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Final: Riverhounds SC 2, Saint Louis FC 2

Final: Riverhounds SC 2, Saint Louis FC 2

Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (5-3-0, 15 points)

vs

Saint Louis FC (4-3-1, 13 points)

Saturday, Aug. 22 | Time: 7 p.m.| Highmark Stadium

Television: 22 The Point

Streaming: ESPN +

Live Statistics: USL Championship Match Center

Live Updates: Twitter at @pghsoccernow and #PITvSTL

GAME SUMMARY

A good first half, followed by a flat second half three hours later.

“The last five minutes of the 1st half and the first 15 minutes of the second half is what hurt us. Those 20 minutes cost us the game,” Riverhounds SC head coach Bob Lilley stated.

A tie would be a smart bet to make before this game; both teams came in among the best defensively in the USL Championship. But, simply again because of a lack of execution with a 2-0 lead and a failure to finish off strong, Pittsburgh will go home with one point and not three.

This will be their last game against St. Louis this season, and maybe ever. Pittsburgh all-time is now 2-1-4 against St. Louis and 0-1-3 at home.

This is also their last game against an opponent outside of their Group F for the rest of the shortened season.

Lilley said, “Coming up we’re playing Hartford. They only have one loss. We’re miles behind them. We had a much tougher non division games before the final stretch but it’s like baseball, you’re running out of games. You almost have to be perfect.”

The past four games, the Hounds managed to only let up one goal or less. You have to tip your cap to Wal Fall for his spot-on free kick in the second half. But, allowing that late goal in the first half is what hurt them the most.

The Riverhounds did have a heavily-loaded schedule. This was their third game in the past eight days. Big reason as to why Ryan James didn’t start.

Pittsburgh was out possessed in this game by a decent margin of 60 percent to 40. I asked Lilley if getting the ball out wide and crossing in was a part of the game plan as they were more dangerous when getting more men in the box.

Lilley said, “We need to get more guys forward. We keep kicking it up to two guys and have the other nine guys way behind. We need to get others involved and create space.”

Saint Louis FC has great passing ability. The Riverhounds were caught chasing on many occasions. Every time there was a high press and Pittsburgh was trapping, they would play out and switch the field with ease.

“I told the guys, they have good forwards and many talented guys,” LIlley said. “I told them they were going to come out tough in the second half, and they did.”

The Riverhounds attack is quite dangerous with players like Mertz, Forbes and Griffin getting more touches. Lee, Dover and James are great at getting down the line and creating service. They just need to be patient, possess and get everyone more involved.

On a positive note, Mensah has had the most shots on goal for the team and he tapped in his third goal of the season. It was on the goal line but they all count. That should give him more confidence as he has been good for the Hounds, especially at such a young age.

Mertz as well scored his fourth goal. He’s already on pace to pass his six goals from his rookie season last year even in the shortened season. Clearly he has more confidence and is getting more touches in the attack even as a midfielder.

Pittsburgh has seven games remaining all against opponents in Group F. Three of those are against Hartford.

“It’s a three-game series against a good team,” Lilley said. “We have to be better.”

MATCH UPDATES

93′ – So much back-and-forth action. But, that’ll do it. Riverhounds 2 – STL 2. What a long night!

90′ – 3 minutes of stoppage time. Dos Santos almost heads one in. He’d like to get that one back.

90′ – Last minute sub for STL. Rivas in for Fall who scored the 2nd goal

89′ – Todd Wharton takes a good shot outside the 18 but Gomez dives to make the save!

85′ – 2 subs for the Riverhounds. Mertz and Mensah are off. Velarde and Fernandes are on!

84′ – DOVER WENT DANCING!! Dover crossed up 2 defenders but yet again Morton makes the save. Something has to break through soon!

81′ – Riverhounds make their first sub. Ryan James goes in for Mark Lindstrom. Riverhounds are looking to score a goal and take away 3 points.

78′ – WOW CLOSE CALL! The veteran Russ Cicerone is found wide open 8 yards out and he blasts one of the top crossbar! I sense a goal might happen in these last 10 minutes.

75′ – Our last hydration break of the night. Temperature has gone down to about 70 so not too hot now.

70′ – A good tic-tac-toe play from Mensah to Mertz. Mertz blazes a cross in the 6 yard box but Morton is there to punch out.

68′ – STL has come out strong in this half. They’re pinging the ball side to side real well. When Riverhounds trap, they switch the field and possess. Riverhounds are chasing right now.

66′ –  Forbes takes a free kick in front of Lilley but Morton makes the catch on his back post.

