Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC 1, Loudoun United FC 0
PITTSBURGH — An early goal by Steevan Dos Santos proved enough to give the Hounds victory against Loudoun United before a ‘Friday Night Lights’ crowd of 4,078 fans at Highmark Stadium.
With the win, the Hounds improve to 12-4-8, good for 44 points, as they remain unbeaten this season — and for the past 21 matches at home. They have won six of their past seven and moved into fifth place in the USL Championship’s Eastern Conference.
Seeking a rebound from an ugly 5-0 loss at North Carolina FC last Saturday, the Hounds took the lead in the fifth minute when Dos Santos beat the offside trap and ran onto a lifted pass by Neco Brett before finishing low to the right corner.
“That was a good ball from Neco,” said Dos Santos, who has seven goals in his first Hounds season. “I think our connection is getting better and better every game. He saw me make the movement and it was a good pass I just had to keep the ball in line.
“I thought it was offside. I thought, ‘This is too good to be true.’ ”
But for the next 85-plus minutes, it was a tight affair with tense moments for the Hounds.
“I don’t think we respected the moment,” Bob Lilley, Riverhounds head coach, said after the match. “It was a home game, great crowd for a Friday night. We didn’t pass the ball. We didn’t defend well as a team. We had guys playing all on different pages.”
Loudoun tried to hit back in the 27th minute when former Pitt standout Robby Dambrot had a shot from 25 yards punched away by Hounds goalkeeper Kyle Morton. Shortly after that, Kenardo Forbes rang the left post from just outside the box.
The visitors also had a chance four minutes before halftime when 16-year-old Griffin Yow volleyed wide of the right post. United went close again six minutes into the second half as former Hound Andrew Lubahn shook off a pair of defenders 35 yards from goal but slid his finish just wide of the left post.
Dos Santos sent a curling finish just over the crossbar midway through the half as he looked for his second goal of the game, but as the game wore on Loudoun began to carry more of the play.
“The execution on the final ball was poor all night, whether it was a cross or a pass,” Lilley said. “We allowed the game to get stretched. We could’ve lost points tonight. We were fortunate that we just defended well enough and a few balls bounced our way.”
Loudoun’s Orlando Sinclair curled a shot from 20 yards wide of the right post with 18 minutes to go, and two minutes later Christian Sorto had a shot blocked away.
“We had some scrambles there,” Dos Santos said. “They got confident. We knew it would be tough at the end of the game.”
Pittsburgh almost added a remarkable insurance goal with a minute to go when Brett spotted Loudoun goalkeeper Earl Edwards Jr. off his line and launched an arcing shot from his own half that landed on top of the net.
“He saw the keeper out and I think that was a good try,” Dos Santos said with a laugh. “He didn’t miss by much.”
Despite the inability to add on to that early goal, the Hounds saw out the victory, ensuring they wouldn’t lose consecutive games for the first time under Lilley. They are 10-2-1 since June 8, taking advantage of a schedule that’s featured several opponents below the playoff line and eight of 12 at home.
Next, Pittsburgh will challenge Ottawa on the road next Friday, followed by home games against likely postseason qualifiers Louisville and Charleston. After as lackluster of a win they’ve had all year, Lilley’s boys will be back on the grind this week at training.
“Happy to get the three points regardless,” Lilley said. “Our schedule stiffens significantly. We have a lot of work to do. … We have to go back to work and get ourselves sorted before Ottawa.”
EDITORS NOTE: We’ll be updating scores below — and Matt Gajtka will provide a post-game recap — as well as another edition of Pittsburgh Postgame with Matt Grubba from Highmark Stadium.
— USL Championship (@USLChampionship) August 24, 2019
8:56 – Match ends with the Hounds early goal holding up — as Pittsburgh gets the three points.
It was a tense second half, but they remain unbeaten at home in 2019
8:51 – Brett tried for goal from midfield with the GK off the line, and he only misses about a foot high. Nearly a wonder goal.
8:39 – 77′ | Yellow card issued to Jordan Dover.
8:35 – 75′ | Scrambling defending by the Hounds to force a corner. The problem there was Greenspan pulling up lame on the play. Looked like a muscle injury, and he’s down getting treatment.
8:08 – Second half resumes
Former Hound Andy Lubahn checks in as only sub at the beginning of 2nd half for Loudoun
7:51 – Match comes to end of first half. Despite the early goal, Loudoun has been equal to the task in this one. The Hounds outshooting LDN 5-3, and it’s a close possession battle (Pgh 51%/LDN 49%). Pittsburgh came close a few times to getting second goal, especially when Kenardo Forbes banged one off the bar.
Here’s a look at Dos Santos’ goal.
— Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (@RiverhoundsSC) August 23, 2019
7:12 – GOAL – RIVERHOUNDS – Steevan Dos Santos (4′)
Kenardo Forbes with a perfectly placed chip to Dos Santos that sets up the quick opening goal for Pittsburgh!
— Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (@RiverhoundsSC) August 23, 2019
Former Pitt standout — Robby Dambrot making start for Loudoun United after recently signing with the expansion club…
— Loudoun United FC (@LoudounUnitedFC) August 23, 2019
We’ll post starting line-ups here by 6:45 p.m.
Anticipated starting XI:
GK – Austin Pack
D – Joe Greenspan, Tobi Adewole, Ryan James, Jordan Dover
MF – Mouhamad Dabo, Kenardo Forbes, Kevin Kerr, Robbie Mertz
F -Stevan Dos Santos, Neco Brett
Friday, Aug. 23 | 7 p.m.
Location: Highmark Stadium, Pittsburgh, PA
Live Statistics: USL Championship Match Center
Live Updates: Twitter at @RiverhoundsSCand #PITvLDN
It’s a rare Friday night match at Highmark Stadium for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, as they return home hoping to bounce back after a rough 5-0 loss at North Carolina FC on Saturday. Prior to that the Hounds surged into the Eastern Conference’s top four.
Just a week after they scored what was arguably their most significant result of the season — 2-1 at first-place New York Red Bulls II — the Hounds are back in sixth place, still looking up at that much-desired top four.
This will mark the first-ever match between the sides.
Thomas Vancaeyezeele will sit out this match as he’s serving a one-game suspension for his red card late in the first half in North Carolina on Saturday.
Pittsburgh has not lost a regular season match at Highmark Stadium since July 21, 2018, when it fell 1-0 to the Charleston Battery. Since this match, the Hounds have an 11-0-9 record in regular season matches at the venue. Currently, the Hounds have won five of their past six games.
So who are Loudoun United FC?
This expansion USL outfit essentially serves as the reserve team for DC United of Major League Soccer.
Loudoun is 1-3-1 in its past five matches and carries a two-game losing streak into Friday’s contest. Most recently, the USL Championship newcomer dropped a 3-1 result to Ottawa Fury FC on its home turf. They did open their new stadium on August 14, battling Charleston to a 3-3 draw.
There are a few familiar faces for Pittsburgh soccer fans. Two former Riverhounds SC players will return to Pittsburgh on Friday. Goalkeeper Calle Brown, who was part of the 2015 playoff team and Erie native Andy Lubahn, who was part of last year’s squad.
Lubahn has logged 719 minutes of action through 11 games played and has buried two goals so far this year.
16-year-old striker Griffin Yow has impressed through nine outings with Loudoun this season. Yow has made seven starts and has netted three goals, which is tied for second most on the team.
Striker Orlando Sinclair has also notched three tallies for the club. The 21-year-old has made 18 appearances this season, and is second on the team in shots taken (28).
Hounds coverage on Pgh Soccer Now this week
Standings (teams above playoff line)