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Pittsburgh Riverhounds

FINAL: Hartford Athletic 1, Riverhounds SC 0

Photo by Mallory Neil c/o Riverhounds SC

FINAL: Hartford Athletic 1, Riverhounds SC 0

Despite generally manhandling all opponents this year, it turns out that the Riverhounds are not, in fact, invincible.

Pittsburgh had the majority of possession all match and outshot Hartford 13 to 3, and even played up a man for the final 29 minutes of the match, but it was Hartford Athletic who go home with all three points and a 1-0 victory.

The Riverhounds had full control of the ball for most of the first half, and produced multiple good chances at the net, including great right-sided shots from both Robbie Mertz and Jordan Dover that sailed wide. But all the possession and the chances did not amount to a goal for the home team through the first third of the match.

Not long before the second half, a sudden turnover in the Hounds end off a throw-in was scooped up by Justin Haak. He looped a big diagonal ball to Ever Guzman, who slotted it past Danny Vitiello at the back post to make it 1-0. Pittsburgh tried to find a response over the final minutes but weren’t able to find their way past Hartford’s defense.

The second half started with Hartford deeply bunkered and committed to letting the Hounds have the ball. Pittsburgh moved the ball around the back and down the sides over and over again, but the center of the pitch was locked down tight by Hartford’s central midfielders, Justin Haak, Danny Barrera, and Idan Cohen. Hartford forced the Riverhounds midfielders to run to get into open spaces, but with little room to play in, the tiniest error in threading the needle or receiving the ball resulted in a turnover or a labyrinth of defenders between the ball and the goal.

Midway through the second half, a game-changing opportunity presented itself to Pittsburgh as Parfait Mandanda and Steevan Dos Santos collided, then got into a shoving match, resulting in the Hartford goalkeeper being sent off with a red card from referee Joshua Encarnación. Hartford would pull off striker Alex Dixon and bring on backup keeper Mike Novotny, who up until tonight had yet to play a single minute of professional soccer in his two seasons with Hartford.

Hartford stayed compact and deep, kept dumping the ball back to midfield on goalkeeper restarts, and hung on for dear life to earn the surprising 1-0 win. I say ‘surprising’ because Athletic were soundly defeated in the Hounds previous meetings with them this season by scores of 3-0 and 5-0.

Not surprising, however, was coach Bob Lilley’s post-game reaction to the loss. “I don’t know what was missing tonight but this certainly wasn’t a team that fought hard enough on the night.” Lilley wasn’t quite sure what exactly didn’t translate from training, which he described as good, to the game, but certainly the desire and aggressivity just wasn’t quite up to snuff on the night.

“Our speed of play was slow tonight. I don’t think we were sharp enough, and we were far too tentative when we had chances.”

Lilley specifically had concerns that the team’s set pieces that lacked creativity or effort. “Our guys were static in the box.”

He was certain, though, that he and Assistant coaches Dan Visser and Mike Behonick could get it sorted out before the playoffs. “As a staff, we’ll try to figure out what we could do differently.”

Robbie Mertz was also reflective of how to get the team flowing before the playoffs. Mertz said “I don’t think its a matter of peaking at any given time. I think it’s just game by game.” Mertz also thought the loss could help focus the team going forward. “Sometimes a loss can help a team, in terms of their mentality.”

The Hounds will definitely be scratching their heads at how this match slipped from their grasp. The loss was the second defeat of the year against a team playing with 10 men. The Hounds had 13 shots, but put just 1 on target for an atrocious shooting percent of 7.7% – and 10 of those shots came from inside the box.

The Hounds loss tonight opens the door for Hartford to go atop the group. Pittsburgh remain in the lead by 2 points, but Hartford have a game in hand. Despite dominating the East this season, it is down to the final two weeks for the Hounds to lock up a much-coveted first-round home-game.

Postgame Press Conference with Bob Lilley and Robbie Mertz

 

Minute to Minute Match Summary

FT – Hounds lose a nail biter, losing 1-0 against 10 men for the second time.

90 +5 – Hounds corner headed right to the front of the box, headed back from whence it came, a shot from Dikwa – wide, and it’s another GK kick.

90 +4 Velarde gets a free and whips it to the back post – HFD clears.

90′ To this point, the Riverhounds have had an astounding 73% of the possession. That’s… that’s nuts.

89′ Hounds get a shot, but its blocked aside. On the ensuing corner kick, the header goes wide again.

86′ Goal Hounds! … Flag was up. 😞

85′ Mark Forrest on,

83′ Hounds get fouled and have a free kick, Dos Santos is back post for a header but it glances well wide.

73′ SUBSTITUTION, HFD. GK Mike Novotny comes on for Forward Alex Dixon in what is his professional debut. Novotny has played zero minutes this season, zero minutes in 2019.

71′ – RED CARD, HFD. Parfait Mandanda claims a ball at the feet of Steevan Dos Santos and in the act, knocks down the Riverhound forward. Dos Santos gets up and jaws at Mandanda – bumping, words exchanged. The Steel Army lets out a howl as hands come up, and referee Joshua Encarnacion goes to the back pocket for a red card!

67′ – SUBSTITUTION, PIT. Kenardo Forbes on, back from injury, Bunk-Anderson off.

60′- SUBSTITUTION, HFD. Alex Lara, Arthur Rogers come on, Politz and Mecias come off.

59′ Hartford’s defending has been very tenacious and aggressive. Pressing and jumping passing lanes well.

57′ Danny Vitiello with an important claim on a Hartford corner kick.

52′ SUBSTITUTION, PGH. , Anthony Velarde and Albert Dikwa come on Ropapa Mensah and Ray Lee are off.

51′ Robbie Mertz with a ball into the box – from the left side, and Ropapa Mensah‘s header at the front post blast into the Paul Child Stand.

