Pittsburgh Riverhounds 5, Hartford Athletic 0
The Pittsburgh Riverhounds made it emphatically clear with its complete and utter dominance in its 5-0 win against Hartford Athletic at Highmark Stadium on Saturday evening that they are the top dogs in the USL Championship’s Group F for this shortened 2020 season.
Ryan James and Ropapa Mensah each scored a pair of goals, Anthony Velarde converted a penalty kick and Danny Vitiello earned his fourth shutout of the season as the Hounds extended its current shut out streak to 393 minutes.
With the win, Pittsburgh (9-3-1, 28 points) also clinched a playoff spot for the third consecutive season under the helm of Bob Lilley, pulling nine points clear of Hartford in Group F.
“I think this was a good win for us, especially because we clinched a playoff spot. I thought we played pretty well defensively and limited their chances overall.”ounds began its domination from the outset, as they held 69 percent possession by patiently working the ball with short passes from sideline-to-sideline.
In the 12th minute, their patience paid off when they set-up a pair of corner kick attempts.
On the second of the set pieces, a loose ball bounced toward James, who’s been wearing the captain’s armband in the absence of All-USL Championship midfielder Kenardo Forbes.
James didn’t hesitate to smash a one-time shot into the back of the net.
The Hounds doubled the lead in the 27th minute when Ropapa Mensah took advantage of a Hartford miscommunication between goalkeeper Parfait Mandanda and defender Kevin Politz. With Hartford unable to secure possession, Mensah pounced on the loose ball, and poked the ball through for the 2-0 lead.
Staying on the attack, Pittsburgh worked the ball deep into the box in the 40th minute when Anthony Velarde took a touch, then was tripped up after a hard collision with a pair of Hartford defenders.
For his effort, Velarde earned the opportunity to take the penalty kick, which he buried with a left-footed shot that was perfectly placed inside the right post.
At the half, holding a 3-0 lead, Pittsburgh was in complete control of the match, owning every key statistical category by significant margins including shots (8-0, 3-0 on target), crosses (14-0) and possession (68%/32% edge).
The Hounds didn’t let up as the second half began, again making the most of things with continued high pressure.
James took advantage of Hartford’s ill-advised effort to clear the ball, with a clever shot that beat Mandanda who was out of position. Mensah capped the scoring by getting his brace thanks to a nice ball from midfielder Robbie Mertz. The forward from Ghana scored his now team-leading sixth goal of the season by taking a few nifty touches to get around Mandanda, then passed the ball into the back of the goal.
The Hounds completed a season-high 625 passes, as they controlled the match throughout, as they finished with a 60% possession edge, and allowing only one Hartford shot attempt that didn’t come close to being on frame.
“I’m happy we won and that we clinched a playoff spot. But we aren’t done yet,” Lilley said. “Hartford is a team we’re going to see again in a few weeks, and maybe even in the playoffs. We still want to finish off the regular season strong and earn home playoff matches.”
The Hounds will play Loudoun United FC next Saturday in its last road match of the regular season.
“I think this year’s team has a chance to go far. We’ve gotten better and better as the season has gone along and we’ve learned a lot of hard lessons along the way,” Lilley said. “I feel like we’ve improved a lot in managing games.”
Bob Lilley Postgame Press Conference
Riverhounds SC – Danny Vitiello; Ray Lee, Patrick Bunk-Andersen, Thomas Vancaeyezeele, Skylar Thomas (Mark Lindstrom 64′), Jordan Dover; Ryan James (Lukas Fernandes 86′), Danny Griffin, Robbie Mertz (Dani Rovira 78′); Anthony Velarde (Albert Dikwa 64′), Ropapa Mensah (Mark Forrest 86′)
Subs not used: Tomas Gomez, Hunter Ashworth
Hartford Athletic – Parfait Mandanda; Gabriel Torres, Matheus Silva, Kevin Politz (Alex Dixon 45’+1), Sam Strong (Nicky Downs 45′), Alejandro Lara; Tyreke Johnson (Idan Cohen 64′), Arthur Rogers, Justin Haak, Danny Barrera (Aiden Mesias 64′); Ever Guzmán (Markus Naglestad 75′)
Subs not used: Michael Novotny, Mads Jorgensen
PIT – Ryan James 13′
PIT – Ropapa Mensah 27′
PIT – Anthony Velarde 42′ (penalty)
PIT – Ryan James 47′
PIT – Ropapa Mensah 61′ (Robbie Mertz)
HFD – Sam Strong 39′ (caution)
HFD – Gabriel Torres 81′ (caution)
HFD – Markus Naglestad 82′ (caution)
HFD – Justin Haak 83′ (caution)
We’ll be updating this blog with more updates and post-game reaction from Highmark Stadium later in the evening.