63′ – The ironman Vancaeyezeele joined the attack. Brilliant foot work from the CB

56′ – Lindstrom takes a bad foul in front of the box. Free kick coming up for STL.

FALL SCORES! A beautiful curled shot over the wall and it’s 2-2!! We have a game!

53′ – Some brilliant passing from #5 Fall on STL

52′ – Mensah called offsides. So far STL has come out moving pretty quick.

45′ – Here we go! Finally after a 3 hour wait we are underway!!

WE HAVE LIFE! Teams are supposed to begin warming up at 1030pm and then kickoff around 1042pm!

Also, the weather is starting to get really bad. Lots of rain, thunder and lightning. 2nd half looks like it will be delayed.

End of 1st half – My thoughts are part of the game was played a lot through the midfield. Not too many shots, but the Riverhounds looked dangerous when they played the ball out wide and crossed in. Our midfield and forwards high press is setting the tone. If Hounds get 1 more goal they should lock this game up.

45+++ – Skylar Thomas gets a yellow card. Outside the box Todd Wharton takes the free kick and Gomez makes the easy save. That’s it for the 1st half!!

45+ – Riverhounds get caught slacking. Kyle Greig enters the box and takes a shot and Gomez makes the save but Greig gets the rebound and slots it home. Riverhounds 2 – STL 1

45′ – 3 minutes of stoppage time

44′ – Good defense from Lee on the left wing. He is quietly having a good game for Pittsburgh.

40′ – ROBBIE MERTZ THE PITTSBURGH KID SCORES!!! A poke from Mensah goes to Mertz, Mertz takes some quick touches to the left and slots it home to the bottom right corner. 2-0 RIVERHOUNDS

38′ – Mertz with a foul right in front of Bob Lilley. Free kick chance for STL. Great ball in but Gomez catches it with ease.

36′ – A shot from Mo Samb goes above the press area. If I was outside on the balcony I’d may have gotten a GBT (game ball touch)

32′ – First hydration break of the game. Whistle blown because Skylar Thomas made a foul. Game started off in the high 80’s but it’s gradually cooling down.

26′ – Cross in for STL but Vancaeyezeele heads it out.

24′ – Mensah takes a shot but its blocked. Hounds are starting to have a little more fun and freedom near the box.

22′ – Mertz with an identical play as the goal. Plays it out wide to Griffin, he crosses it in but Morton is there to pick it up.

16′ – GOAL MENSAH!!! Robbie Mertz attacks the box and dishes it out wide to Dos Santos. Dos Santos then plays in a pass that is touched by a few players in the box but Mensah taps it in on the goal line. 1-0 RIVERHOUNDS

13′ – High press for the Hounds. Defense starts with their forwards.

By the way I’ve seen about 15 lightning strikes from the east side of the stadium. Not sure if the referee’s have seen but play is moving on.

10′ – Cornerkick for STL and they earn another cornerkick. This time its out for a throw but still STL’s ball. Forbes makes a backwards kick and clears it out to Mensah.

8′ – Dos Santos with a foul in STL half. Physical as always. He’s playing more in the midfield today, Mensah is up high.

5′ – Free kick near the sideline for the Riverhounds. About 35 out. Forbes taking it as always. It’s a great cross from Forbes but the STL goalkeeper Kyle Morton gets a punch on it and clears it out.

3′ – Lee gets crushed into the seating area near the river. Seems to be okay.

2′ – Dover with a foul in the offensive end

1′ – And we are off! This is the last game of the regular season the Riverhounds will play an opponent outside of their Group F division.

Pregame – Ryan James gets a well deserved rest. Up until this point he played every minute for the Riverhounds first 8 games.

Look for lineups to be posted here at approximately 6:30 p.m.

MATCH NOTES 

Last time out, the Hounds defeated Loudoun United, 2-0, this past Wednesday at Segra Field. Saint Louis also gained three points in its last match, beating Sporting Kansas City II, 3-1, this past Saturday at West Community Stadium.

This will be the only time these teams meet this season. Last season, the Hounds tied Saint Louis at Highmark Stadium, 0-0. In their match at Toyota Stadium, the Hounds used a late goal (88’) from Steevan Dos Santos to secure three points on the road.

The Hounds will potentially be lining up against two familiar faces Tobi Adewole and Kyle Morton.

In this mad scramble, shortened season, both Morton and Adewole have featured for Saint Louis. Morton has ascended into the primary starting goalkeeper role, with 26 saves and two clean sheets in five starts thus far. Adewole has started four matches at center back.

