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Surging Hounds walk all over Memphis in 4-0 rout

Steevan Dos Santos lets loose a shot attempt in Riverhounds 4-0 win vs Memphis on Saturday (photo credit: Brad Oskowski)

Surging Hounds walk all over Memphis in 4-0 rout

Box Score

USL MATCH CENTER 

Clicking on all cylinders, the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC returned home for a commanding win, its third straight, by topping Memphis 901 FC 4-0 on Saturday night before 3,273 fans at Highmark Stadium. 

Converting goals in the well-balanced Pittsburgh attack were Tobi Adewole, Robbie Mertz, Jordan Dover and Steevan Dos Santos, as team captain and midfielder Kenardo Forbes contributed two assists, while Kyle Morton recorded one save and two punches in picking up his fifth clean sheet of the season. 

“We’re getting there,” Bob Lilley, Riverhounds Head Coach, said. “We kept up the pressure, had a lot of shots. I thought we played pretty well, pretty consistently. I thought we started the game pretty well, created chances and we were aggressive.”

HOW IT HAPPENED

First twenty minutes of the match, Pittsburgh created its most promising moments coming in from crosses from the left side delivered by Ryan James that nearly connected with Kevin Kerr and Anthony Velarde as six different players took turns taking shots in the early going. 

The Hounds came out in a similar 4-2-3-1 formation as they did the previous week, when they defeated Hartford on the road, 4-2.

Forbes and Mertz sat in front of the back four, with Dos Santos in middle of attacking three midfielders with Kerr on his right, Velarde on left.  Neco Brett was positioned as lone man at the top.

Moments before the Riverhounds broke through for the first goal of the match, forward Neco Brett did some dirty work in the 24th minute to start to put Memphis on its heels.

The Jamaican forward provided some high pressure on goal nearly converting a shot from a tough angle on the right end line. Brett beat Memphis goalkeeper Jeff Caldwell to the ball, then from tough angle tried to sneak shot across goal box but he missed hitting it as it rolled past the left post.

In the following sequence, Brett had possession of a ball near the goal box, forcing Caldwell to deny a shot effort from close range, setting up a corner kick. 

That’s when Forbes sent a lining ball to the near post area in the 27th minute, just outside the goal box. Adewole took it from there — as the Hounds defender came flying to the spot to redirect a lining header into the goal. 

Pittsburgh continued to apply pressure and maintained the possession edge, but didn’t capitalize again until two minutes of stoppage time was added to the first half. 

That’s when a wild sequence developed as Dos Santos drove a hard, lining shot that banged off the crossbar.

The ball bounced high, and back over the 18-yard spot, where Mertz took a touch, then sent a shot toward the center of the box that deflected off a Memphis defender — and past Caldwell who had little chance to stop the ball. 

Mertz’ sixth goal of the season gave the Hounds a 2-0 edge at halftime, as his coach said after the match that was a ‘big’ goal in giving the Hounds a boost after a dominant first 45 minutes.  

In the second half, Pittsburgh built on its lead, and continued to clamp down on Memphis, limiting its chances to shots from distance, while continuing to own the possession battle (57 percent for the match). Pittsburgh also held a decisive edge in shots, 23-4 (11-1 on target).

Lilley started to get a little concerned, but was glad that his team tightened things up.

“I thought the second part of the first half we were a little bit loose,” Lilley said.  “Even though we were getting the better chances, I felt we got a bit stretched.”

Instead of letting Memphis back into it with a defensive lapse, the Hounds added  a goal in the 64th minute from Dover, on a terrific feed from Forbes on a through ball after a counter-attacking build-up.   

“Time kind of slows down when you get in that situation. The ball got slipped through to me. My first thought was, ‘Maybe I’m offside,” Dover said after scoring his first goal of the season. “Then I’m like ‘I have to bury it regardless”. I saw the keeper coming out, and I just tried to get anything around him that I thought would’ve been on target.”

The Hounds added to the lead when James delivered a low cross, turf-burning ball into the goal box for Dos Santos who blasted his one-time effort into the back of the net in the 69th minute.

The difference in this match, and last week’s sloppy, uneven and edgy performance, the Hounds dictated terms from beginning to end.

“We addressed a lot of it, so now we are playing well enough that we don’t have 20 things to fix each week,” Lilley explained. “When you start to play well, you can focus on certain areas. I think we were more consistent managing the spacing on the field better through the game today compared to last week.”

Dover, who was on the right side of the four-man back line that limited Memphis to one shot on frame, said they were intent on keeping the ball, and avoiding mistakes.

“I think we were a little more intentional with our play today. Last week I think we had a good outing, but a couple mistakes towards the tail end of the game. Obviously we don’t want to concede, and I think that was a big focus this week coming into this game. We wanted to keep the ball, keep it moving, but at the same time protect our goal.

With the win, Pittsburgh improves to 9-3-8, good for 35 points in USL Eastern Conference standings.

The club now has three players leading the way with six goals this season – Mertz, Dos Santos and Brett. Dover was the 12th player to score a goal.  In addition, Forbes added to his club lead in assists with six, while James added another as he sits in second with five helpers.

Last year’s All-USL defender Joe Greenspan didn’t start again this week after spending most of the week with his obligations with the United States Navy Reserves, but going with a four-man back line, the Hounds defensive performance was among its best in a season that’s been full of inconsistent moments.

These factors provide testament that Lilley’s club is hitting its stride as they’ve now passed the halfway point in the season — after a performance that displayed attacking balance, depth and commitment to defending as a unit.

“It was good work from the team, from all the boys. We played together as a team today. Maybe it’s our first perfect game,” Forbes said with a smile.

“We got some goals and then we defended our goal. That’s a good sign in the back end of the season. Last year, at this point we kind of shut down. I think it’s a good sign for us this season. We’re peaking at the right time. It’s good for the team.”

UP NEXT

Mark Goodman will also be providing his analysis / player grades in the next 48 hours. 

The Riverhounds, currently in sixth place in USL Eastern Conference standings, will be back home along the South Shore for a matchup with the Swope Park Rangers (3-10-6) on Saturday, Aug. 10.

This is followed by a crucial road swing with matches on Wednesday, August 14, at red-hot, second place New York Red Bulls II, then a showdown against North Carolina FC in Cary, NC, on Saturday, August 17. The Hounds have beaten both NYRBII and North Carolina FC at home this season.

John Krysinsky has covered soccer and other sports for many years for various publications and media outlets including Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, DK Pittsburgh Sports, Pittsburgh Sports Report, has served as color commentator on Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC broadcasts, and worked with OPTA Stats and broadcast teams for US Open Cup and International Champions Cup matches held in the United States. Krysinsky also served as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach at his alma mater, Point Park University, where he led the Pioneers to the first-ever winning seasons and playoff berths (1996-98); head coach of North Catholic boys (2007-08), associate head coach of Shady Side Academy boys (2009-2014).

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