leaving the goal wide open for Hoffman. He swings, a strike but Joe Greenspan blocks it to save the day and the clean sheet.
46′ SUB. Birmingham’s Femi Hollinger-Janzen is subbed off for Mathieu Laurent.
46′ SUB. Birmingham’s Mikey Lopez is subbed off for Daniel Johnson.
HT : Hounds run this thing, 3-0.
39′ MERTZ AGAIN!!! The Hounds go up 3-0 on a near carbon copy of the previous goal – cross from the right, but this time he volleys it with his right foot.
35′ Great corner from Birmingham, palmed away by Kyle Morton.
32′ Shot from Ryan James is close, but cleared.
26′ GOOOOAAAL Riverhounds!!! Kevin Kerr puts a cross from the right wing onto the penalty spot, and Robbie Mertz heads it home. Hounds lead 2-0.
17′ Early pressure on Birmingham results in another two shots from the Hounds. It’s been all Riverhounds in possession and with shots early on here at Highmark Stadium.
13′ GOOOOOAAAALLLL Riverhounds SC!!! Steven Dos Santos scores on a breakaway down the right side on a lofted cross from midfield from Neco Brett, and it’s 1-0, Hounds.
2′ Neco Brett gets an early shot off a good string of passes down the right. Saved by Van Oekel.
Kyle Morton; Ryan James, Tobi Adewole, Joe Greenspan, Thomas Vancaeyezeele, Noah Franke; Robbie Mertz, Kenardo Forbes, Neco Brett, Steevan Dos Santos
Matt Van Oekel; Kyle Fisher, Eric Avila, Razak Cromwell, Tyler Turner, Mikey Lopez, Prosper Kasim, Daigo Kobayashi, Femi Hollinger-Janzen; Brian Wright, Chandler Hoffman