A physical game that was long on yellow cards and short on shots ended with a 1-1 draw for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. The draw meant that the Riverhounds finish the 2019 USL Championship regular season without a single home loss. It is the first time the team has ever been undefeated at Highmark Stadium, and the first time the team as produced a season without a home loss since 2004.
— x-Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (@RiverhoundsSC) October 6, 2019
Riverhounds head coach Bob Lilley gave his team a lot of credit for putting in a good shift against a Atlanta United 2 that has been surging the past couple of weeks.
Lilley said, “I thought we worked hard. We worked the entire first half like crazy trying to press to get the goal. We worked extremely hard to limit their chances and control most of the game, but it was always on a knifes edge. I think we competed well.”
Team captain Kenardo Forbes said “It was a tough result for our last regular season game at home. We didn’t play well enough to win this game. We got up 1-0, and we didn’t close it out the way we wanted to.”
Lilley gave a fair amount of credit to the Hounds opponent. “Atlanta worked hard. They played at a faster tempo than some of the teams we’ve played recently. They deserve a lot of credit. Atlanta fought for 90 minutes.”
A packed crowd of 4,553 fans witnessed the Hounds go up 1 to 0 in the 45th minute. It was on a well-worked ball worked into the goal, as Kevin Kerr steamed down the right side and slid a ball inside to his overlapping fullback, Jordan Dover. Dover faked the shot and gently passed to the feet of Steeven Dos Santos who was standing just 7 yards out with his back to goal, but two Atlanta defenders converged and batted the ball away. It came to Neco Brett, but ATL defender Wesley Decas ran him over, and referee Elvis Osmanovic pointed immediately to the spot. Brett took the penalty kick, and put it low and to the right of goalkeeper Dylan Castanheira.
The game proceeded with a high number of fouls and a scrappy, physical tone throughout, but not a lot of quality chances for either team. The Hounds finished the game with 9 shots, but only one on target, while ATL United finished with 7 shots and one on target. Those two lone on-target shots both resulted in goals, one apiece for each team.
The hard work, and the lead, came undone for the Hounds in the 87th minute, though. One of the many fouls given away on the night resulted in a dangerous free kick opportunity for Atlanta on the left side at about 30 yards out. Mikey Ambrose swung in a perfect ball to Wesley Decas, who headed it home low and beyond the reach of a diving Kyle Morton to level the game at one-goal apiece. It was sweet redemption for Decas, who was responsible for the PK that gave the Hounds the go-ahead goal in the first place.
The game was the final regular season match for the Riverhounds, which also meant that it was fan appreciation night. Bob Lilley gave much of the credit for the Hounds exceptional performance at Highmark to the energy and atmosphere that the fans provided for the players.
“I think the crowds have gotten better as the season has gone on,” said Lilley. “The guys, they want to represent Pittsburgh. They want to represent the Steel Army, they want to represent the owner. There’s extra motivation.”
— Tuffy Shallenberger (@Tuffy_Shall) October 5, 2019
Hounds supporters group Steel Army gave out their Player of the Year award for the 2019 season to Kenardo Forbes. Kenny has produced 4 Goals, 9 Assists, and a team-leading 68 Chances Created. The prolific passing and steady on-the-ball presence of Forbes for the Hounds has been one of the key factors in making Pittsburgh a formidable team in 2018 and 2019. This year, only two players in all of the USL Eastern Conference have produced more chances than Forbes, and few players in all of USL are as reliable under pressure at placing the smart and safe pass exactly where it needs to be delivered.
Forbes was proud of the honor bestowed on him by the supporters. “It goes to show that they’re watching my work on the field and they appreciate what I do. It’s nice to be recognized.”
Although Atlanta got a result on the night, and their last six games have proceeded without a defeat, the draw meant that ATL2 are officially eliminated from the USL playoffs this year.
Meanwhile, the Riverhounds draw kept them ahead of the rest of the Eastern Conference. With two games to go, they hold a 4 point advantage of the second-place team, Indy Eleven, who blew past Memphis with a 3-0 win.
If they can keep things rolling like they have the past six weeks, they may just win the USL Eastern Conference, and give their supporters a real show of fan appreciation – a full slate of home playoff matches.
