Final: Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC 2, Loudoun United FC 0
At some point during the second half of the Riverhounds SC victory at Loudoun United, I’ll admit, I could have used a little jolt — a little wake-up call — a little more inspiration.
Once again, Pittsburgh found itself playing with a man advantage for the second time in as many games. This time, however, you can probably forgive them, as they had a two-goal lead while playing in the middle of a three game in eight day stretch, as they took their foot off the gas and simply found a way to grind out a road win with some pretty decent defense while getting some more players valuable game experience.
Once they took the lead, they didn’t play with any sense of urgency. The Hounds ended the first half with three shots, all on target and two were goals, the other came from Kenardo Forbes’ free kick. They finished the match with six shots overall, and three on target.
Instead of keeping the ball for long stretches, and wearing down the younger, more inexperienced Loudoun side, Pittsburgh played a disjointed second half while defending pretty well to preserve the shutout victory.
NEW FACES IN THE STARTING 11
Hounds head coach Bob Lilley was intent on getting some new players into the line-up, and he did this by inserting Mark Lindstrom on the back line for his first start of the season alongside Dakota Barnathan, who’s been used primarily off the bench this season. Danny Vitiello made his second start of the season in goal, while Dani Rovira, Anthony Velarde and Lukas Fernandes also started the match, giving players like Ropapa Mensah, Danny Griffin and Jordan Dover a chance to get some rest.
The Hounds came out with its usual 5-3-2 formation, as Steevan Dos Santos and Fernandes, a duo who can speak Portugese to each other, as the top two forwards.
Lilley indicated that despite the short turn around after the club’s loss on Saturday in Indianapolis, he wanted to start his central midfield duo of Kenardo Forbes and Robbie Mertz.
HECTIC PACE, A GOOD START
The Hounds didn’t waste any time to get on the scoreboard, scoring two early first half goals.
The first came from an opportunistic long ball over the top from Dani Rovira to Steevan Dos Santos, who rarely breaks behind defenders. In this case, Dos Santos made a well-timed run, struck the ball off the bounce well with his left foot. He put enough on it — even as it was right at Loudoun keeper Colin Miller — who couldn’t handle it.
While Loudoun’s young striker Ndour was showing blazing speed and was fearless in taking on defenders, Hounds keeper Danny Vitiello had to stay on his toes to make a few first half saves and the three center back pairing of Vancaeyezeele, Barnathan and Lindstrom were being stretched at times.
Dos Santos on the other hand, showed what an experienced striker does — put a quality shot on frame when he got the chance.
At the end of the match, Loudoun created 10 shots, but only three were on target.
The Hounds struck for the second time when Robbie Mertz received a ball from Mark Lindstrom on the inside right edge of the box along the endline. Mertz then sent a short, low cross to the near post for Lukas Fernandes. Taking advantage of his second start in six appearances, Fernandes converted his one-time chance to give the Hounds a 2-0 lead.
Even with a two-goal lead, the Hounds struggled slow the pace down for much of the first half. That was ultimately on their inability to keep the ball for longer stretches, allowing Loudoun to continue to have breakaway chances.
Again it was Ndour in the 27th minute, who got behind the Hounds back line, but his chip attempt was denied by Vitiello, who came off the line to make the fingertip save to preserve the shutout.
“I think Loudoun showed they have the ability to be a dangerous team,” head coach Bob Lilley said. “We did better as the game went on. We got two pretty good goals early and that certainly helped. It wasn’t an artistic game, but we were able to rest some guys and rotate the squad. It’s a good road win. I think we did a good job of coming into a difficult game and coming out with our three points.
IT SURE WASN’T ARTISTIC
The Hounds started to start knocking the ball around better toward the end of the second half, then got another break when Loudoun’s Nelson Martinez came flying in late to take out the Hounds’ Ryan James in the 45th minute. It was Martinez’s second yellow card — resulting an ejection.
For the second game in five days, the Hounds would play the second half with a man advantage. And once again, Pittsburgh couldn’t add to the scoreline, as Lilley said — it wasn’t artistic. In fact, the Hounds were outworked for much of the match. Chasing and playing from behind, Loudoun held a 63-47 advantage in duels and earned more fouls.
