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Pittsburgh Riverhounds

Final: Riverhounds SC 5, Hartford Athletic 0

Final: Riverhounds SC 5, Hartford Athletic 0

Pittsburgh Riverhounds 5, Hartford Athletic 0

Live Statistics: USL Championship Match Center | Box Score 

MATCH SUMMARY  

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 

Lineups:

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

Scoring Summary:
PIT – Ryan James 13′
PIT – Ropapa Mensah 27′
PIT – Anthony Velarde 42′ (penalty)
PIT – Ryan James 47′
PIT – Ropapa Mensah 61′ (Robbie Mertz)

Misconduct Summary:
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. 

GAMEDAY UPDATES

HOUNDS WIN — Pittsburgh dominates from start to finish and walks away in clear control of Group F.

64′ – Couple of subs for Pittsburgh

IN – Mark Lindstrom & Albert Dikwa
OUT – Anthony Velarde & Skylar Thomas

60′ – GOAL – RIVERHOUNDS 5-0

Ropapa Mensah!

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.

 

HALF

Complete and utter dominance from the Hounds.

key stats:
 
Shots: PIT 8-0 (3-0 on target)
Possession: PIT 68/32
Passes: PIT 355-171
Passing %: PIT 86%-66%
Crosses: PIT 14-0

41′ – GOAL – RIVERHOUNDS – 3-0

Velarde converts!

 

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

Ropapa Mensah cleans up well!
Miscommunication between Hartford’s GK and defender Kevin Politz after long ball to box — and Hounds forward wins the loose ball and puts it in.

12′ – GOAL – RIVERHOUNDS – 1-0

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.

Lineup observations:

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.

 

MATCH NOTES 

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

Pos. P W L T GD Pts Form
1
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC 12 8 3 1 23 25
WDWWW
2
Hartford Athletic
Hartford Athletic 9 6 2 1 3 19
WWDLW
3
New York Red Bulls II
New York Red Bulls II 11 4 7 0 1 12
LLWLW
4
Loudoun United FC
Loudoun United FC 10 1 7 2 -13 5
LDLLL
5
Philadelphia Union II
Philadelphia Union II 9 1 7 1 -23 4
LWLLL

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

Young guns: Core of first-and-second year pros pick up the slack for Hounds

Vitiello to start third consecutive match in Saturday showdown with Hartford

Bob Lilley Press Conference: Week 10 vs. Hartford Athletic

Riverhounds SC’s Robbie Mertz earns spot on USL Championship Team of the Week; Danny Vitiello also recognized

 

John Krysinsky has covered soccer and other sports for many years for various publications and media outlets. He is also author of 'Miracle on the Mon' -- a book about the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, which chronicles the club, particularly the early years of Highmark Stadium with the narrative leading up to and centered around a remarkable match that helped provide a spark for the franchise. John has covered sports for Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, DK Pittsburgh Sports, Pittsburgh Sports Report, has served as color commentator on Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC broadcasts, and worked with OPTA Stats and broadcast teams for US Open Cup and International Champions Cup matches held in the US. Krysinsky also served as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach at his alma mater, Point Park University, where he led the Pioneers to the first-ever winning seasons and playoff berths (1996-98); head coach of North Catholic boys (2007-08), associate head coach of Shady Side Academy boys (2009-2014).

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