FINAL: Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC 1, Bethlehem Steel FC 0
With a free kick attempt from the right edge of the box in the 57th minute, Riverhounds SC captain Kenardo Forbes took matters into his own — in leading the way to his club’s fourth consecutive victory vs Bethlehem Steel FC at Highmark Stadium on Thursday.
The Hounds veteran midfielder went for it from 19 yards — and found the room to drill it into the back of the net past Bethlehem Steel FC keeper Tomas Romero.
— USL Championship (@USLChampionship) July 5, 2019
When asked if he was going for it it on the free kick, Forbes didn’t hold back in his response.
“Yeah,” Forbes said, then explained, “Because in the first half I crossed the first one and tricked the goalkeeper. He was looking for the cross, and I just surprised him.”
As soon as the ball left his feet, Forbes knew he hit it good.
“That is a celebration. That was a celebration. As soon as I hit it, I knew it was in,” Forbes said.
From that point Pittsburgh clamped down on the young Steel FC side, as the match turned downright feisty — with both teams picking up numerous yellow cards in the final thirty minutes.
“As we climb the table, we’re going to have to win these types of games. I think with people below you in the standings, you’re always going to be a massive target. People are trying to drag us back and we’re trying to keep climbing,” Bob Lilley, Hounds Head Coach said. ” It was a more significant game than most would typically think.”
Pittsburgh’s defensive shape was solid throughout the match, as goalkeeper Kyle Morton only needed to make one real significant stop, from a Faris shot from distance after a turnover in the 85th minute. With Morton grabbing that shot attempt 12 yards off his line, the shot wasn’t considered on target in the stat sheet. Still, Morton picked up his third clean sheet in the past four matches as the back line in front of him continued to frustrate its opponents, surrendering just one goal in the past four matches.
“They’re a very tough out,” Lilley said. “Even their young players, are strong, athletic, technical. We did a good job in containing them tonight. The defenders did a good job of covering for each other because they’re explosive. We did a good job to close the game out. We were still making it difficult for them.”
Neither side could create a quality scoring chance in the first half.
Pittsburgh came out in the same 5-3-2 formation it has used with success during this winning streak, but using a few different players in the line-up in an effort to keep a solid squad rotation going with an impending road game to follow in three days in Charlotte.
Making starts included Dani Rovira in Ryan James‘ usual spot on the left outside back spot, while Sammy Kahsai played in central midfield between Forbes and veteran Kevin Kerr.
The Hounds, carried longer possessions in the first half, and came close a few times to creating damage in the final third, but kept coming up short.
On its second corner chance of the first half in the 23rd minute provided the most dangerous chance for Pittsburgh in the first half.
After playing long balls back and forth after the corner, eventually Kerr found an opening, playing a lining ball from left side to far right post for Tobi Adewole. The Hounds defender lunged forward but just missed connecting in front of an open area in the back side of the play.
There were a few sequences in the first half when Hounds forward Christian Volesky was on the end of crosses from Jordan Dover, who returned to the line-up after playing with Guyana in the Gold Cup. One missed high, while another pair connected with Volesky, who’s header attempts missed wide of goal.
While Steel FC would hold the possession edge (55/45 and 82% accuracy), the Hounds were efficient enough in keeping it (74%), while winning 55 of 98 duels, and sending in more crosses (12-4) and total shots (14-5).
For the second consecutive year, the Riverhounds SC’s annual Fourth of July home match was delayed by bad weather. The original 7 p.m. start time was pushed back after lightning strikes in the area forced players off the field and fans out of the stands during warm-ups shortly before the match. The match would eventually be played, eventually kicking off at 7:50 p.m.
With the win, the Hounds keep climbing in the standings, improving its record to 6-2-7 overall, while Steel FC drop to 5-9-4.
This was the first time the Hounds have won four matches in a row in league play since 2013, the only other time in the Highmark Stadium era (since 2013), they’ve won that many games consecutively. It will be a quick turnaround for the Black and Gold, as they head south to take on Charlotte Independence at 7 p.m. this Sunday at Sportsplex at Matthews.
