PITTSBURGH — It was the first week of the English Premier League this weekend, and fittingly, the Riverhounds played a game that was deserving of the British-ism “squeaky bum time.”
After conceding in the 68th minute to Swope Park Rangers, the Riverhounds had to hold on for the final 20 minutes, but ultimately emerged with a 3-2 victory to continue their unbeaten home record of 7-0-5. The win also gave the Hounds a sizzling 8-1-1 record over their last ten matches, as Bob Lilley‘s boys continue to tear through the Eastern Conference.
The Hounds are clearly playing with a lot of confidence right now.
“When the team does well your confidence goes up,” said midfielder Anthony Velarde, who scored the third of the Hounds goals.
Lilley thought the performance was a bit more uneven, as the team played better in the second half than they did in the first.
“We’re getting three points in an awful lot of games. We were outplayed in the midfield in the first half, but I thought we played better in the second. We didn’t really break them down in the first half. In the second half, we were able to break lines and drive through them,” said Lilley.
The Hounds jumped out to the early lead on a Christian Volesky headed goal in the 7th minute. The Hounds stayed in control throughout the first half, but Mohamed Dabo bumped Swope striker Tyler Freeman inside the 18-yard box at the 32nd minute, and Gedion Zelalem converted the penalty to make it one goal apiece.
The Hounds put in a goal just after the restart of the second half on a Neco Brett goal from Jordan Dover. They added a goal a few minutes later in the 51st minute, as Velarde scored a gorgeous one on a dribble and drive that put the entire Swope Park backline on their heels to make it 3-1.
The Hounds would concede a goal at the 68th minute as Ze Pedro, playing in his Swope debut, found the back of the net. The Hounds ultimately hung on to win by a 3-2 score, making it six wins in seven matches on the home pitch.
Although content with the offensive output of the Hounds, Lilley was visibly dissatisfied with his team’s performance after the game. “I don’t think we defended well as a team. You don’t want to make it 3 to 2 with 15 minutes to go. We didn’t play well. We could have given up four.”
Lilley was particularly frustrated with the midfield defending.
“Our midfielders were walking. They weren’t working hard. (Swope) were able to play right through the middle of the field.”
Velarde agreed that the team wasn’t at their best. “Sometimes when you go up 3-1, you get comfortable.” He also agreed that Swope Park, a possession-based football team, got to play to their style a little too much. “They were able to possess a little more than we wanted them to.”
Volesky’s assessment of the game was that it went back and forth, and that Swope were able to hang around a little longer than they ought to. “The game was definitely choppy,” Volesky said. “We didn’t do a good job of dictating the game.”
Certainly Lilley is concerned more with the team’s quality of play going into the next two matches. The Riverhounds play twice more this week: a match Wednesday, August 14 against New York Red Bulls II in New Jersey, and a weekend game away to North Carolina FC on August 17.
Volesky was excited for the prospect of a busy week. “It’s going to be a good test. We’re going to see what we’re made of.” It’s all building towards what could be a very squeaky-bum end-of-season for the Hounds, who still have a chance to win the Eastern Conference outright.
“We’re definitely in the mix for Eastern Conference championship,” Volesky said. “The key is to play our best soccer in the last couple of games of the season.”
Matt Gajtka and Matt Grubba got together after the game for another Hounds edition of Pittsburgh Postgame.
Give it a listen below …
FULL TIME: Some guileful clock-killing burns the better part of the final five minutes, and the Hounds escape with a 3-2 victory, stretching their win streak to four matches. Hounds still undefeated at home and have lost just one match in their last ten.
90+1′ Noah Franke is allowed to dribble 20 yards along the endline untouched, but his final pass to the front of goal is swatted wide. Corner, Hounds.
85′ Corner delivered by Dabo is swatted away by Pulskamp.
85′ Forbes receives a pass and puts in a fierce ground cross Christian Volesky that’s knocked away. Corner, Hounds.
82′ SUBSTITUTION. Kenardo Forbes comes on for Sammy Kahsai.
74′ The game has opened up a bit as Swope are moving the ball more freely and seeing more chances.
68′ GOAL SWOPE. Rangers pull one back with a goal from Ze Pedro, Felipe Hernandez with the assist. 3-2 now, as the game tightens up.
63′ SUBSTITUTIONS. Riverhounds take off Joe Greenspan for Thomas Vancaeyezeele, and Noah Franke comes on for Anthony Velarde. Swope Park Rangers sub out Jaylin Lindsay and put on Wilson Harris; took out Tyler Freeman for Ayoub Allach .
59′ Brett feeds Jordan Dover for a shot but the Guyanan international can’t get much on the shot and SPR’s keeper makes the easy save.
57′ YELLOW CARD. Ryan James takes down an SPR winger on a long diagonal cross, and it’s another card for the Hounds.
51′ GOAL RIVERHOUNDS! Velarde receives a long pass, settles, dribbles, skins one defender, then another, and buries it in the twine. 3-1, #RiverhoundsSC
Robbie Mertz had a big hand in creating that play, as he splits two defenders and evades a third, forcing the SPR defense to shift out of midfield and to the left. When Robbie delivered the ball to Velarde, he was all alone with 35 yards of daylight and just the backline to beat, and he did.
47′ GOAL RIVERHOUNDS! Jordan Dover hits a ten-yard one time pass to Neco Brett, and the forward scores! 2-1 Hounds!
46′ We’re back underway at Highmark!
45′ YELLOW CARD. Robbie Mertz knocks into Camden Riley, who goes down. The referee decides it’s enough to earn a yellow card caution. It is Mertz’ first card as a professional.
33′ GOAL, SWOPE. Gedion Zelalem sends Hounds keeper Austin Pack the wrong way, and it’s all tied up here at Highmark. It was one of the first chances SPR had seen in the final third in the entire half. And it’s 1-1.
32′ PENALTY KICK Rangers work the ball into the box on a pair of short passes. Mohamed Dabo bumps Tyler Freeman and he falls. Head referee Mariscal immediately signals for a penalty!
19′ YELLOW CARD. Camden Riley takes down a Hounds player in the final third and earns a card from referee Alejandro Mariscal.
17′ Robbie Mertz at the edge of 18-yard box sole-rolls to his right and lofts a curler toward the far post. Volesky redirects it with his head but John Pulskamp gets the save.
7′ GOAL RIVERHOUNDS! Robbie Mertz on the corner puts one right into the six-yard box and Christian Volesky deflects it into the goal to the low-far post. Goal for Voles! It’s his third of the season!
7′ Hounds get a break and shot, deflected out. Corner!
6′ Felipe Hernandez steals the ball in the final third and dribbles in from the right. He pulls the trigger with the outside of his right boot, and curls one at the left post **just wide**. Goal kick, Hounds.
1′ We’re underway! Two tikiboats and a paddleboat pass by to start the action off at Highmark Stadium.
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC Starting XI:
Austin Pack; Ryan James, Tobi Adewole, Joe Greenspan, Jordan Dover; Anthony Velarde, Mohamed Dabo, Sammy Kahsai, Robbie Mertz; Christian Volesky, Neco Brett
Swope Park Rangers Starting XI:
John Pulskamp; Jaylin Lindsay, Kaveh Rao, Camden Riley, Alexsander; Wan Kuzain, Gedion Zelalem, Felipe Hernandez; Ze Pedro, Ethan Vancore-Decker, Tyler Freeman