USL Championship Eastern Conference Interdivisional Match
FINAL: Riverhounds SC 1, Indy Eleven 0
Indianapolis — The way the Riverhounds got over the finish line wasn’t ideal, but on this night in Indianapolis, the destination was far more important than the journey.
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC went down to 10 men in the 62nd minute after an ill-advised challenge from Jelani Peters, but the defense did enough to make sure that Tommy Williamson’s 36th minute-free kick would stand up, claiming a 1-0 win over Indy Eleven on Tuesday night at Carroll Stadium, its first-ever win in Indianapolis and its third straight win on the road.
“We did a lot of good things, and I think it’s always going to be hard here, whether they had 10 or 11,” Riverhounds coach Bob Lilley said. “They’re going to push at the end of the game, and I’m proud of our guys for winning the first and second balls and grinding. We were grinding and fighting for our lives, and fortunately, we were able to get it over the line.”
The Hounds (3-3-2, 11 points, 3rd place Atlantic) got over the line because the defense willed it, ensuring that Indy Eleven (3-4-1, 10 points, 4th place Central) seldom got anywhere close to establishing a credible threat at the Pittsburgh goal. On the few occasions where Eleven did attack, the Hounds made sure that the ball either went harmlessly beyond the line or to Jake Leeker’s arms, negating any advantage Indy should have had with the extra man.
The closest Indy got to making a real threat at the goal after Peters was sent off came in the 85th minute, but an offside flag against Manuel Arteaga saved the day for Pittsburgh and Eleven never really cobbled together another serious attack against a determined Hounds defense.
“We were organized, and our willingness to fight and communicate with each other was big,” said Pittsburgh captain Danny Griffin, who picked up one of six yellow cards during the match but stayed on for the entire 90 nonetheless. “We changed the formation a bit, but the tactics stayed the same. We probably could have kept the ball a little more and kept them chasing it, but we’re happy to get the three points on the road.”
The Hounds were in position to get the three points despite Peters’ red card because of a bit of vision from Williamson, who got his chance in the 36th minute when A.J. Cochran committed a foul just on the edge of the box. When Williamson stepped up to take the kick, he saw just a small bit of space between two defenders inside Eleven’s wall and decided to take his chances with it.
The strike proved perfect, as the ball caromed off two Eleven defenders and bounced into the net, leaving Indy keeper Jordan Farr with no chance at a save.
“I got a little bit lucky with it,” Williamson admitted. “The wall was pretty tall and I was pretty close to the goal, so I didn’t think I could bend it over. I tried to hit it backpost and found that little gap between the wall and the rest of their players.”
The Hounds certainly deserved their halftime lead, but it could easily have been a level match if not for a free kick from Gordon Wild going a few inches in the wrong direction. Griffin’s yellow card in the 26th minute was nearly devastating for the Hounds because it gave Wild a chance at the edge of the box, almost as close to the goal as Williamson’s strike was.
However, the former L.A. Galaxy man rang the post and the Hounds were able to clear the ball. Eleven never really threatened again until well after Pittsburgh had been reduced to 10 men, often making things a bit easier on the Hounds by making long runs at the goal instead of trying to work through the Hounds’ defense.
“This was two very capable teams trying to find themselves,” Lilley said. “The soccer wasn’t great, but I think there was a lot of intensity in the game, and there generally is when we play Indy.
“I think we were ready for a really tough game, and we started the game well. When you get a goal, it gives your team a lot of confidence.”
For the Hounds, it appears playing on the road also gives them plenty of confidence. Pittsburgh continues to struggle at Highmark Stadium, but the Hounds have now taken 10 points of a possible 15 from five road matches and scored eight of their nine goals this year away from home.
The Hounds might be hard-pressed to replicate that against the Tampa Bay Rowdies, as they face another rested team while they deal with fixture congestion. However, they’re confident that they can keep finding success away from home.
“We know any (road) opportunity is a chance to get three on the road, and that’s what we’re looking for,” Griffin said. “We go on the road (Saturday) against Tampa, and we’re confident that we can go in there and get a win. We want to get maximum points every game and keep climbing up the standings.