— John Krysinsky (@PghSoccerScribe) July 5, 2019
Post-match: Head Coach Bob Lilley meets up with media (as fireworks show continues)
9:38 – Free kick coming for Steel FC after Greenspan foul — and he’s also booked! Another yellow card in hard fought match. Service in to right side of box is whistled dead when Forrest is pulled down by BST attacker. 90′
9:37 – Fireworks over Point State Park have begun. We still have plenty of action going on here though.
9:34 – Last sub for Hounds – Mark Forrest in for Volesky.
9:33 – Giveaway by Hounds out of the back — and Faris with room to shoot outside the box goes for it — and first save of night for Morton! (85′)
9:31 – Steel FC with some build-up into box. Ball rolls toward keeper Kyle Morton, but Dover clears it away. Morton was ready to play it.
9:29 – Forbes keeps it alive in box – -and rips another one that Romero has to save. Corner coming for Hounds.
9:23 – Robbie Mertz entered the game for Sammy Kashai. (74′)
9:21 – Faris breaks free on potential counter, but Tobi Adewole with a tug of shirt. Faris swings his arm back in disgust. Hounds defender gets booked though with yellow.
9:19 – Much to delight of crowd, last year’s playoff game villain and Bethlehem’s captain, James Chambers, is issued a yellow card for dissent. (72′)
9:13 – Wild sequence in front of goal. Hounds Kerr and Volesky trying to get shot off — but Steel FC keeper Tomas Romero gets to ball first.
9:10 – SUB – Pittsburgh – Ryan James enters for Dani Rovira (63′)
9:06 – GOAL – PITTSBURGH – Kenardo Forbes
It’s a free kick. Forbes went for it — and found the room to drill it into the back of the net past Bethlehem Steel FC keeper Tomas Romero.
9:05 – Hounds fouled on edge of box – -free kick coming from right corner.
9:01 – Hard challenge at midfield (maybe studs up?) by Rovira — leaves Issa Rayyan down on mat. Official issues Rovira with his first ever professional yellow card (53)
8:59 – Hounds earn corner. Forbes ball in crowded box — header from Dos Santos goes wayward left.
8:56 – Yellow card for hard challenge at midfield on BST’s Chavany Wills.
8:55 – Dos Santos takes advantage of turnover by BST’s Cole Turner. Gets into space and finds Volesky trying to break between two defenders, but it gets away from Volesky.
8:52 – second half underway
Here’s some photos from first half action (courtesy Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC)
8:38 – HALFTIME – 0-0
USL Championship’s Match Center is acting a little wonky right now, but according to my calculations, neither team has a shot on frame.
8:36 – Hounds on counter. Dos Santos plays it wide to Kerr. Volesky breaking on left. Kerr sends it back over through box, Dos Santos dummies it, but ball doesn’t connect with another Hounds. Still no shots on frame for Pittsburgh.
8:35 – Dos Santos barreled over. Hounds go for quick restart. It’s Dover again trying to get a ball in for Volesky, but it goes over.
8:31 – Dover with foul — and BST with free kick chance from 25 yds. It’s James Chambers — but unlike last year in playoffs when he drilled it into goal — this one goes way over bar.
8:28 – Forbes free kick swings to left post area, but can’t connect. Ball comes back out – -and it’s sent back past right post, but Dos Santos and Kerr both run to it and it gets away.
8:26 – Dover draws foul after well-timed interception. Yellow card assess to BST’s Matt Real.
Ensuing free kick from Kenardo Forbes intended for Thomas Vancaeyezeele but it’s headed away.
8:25 – ball played to far post from Dover to Volesky — header attempt goes over bar (34′)
8:23 -Kerr showing off more technical wizardry — with perfect redirected header that goes over defender and to Volesky in space.
8:16 – Sammy Kahsai does nice job to keep ball alive on left sideline. Cross comes in for Volesky, who loses ball but Kerr slides in to keep it alive. His second poke attempt for ball results in foul called on Kerr.