FT – Pittsburgh Riverhounds 1, Atlanta United II 1.
90+4′ – On a last gasp, Joe Greenspan has a chance with his left foot inside the box but boots it high.
88′ – Sub, PIT. Mark Forest checks in for Tobi Adewole.
87′ – Goal, ATL2. On a free kick from the left side from Mikey Ambrose, ATL2 gets a headed goal from defender Wesley Decas. The ball spun right to him, and he headed it right and low past Hounds keeper Kyle Morton.
Score is level at 1-1.
86′ – Sub, PIT. Todd Pratzner comes on for Dos Santos.
85′ – ATL gets a good drive and shot, but Joe Greenspan clears it off the line.
84′ – Injury. Steevan Dos Santos bangs heads with ATL2’s George Campbell and goes down. He comes off and gets evaluated by Hounds trainer Tim Smith.
81′ – Yellow Card, ATL2. Laurent Kissedou.
80′ – Sub, PIT. Dani Rovira comes on for Neco Brett.
77′ – Sub, ATL2. Laurent Kissedou comes on for Amir Basti.
76′ – Free kick to the back post for ATL2 is nearly redirected into the goal! But it hits the crossbar and the Hounds stay safe.
74′ – Yellow card, ATL2 – Jack Metcalf. This ref is getting card happy, man.
74′ – Yellow card, PIT – Tobi Adewole gets a card for tripping his man just outside the box and off to the right.
72′ – Yellow card, ATL2 – Luis Fernando goes into the book.
68′ – Foul just outside the box, Kenardo Forbes takes a 25 yard free kick, but the wall heads it clear and out of play. The subsequent corner kick goes for naught.
62′ – Yellow Card, PIT – Jordan Dover goes into the book.
60′ – Sub, ATL2 – Kevin Kratz comes off for Patrick Okonkwo.
59′ – Yellow Card, ATL2 – Laurence Wyke gets a card for knocking down Ryan James. Wyke strongly disagrees with the call and has words with referee Elvis Osmanovic, who taps his back pocket and even removes the red card, but elects not to show it to Wyke. That’s a thing I’ve never seen before in a soccer match, kids.
52′ – Atlanta gets a good chance as a curled cross gets deflected by Joe Greenspan right to the foot of ATL2’s Luis Fernando, squared center of the goal at the top of the box. He hits a bending ball that floats just over the bar.
Second half underway!
45′ – PK Goal Hounds! Neco Brett steps to the spot low and to the right, sending GK Dylan Castanheira the wrong way. 1-0, Hounds!
44′ – PK call! The Hounds work a nice play from Kerr to Dover to Brett. Brett gets bumped, referree Elvis Osmanovic points right to the spot.
43′ – ATL2 playing a little deep, a little cautious. Preferring to primarily to launch long balls or play medium passes to the feet of to George Bello, who hasn’t quite
35′ – Yellow Card, ATL2. George Cambell manhandles Steevan Dos Santos and earns the first scolding from the principal on the night.
15′ – Ryan James steals a ball at midfield, races in unopposed and has a go from 28 yards out. But he awkwardly switches it from his left to his less-favored right, and scuffs it wide left and out of bounds.
5′ – Corner kick from Dabo, rattles around and falls to the foot of Neco Brett who volleys … over the bar. Hounds first shot of the night, though.
1′ – We are underway at Highmark.
The Pittsburgh Riverhounds go for an undefeated home season tonight against Atlanta United 2. It would be the first time the Hounds went undefeated since the 2004 season, when the club went 9-0-1.
Robbie Mertz is not in the 18-man squad due to yellow card accumulation.
— x-Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (@RiverhoundsSC) October 5, 2019
Kyle Morton; Jordan Dover, Joe Greenspan, Tobi Adewole, Thomas Vancaeyezeele, Ryan James; Kenardo Forbes, Kevin Kerr, Mohamed Dabo; Steevan Dos Santos, Neco Brett
Atlanta United 2
— ATL UTD 2 (@atlutd2) October 5, 2019
Dylan Castanheira; George Bello, Wesley Decas, Michael Ambrose, George Campbell; Jack Metcalf, Laurence Wyke, Kevin Kratz, José Hernandez; Luis Fernandez, Amir Bashti