The Pittsburgh Hotspurs picked up where they left off from the last time they were in Erie, beginning their 2021 NPSL campaign with a 1-0 win against the Erie Commodores at McConnell Family Stadium.
Leading the way for the Hotspurs were Bryan Akongo with the game’s lone goal and Ethan Hackenberg, who had the assist. In goal, former Springdale and current Robert Morris University keeper, Mike Zolniercyzk, earned his first clean sheet for the club.
HOW IT HAPPENED
(from Erie Commodores / NPSL report)
Right from kickoff, the Commodores saw much of the action on their side of the field.
An early corner kick in the second minute came from the Hotspurs and was deflected away by Commodores goalkeeper Maximiliano Rocco. The ball fell right before a Hotspurs player where a goal was almost scored, but the ball went just wide of the net. Noah Chia gave the Commodores their first shot on goal with a cross from the left sideline, but Hotspurs goalkeeper Mike Zolniercyzk was able to make the save. Just after the fourth minute, Pittsburgh was given another opportunity to take the lead with a corner from Ethan Hackenberg but the shot was saved by Rocco.
The Commodores began to put a little more pressure on the Hotspurs in the eighth minute, but it wasn’t enough to score. Erie’s Malvin Gblah crossed the ball in towards the Pittsburgh goal but was knocked away by the Hotspurs defense. Chia was able to gain slight control of the ball after Pittsburgh’s deflection, but it ended with a diving save from Zolniercyzk. A yellow card in the 16th minute to the Commodores’ Hugo Le Guennec gave the Hotspurs yet another chance but the kick was an easy save for Rocco. Erie’s first corner came in the 21st minute of the game from Chia, but was headed away by Pittsburgh.
Erie’s team saw another yellow to O’Donnell, but the kick from Pittsburgh was deflected by Austin Solomon before they could make their way to the Erie goal. Rocco made another great save after Pittsburgh’s Tate Mahoney crossed the ball in from the right sideline, Rocco tipping the ball just over the net. Towards the end of the first half, possession of the ball was held in the middle of the field for most of the time by both teams. The half ended 0-0.
Early in the second half, Bryan Akongo scored after receiving a ball from Ethan Hackenberg.
— Hotspurs Homegrown Supporters (@PHhomegrownsc) May 30, 2021
Erie’s third yellow card of the game was given to Adam O’Sullivan in the 54th minute. The Commodores knew they needed to get more pressure on the ball if they wanted to equalize, and that almost came in the 56th minute but the ball grazed just the top of the net. After the Commodores regained control a few minutes later, Knox had his shot which was deflected by the Pittsburgh defense. His second came in the 71st, where it drifted just slightly wide right of the net.
The Commodores, feeling the pressure to score, kept the ball in good possession but could not convert as the game ended as a 1-0 win for the Hotspurs.
Akongo’s goal would hold up, as the Hotspurs earned their first win in league play against Erie, after falling to the Commodores twice in their inaugural season in 2019. In 2020, Pittsburgh earned its first victory against Erie when they captured the NPSL Members Cup with a 3-0 win.
In the starting lineup for the Hotspurs in Saturday night’s win included
Mike Zolniercyzk (GK – Robert Morris), Nolan Hutter (Dayton), Giuseppe Croce (Duquesne), Mikel Ubeda (West Liberty), Marc Alexander (formerly Akron), Josh Gaspari (formerly Pitt), Austin Rocke (Marshall), Cole DeVaul (Arsenal), Tate Mohney (Elizabethtown), Brian Akongo (Robert Morris University) and Ethan Hackenburg (Coastal Carolina). Hotspurs subs included: Lucas Godinho (Point Park), Danny Reid (Allegheny), Gabe Norris (Hotspurs/Robert Morris commit), Nick Graeca (Hotspurs) and Thierno Doucoure (Ohio Valley).
With an opening night win, the Hotspurs get a leg up in the Rust Belt Division standings in the NPSL, while the Commodores drop to 0-1-0.
The Hotspurs will now prepare for a busy weekend ahead when the travel to Northeast Ohio to take on Cleveland FC at Baldwin-Wallace University on Friday (7 p.m.) then come back for its home opener on Sunday, June 6 against Syracuse FC (2 p.m. at Founders Field, Indianola, PA).