“I think anytime you’ve gotten on with guys on the other team, there’s that extra little bit of wanting to beat them,” Hounds assistant coach Dan Visser said. “Wal Fall is another one a lot of guys are familiar with. We expect to see him starting in the midfield and he’s a very talented player. There are some focal points of the attack that we haven’t played with or against.”

PITTSBURGH SOCCER NOW COVERAGE THIS WEEK 

Mark Goodman’s Match Preview & Scouting Report on Saint Louis FC

Takeaways/Grades: Hounds score early, grind their way to ho-hum win vs Loudoun

Bob Lilley Press Conference: Week 7 vs. Loudoun, Saint Louis

VISSER SPEAKS

Hounds fourth-year assistant coach Dan Visser spoke with media on Friday …

On how the preparation differs between MLS development opponents and independent foes:

“I don’t know how much the prep changes. I do know the games are different. Particularly in some of the MLS ‘2’ teams we’ve faced, teams that really want to play pretty direct with a lot of pace up top and can hurt you really quickly. Some of that is the energy of the young group and some of that is stylistic with how New York wants to play. Loudoun looked to play pretty direct pretty early. The two goals we get we probably don’t get against more experienced back lines. We’ll have to get more dynamic movement in the box, because you might not get those breaks against a team like Saint Louis.”

On what’s improved over the course of eight matches and what hasn’t:

“Right away, from Louisville, it was important to increase the pressure up front. We’ve been able to recognize that we need to do that. I don’t think we’ve gotten a ton better at that, but what we saw early was Ropapa (Mensah) pressing. The ability of our back line to read moments and cover each other has improved. The one thing we want is to keep possession and that’s been a challenge. At Indy, we got a lot of possession without generating chances, so that’s a little different. The Loudoun game, we needed to do a better job to kill the game. It was a nervier game, as open as it was. The players need to do a better job on the ball, but it’s also on players (off the ball) being available. You’ll see sometimes our wingbacks are playing too direct, but you look back and you see what options you have.”

On whether the past two matches taught the team anything about playing with an extra man:

“They are completely different because of the scoreline. If we need a goal and we’re up a man, we’ve talked about ways to unlock the back lines, because they don’t care if you have the ball. Take some risk, take some chances in those moments. Against Loudoun we don’t necessarily train for that (situation), but we’ll train to keep the ball with a neutral player, so it’s not a foreign concept. It should be easier than playing a full 10 against 10. I was impressed with the fight that Loudoun put out. That was a high-energy game.”

On the approach to Saint Louis FC, both in terms of personnel and tactics:

“A big thing is managing the game. I think we’ve got a good plan. We were able to rest some guys in terms of playing the full 90. A lot of guys have taken a lot of minutes this year. It’s a bit of a gamble when you have that much rotation. We’re going to go back to a little bit less rotation (Saturday). It’s going to be about managing and picking moments to press and not to press. I don’t know that Saint Louis wants to turn it into a track meet. They might be happy letting us hold onto it a bit.”

On being familiar with Tobi Adewole, Kyle Morton and others on Saint Louis:

“I think anytime you’ve gotten on with guys on the other team, there’s that extra little bit of wanting to beat them. Wal Fall is another one a lot of guys are familiar with. We expect to see him starting in the midfield and he’s a very talented player. There are some focal points of the attack that we haven’t played with or against.”

On what Patrick Bunk-Anderson and Mark Lindstrom can add to the back line, now that they’re active:

“Right now Bunk-Anderson is just getting back with us, but he did get a preseason with us. We don’t know where he’s at in terms of fitness. Lindstrom, it’s been trial by fire and throwing him into the deep end. He’s responded well so far and we hope he can continue to show growth. Obviously he’s got good size, but he’s got some athleticism. Hopefully he can continue to progress. Some additional depth to cover some injuries and hopefully rest some guys on a busy week.”

On how he feels the team has adapted to the revamped roster:

“I think some of the story coming into the season was losing some big pieces, but at the same time we held onto some really big pieces. The leadership is similar in a lot of ways to last season. Forbes, James, Dover, Vancaeyezeele, and now Mertz stepping up with some leadership as a young player, but I don’t know if we see him as a young player anymore.”

On how the game is different at Highmark Stadium compared to most road matches:

“This surface does still feel a bit faster than others that we play on. Loudoun is one of the slowest and softest. It’s a little smaller — 110 by 70 (yards) — others are five yards wider and 10 yards longer. It allows us to press a little bit more, because there’s less ground to cover. Just being at home, obviously this year is kinda different, but we feed off it and want to protect Highmark. We want to protect it and get in the other team’s face. All of that contributes to things we can do at home that we have to think about on the road in terms of the thought process.”

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