— USL Championship (@USLChampionship) September 13, 2020
Great performance from the whole team tonight!🙌🏼🙌🏼 https://t.co/To9I1QWcgM
— Danny Vitiello (@dannyvitiello_) September 13, 2020
HOUNDS WIN — Pittsburgh dominates from start to finish and walks away in clear control of Group F.
64′ – Couple of subs for Pittsburgh
60′ – GOAL – RIVERHOUNDS 5-0
After nice through ball from Robbie Mertz, Mensah slices and dices around Hartford keeper Parfait Mandana for his second goal of the evening.
Hounds currently riding a shutout streak that has now reached more than 350 minutes.
47′ – GOAL – RIVERHOUNDS 4-0
Ryan James again! This time he takes advantage of another Hartford defensive mishap to give the Hounds a four goal lead at the start of the second half.
— Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (@RiverhoundsSC) September 13, 2020
Complete and utter dominance from the Hounds.
41′ – GOAL – RIVERHOUNDS – 3-0
— John Krysinsky (@JohnKrysinsky) September 12, 2020
40′ – PENALTY
Velarde tripped up in box. Hounds to get a PK opportunity.
31′ – At hydration break, the Hounds own a whopping 69-31% possession edge.
27′ – GOAL – RIVERHOUNDS – 2-0
— USL Championship (@USLChampionship) September 12, 2020
12′ – GOAL – RIVERHOUNDS – 1-0
— Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (@RiverhoundsSC) September 12, 2020
On second corner attempt in less than 30 seconds — Ryan James volleys it (again) off a short bounce and it gets through. Might have been a deflection. 13′
First five minutes. Lots of Hounds possession — working it side-to-side.
Couple Hounds lineup observations:
- Steevan Dos Santos absent from the 18
- First start for Patrick Bunk-Andersen
- Ryan James (wearing captain’s armband, almost a sure bet to sit deep in central midfield.
— Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (@RiverhoundsSC) September 12, 2020
— Hartford Athletic (@hfdathletic) September 12, 2020
— 22 The Point (@22ThePoint) September 12, 2020
With a win this Saturday against Hartford, Pittsburgh can clinch playoff berth. This scenario was made possible after New York Red Bulls II defeated Philadelphia Union II on Wednesday. If the Hounds were to defeat Hartford, it would mark the third straight season the club would advance to the USL Championship playoffs.
This will be the second match between these two clubs this season. They first met on Aug. 28 at Dillon Stadium, and the Hounds began their current three-game clean sheet streak with a 3-0 victory. With a tally in the 11th and 50th minutes, Ryan James recorded his first career multi-goal game. Danny Griffin added his second goal of the year in the 22nd minute. With this result, the Hounds gave Hartford its first and only shutout of the season thus far.
In the Hounds’ last matchup, they beat Red Bulls II, 3-0, on Sept. 5 at Red Bull Arena. All three of these goals were scored by different players. Ropapa Mensah started the scoring with a chip over the goalkeeper in the closing minutes of the first half. The second goal came from an own goal, and Robbie Mertz put the finishing touches on the game with a goal in the 58th minute.
Hartford Athletic will also have a week between games. Their last result was a 2-1 victory against Loudoun United FC, improving their home record to 5-1-1. This Saturday will only be Hartford’s third away game of the season, and its record on the road sits at 1-1-0.
GROUP F STANDINGS
||Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC||12||8||3||1||23||25||
||New York Red Bulls II||11||4||7||0||1||12||
||Loudoun United FC||10||1||7||2||-13||5||
||Philadelphia Union II||9||1||7||1||-23||4||
After an undefeated week, two Hounds were named to USL Championship Team of the Week. Mertz was named to the team for a goal and four key passes in the Hounds’ last two games. Goalkeeper Danny Vitiello was named to the Team of the Week bench after two clean sheets against Loudoun and New York. So far this season, Vitiello leads the club with a 0.50 goals-against average and .833 save percentage.
PSN RIVERHOUNDS COVERAGE THIS WEEK