46’ – SUBSTITUTION, PGH. Dani Rovira comes on for Jordan Dover.

 

HT – And the Hounds go into the locker room down 1-0 at the half. This would be only the second time all season they’ve been behind after 45 minutes – the last time was against Indy Eleven at Lucas Oil Stadium on August 15. They lost that game. Will it be any different here at home?

45 +3′ – Hounds with a corner – headed clear, reset and passed into Robbie Mertz for another bite at the apple. Cleared again by Hartford.

They’ve been solid in the box tonight.

45′ – Robbie is fouled on a dribble-drive 35 yards out even with the 18-yard box line. His free kick strikes the wall and skips out

44′ – Mensah, Mertz, and Dos Santos on a three-pronged breaking attack. From the left Ropapa slips a ball into the box, but Mertz is bumped down and Dos Santos can’t latch on backpost.

42′ – Hounds get a nice cross onto goal from Jordan Dover, but Mandanda tips it away. Ropapa rockette-kicks it over head and right to the six-yard box where Steevan Dos Santos and Justin Haak bang heads. Ref gives Hartford the ball on the foul.

36′ – GOAL, HARTFORD. Hounds have a throw in, but it’s quickly turned over. Hartford’s winger flips the ball up over, Bunk-Anderson can’t reach it, and Ever Guzman takes it alone on the right side against Vitiello, scoring on a low shot to the far post! Hounds trail 1-0.

33′ – Hydration break.

30′ – Ever Guzman takes the PK right down the middle. Hounds GK Danny Vitiello dives to his left, but his foot is dragging behind – the ball ricochets up and away, and the save is made! Still Nil-nil in the ‘Burgh.

28′ – Everything was going so well and then Tyreke Johnson gets past his man and gets bumped inside the box. Ref points to the spot and we have a PK.

25’ – I’m not sure how Jordan Dover worked his way all the way upfield and free to be the highest man, but he did it. He takes a shot from the top of the 18 yard box – just wide of the post and a diving Parfait Mandanda.

21′ – Hounds with a lotta possession, but final ball into the box keeps getting cleared, reset, recycled to the back and then to the opposite wing.

I wasn’t paying super close attention though because I brought some guac and chips and I’m diggin’ in.

13′ – Tyreke Johnson with a late slide tackle that gets Dos Santos in the leg, and it’s a foul in an advanced spot for the Hounds – 40 yards from goal down the right wing. Mertz takes the free into the box, but the Athletics slap it away.

9′ – Mertz breaks down the right wing, rolls the ball laterally inside and fires for the far corner, but high and wide as the Hounds get their first good look.

6′ – Hounds have a sustained attack for last 2 minutes in Hartford’s end.

5′ – Both teams launching long balls from the keeper; both seeking a risk-averse opening.

1′ – We are underway.

Starting XI

Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC

Danny Vitiello; Patrick Bunk-Anderson, Thomas Vancaeyezeele, Skylar Thomas; Ray Lee, Danny Griffin, Ryan James, Robbie Mertz, Jordan Dover; Steevan Dos Santos, Ropapa Mensah

 

Hartford Athletic

Parfait Mandanda; Matheus Silva, Kevin Politz, Sam Strong; Justin Haak, Aiden Mesias, Danny Barrera, Idan Cohen, Tyreke Johnson; Ever Guzman, Alex Dixon

Pre-game Coverage from PSN

Match Information

Date: Saturday, Sept. 26
Time: 7 p.m.
Location: Highmark Stadium in Pittsburgh, PA
Television: 22 The Point
Streaming: ESPN+
Live Statistics:  USL Championship Match Center
Live Updates: Online at pittsburghsoccernow.com; Twitter at  @RiverhoundsSC and #PITvHFD

Video: 1-v-1 with Riverhounds SC forward Steevan Dos Santos

Bob Lilley’s Press Conference: Week 12 Hartford Athletic

Final: Riverhounds SC 5, Hartford Athletic 0

FINAL: Riverhounds SC 3, Hartford Athletic 0

Match Notes

  • The Hounds are in first in Group F with a 10W-3L-1T record, on 31 points. Hartford are in second in the group with an 8W-3L-2T and 26 points.
  • Both the Riverhounds and Hartford Athletic have clinched a playoff spot as the top two teams in the group.
  • The Riverhounds defeated Hartford twice already this season: a 3-0 win on August 28th in Hartford, and a 5-0 pounding on September 12 here in Pittsburgh.
  • With a win over Hartford, Pittsburgh would clinch the top spot in the group for the playoffs, guaranteeing them a first-round match in the playoffs against a USL East team that finishes second in their group.
  • The current leaders in Groups E, G, and H are Louisville, Birmingham, and Tampa Bay. The second- place teams are Indianapolis, Charlotte, and Charleston. The only third-place team still in contention for a playoff spot in the East is Saint Louis, on 22 points in Group E.
  • The Riverhounds lead the USL Championship in Goals Against (7) and Goal Differential (+29). They are third in the league in Goals For (37). Reno and Phoenix lead all USL teams with 38 goals scored.
  • This year, the Hounds are on a club-record pace with 2.64 goals scored per game. The club’s benchmark for a single season is 2.40 goals scored per game in 2004

 

 

Mark Asher Goodman is a writer for Pittsburgh Soccer Now, covering the Riverhounds, the Pitt Men's and Women's teams, and youth soccer. He also co-hosts a podcast on the Colorado Rapids called 'Holding the High Line with Rabbi and Red.' He has written in the past for the Washington Post, Denver Post, The Athletic, and American Soccer Analysis. When he's not reading, writing, watching, or coaching soccer, he is an actual rabbi. No, really. You can find him on twitter at @soccer_rabbi

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