8:14 – Hounds second corner results in most dangerous chance so far. Long balls back and forth, but eventually Kerr plays one from left side to far right post for Adewole, who just misses connecting in front of Steel Army.
7:58 – Volesky plays one forward for Kerr in a decent build-up, but the Hounds veteran was a step offside.
7:55 – only two mins in, and Dos Santos draws first foul of match. Hounds quickly restart, and ping it around & set up match’s first corner. They’ve had almost all possession so far.
7:52 – Match has kicked off!
— John Krysinsky (@PghSoccerScribe) July 4, 2019
7:45 – teams are coming out. Rain has subsided, and we should be getting this one going very soon.
7:27 – No lightning for a while, so we’re good, right? Both teams are coming out to warm-up, even as a persistent rain continues. They’ll have 10 minutes to get ready, and kickoff should, I repeat, should, come around 7:50 p.m. or so.
— John Krysinsky (@PghSoccerScribe) July 4, 2019
6:55 – lighting was spotted in the area, just as both teams were finishing warm-ups. Everyone’s been asked to leave the field and stands area.
Riverhounds SC Starting XI
GK – Kyle Morton
D – Joe Greenspan, Tobi Adewole, Thomas Vancaeyezeele, Dani Rovira, Jordan Dover
MF – Sammy Kahsai, Kevin Kerr, Kenardo Forbes
F – Steevan Dos Santos, Christian Volesky
Available subs: Austin Pack (G), Ryan James, Neco Brett, Noah Franke, Uchenna Uzo, Mark Forrest, Robbie Mertz, Anthony Velarde
Bethlehem’s Starting XI
GK – Tomas Romero
D – Walter Cortes, Matthew Real, Mark McKenzie, Nathan Harriel
MF – Cole Turner, Charvany Willis, James Chambers, Zach Zandi
F – Faris Pemi Moumbagna, Issa Rayyan
Brady McSwain (G), Michee Nglina, Selmir Miscic, Steve Kingue, Ben Ofeimu, Axel Picazo, Shanyder Borgelin
We could be expecting to see a few spotty t-showers around game time.
— Jeff Verszyla (@Verz) July 4, 2019
Kickoff – 7:05 p.m. | Highmark Stadium, Pittsburgh, PA
Television: Pittsburgh’s CW
Live Statistics: USL Championship Match Center
Live Updates: Twitter at @pghsoccerscribe, @mattyicePGH, @RiverhoundsSC and #PITvBST
PSN Coverage: Reporting – John Krysinsky, Matt Harkins
Scouting Report on Bethlehem Steel FC
Here’s Mark Goodman‘s scouting report on Steel FC prior to Hounds first meeting with them in March.
The first time the intrastate rivals squared off this year at Talen Energy Stadium. , it was a wild, back-and-forth match, especially in the first 60 minutes. Both teams held leads in the first half, eventually with the Hounds drawing even in the 60th minute, thanks to a Joe Greenspan header.
Kevin Kerr (4th minute) and Greenspan (60th minute) posted goals for Pittsburgh whereas Faris Pemi Moumbagna (21st minute) and Michee Ngalina (36th minute) scored for Steel FC.
The Hounds have strung together the longest current winning streak in the Eastern Conference. In these three games, Pittsburgh has outscored its opposition, 12-1.
Meanwhile, Bethlehem is fresh off a 3-0 victory at the Hartford Athletic. Steel FC has a 3-2-1 away record in 2019 league play.
Matt Gajtka shared his conversation with Steel FC Head Coach Brendan Burke earlier this week about playing at Highmark Stadium.
“Just a great environment; you have to enjoy it. It’s July Fourth, on the river there, it’s a beautiful setting. We expect it to be a packed house. We wish that there were more environments like that (in the USL Championship), that you had to go and play in throughout the course of the year. The people are doing a great job out there in Pittsburgh and it shows in the game day experience out there.”
— Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (@RiverhoundsSC) July 4, 2019