But for the Hounds it was a road win. It was important for the Hounds to have some level of squad rotation. Lilley’s going to need to count on using 18-20 players. As we saw in last year’s playoffs, it’s tough to advance deep in any playoff tournament without guys that you can rely on coming off the bench.
Rovira, Barnathan, Velarde, Lindstrom and Fernandes needed this match to get these valuable minutes.
Mertz, Forbes, James, Vancaeyezeele and Dos Santos all played a full match — and will be interesting to see if they can all go for the third time in eight days on Saturday.
Next up for the Hounds, they’ll return home to face a well-rested Saint Louis FC, currently the second place club in Eastern Conference’s Group E.
“The short turnaround into the Saint Louis game this Saturday will be a challenge. Saint Louis doesn’t play tonight. They have a whole week to prepare for our game and we’re going to have short rest. It’s another important game. There’s no question the Saint Louis game on Saturday will be a difficult game for us.”
Riverhounds SC Player Grades
Player / Position
|Danny Vitiello||7||Vitiello was pretty busy — as Loudoun’s young attackers kept trying to pressure him to modest results.||3 saves, 2 punches|
|Thomas Vancaeyezeele||7.5||Did you see that slide tackle on Ndour’s effort near endline? Whew.||Yellow card, 81% passing accuracy. Won 4 of 7 duels|
|Mark Lindstrom||7||Can see why Lilley liked him from start in preseason. Plays ball nicely out of the back. Had the pass that led to the Mertz pass that set up Fernandes goal. Was scrambling there at times to keep up with Loudoun’s fast forwards||93% passing accuracy, 4 tackles, 3 clearances, won 5 of 7 duels|
|Dakota Barnathan||5||Some trouble in 1v1 spots against speedy forwards, but played better as match wore on. Picked up yellow card.||74% passing, 1 tackle, 2 clearances and 1 interception.|
|Jordan Dover (43′)||5.5||Finally had a match to rest, but still came in for Rovira, who was injured.|
|Dani Rovira||7||Solid outing, included that over-the-top assist to Dos Santos.||Assist. Won a foul, 3 of 7 duels, 75% passing, 2 tackles, 1 clearance|
|Ryan James||5.5||solid but mostly cautious in possession, had some times he was beat defensively||only won 4 of 11 duels, 83% passing accuracy, won two fouls, but conceded two too|
|Kenardo Forbes||7||Usual solid performance, but not too involved in creating chances though he nearly got the third goal on free kick||90% passing accuracy, team high 88 touches|
|Robbie Mertz||7||Can now see that he’s getting equal touches with Forbes in CMF. Add another assist to his stats total|
|Anthony Velarde||6||a positive start for Velarde, who shared some of the passing numbers with Mertz/Forbes. Still, there were some final passes in attacking third that he’d like to have back.||90% passing accuracy; created one chance, won 2 of 7 duels|
|Steevan Dos Santos||7||It wasn’t exactly a brilliant goal, but it was a solid blast that was difficult for keeper to handle, on a shot that was well struck off the bounce. They didn’t as much through him. Played full match, so I’d be surprised if he can start Saturday but he’s shown to be durable. For what it’s worth, the Hounds are 13-0-0 when Dos Santos scores.||GOAL, won 7 of 18 duels, 1 foul, won 1 foul|
|Lukas Fernandes||6.5||Made a nice run for his second goal of the season in his second start. Was active, brought a lot of energy.||GOAL, won 5 of 12 duels, won a foul|
|1. Jordan Dover||44′||SEE ABOVE|
|2. Skylar Thomas||66′||after leaving match on Saturday with injury, it was positive sign for him to get minutes|
|3. Danny Griffin||66′||most likely to start on Saturday.|
|4. Mark Forrest||86′||with Dos Santos staying in, will he start on Saturday now?|
|5. Ropapa Mensah||86′||likely to also start on Saturday now|
|Players not used|