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Final: Riverhounds SC 4, Atlanta United 1

Photo courtesy Ed Thompson

Final: Riverhounds SC 4, Atlanta United 1

USL Championship – Eastern Conference

FINAL: Riverhounds SC 4, Atlanta Utd2 1

Box Score/Game Stats: USL Championship Match Center

Summary

The Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC cruised to a 4-1 victory against Atlanta United 2, led by Russell Cicerone’s hat trick which spoiled what also was a homecoming match for Upper St. Clair native Robbie Mertz on Sunday evening at Highmark Stadium.

Cicerone scored twice in the first half, then added another in the 67th minute, while Tommy Williamson also added another first half tally, as the Hounds (11-6-4) took command of the match despite a fast-paced tempo with Atlanta (now 6-8-7) dominating possession stats and matching chances.

Things didn’t start out very well for Cicerone, after he was fouled in the box in the 2nd minute, he missed on his penalty kick opportunity, as his shot attempt headed to the left side was saved by a diving Rocco Rios Novo.

Only a minute later, Cicerone took advantage of room on the left side, beating his man after a ball played in from Alex Dixon.

Atlanta responded quickly to level the match when Darwin Matheus took advantage of a nice pass from Aiden McFadden by volleying home a shot off the bounce to level the match at 1-1.

In the 26th minute, Danny Griffin picked up the trash off the corner, playing a high ball into the corner onto the feet of Forbes and the veteran smashes a low cross to Tommy Williamson for his 4th of the season. It was Forbes’ fifth assist of the season.

In the 30th minute, Cicerone found himself in a one-on-one situation with former Pitt standout Bryce Washington after a well-placed direct ball in from Danny Griffin.

With a few nifty moves, delivered his second goal of the night.

In the second half, Dixon found his way to a ball to beat an Atlanta defender in space on the edge of the final third.  Pushing his way to the right side, Dixon laid a pass to the near post area — and it was Cicerone who was there to bang home his third goal on the night.

Look for more post match reaction from John Krysinsky and Jordan Smith later in the evening and early Monday.  

Post Game Reaction

Bob Lilley & Russell Cicerone

Gameday Updates

Final – Riverhounds win 4-1 against Atlanta United. Hounds score 4 goals for the first time this season. Cicerone with a hat trick and Tommy Williamson adds another. All-time Pittsburgh is 3-0-2 against Atlanta and now 5-3-2 at home this season.

90+’ – Todd Wharton now gets a yellow card. That’s 3 cards a piece on each team.

90′ – 5 minutes of stoppage time added. Refs have to be fair and do this because there was a lot that happened in that half that slowed the game down.

88′ – Yellow card issued to Atlanta’s Matias Benitez for a leg to leg tackle on Todd Wharton. Hopefully not much stoppage time before someone gets hurt in this game. It’s very physical and chippy out there.

83′ – Hounds make their last subs. Jelani Peters now on for Kenardo Forbes and the 17 year old Wyatt Borso in for Russell Cicerone. Forbes hands his captain’s band to Danny Griffin. Dani Rovira also just gets a yellow card from the official. Hounds still up 4-1.

79′ – Game is starting to get chippy as Josh Bauer on Atlanta gets a yellow. Atlanta makes their last sub as Stanley comes on for Conway up top.

73′ – Hounds now make a sub. Velarde on for Dixon. And, Atlanta makes another, the other Diop is coming off and Matias Benitez comes on.

71′ – Atlanta makes another sub. Diop on for Machop Chol. Also, Goodrum gets a yellow card. 20 minutes to go. Hounds up 4-1.

67′ – HAT TRICK FOR CICERONE!! First hat trick for a Riverhounds player since Neco Brett did in a 7-0 playoff win at home in 2019. Dixon with a beautiful slice n dice around Fewo, took it down to the goal line and crossed it into Russell for the tap in.

11th goal for Cicerone and Dixon’s 7th assist of the season.

64′ – After those substitutions, the Hounds are sitting back defensively in a 5-3-2. Dixon and Cicerone as the two forwards now with Forbes, Griffin and Wharton in the midfield. Judge, Kilwien, Williams, Wiedt and Rovira on the backline.

59′ – Tom Judge and Dani Rovira now on for Louis Perez and Tommy Williamson. Judge immediately goes in and gets physical. Thought a PK was about to be given to the away side for a second there.

55′ – Louis Perez gets a yellow card for fouling Goodrum.

52′ – Mertz takes a shot that’s blocked by Perez. Next play is a great punch out by Danny Vitiello.

45′ – Second half begins. Atlanta makes two subs. Fewo and Goodrum come on for Washington and Fortune.

Halftime – The Riverhounds honor the Pitt men’s soccer team on their great season last year. Matt Gajtka on the mic at Highmark stadium announcing the teams accomplishments. Pitt men and women are surely building a special program.

Halftime – 45 minutes complete. That’s the most action Riverhounds fans have seen all season. Home team with only 40% possession and only leading 9-8 in shots but the team has been playing direct every chance they can get, and it’s working. 3-1 Hounds.

45′ – 1 minute of stoppage time added.

42′ – Great little give-n-go play by Louis Perez and Kenardo Forbes. Hounds keep finding a way in behind the backline of Atlanta. Something they’ve previously struggled with this season but are succeeding at tonight.

37′ – On the away side I’m seeing tons of great dribbling from the goal scorer Darwin Matheus. This player is very clean on the ball.

32′ – Cicerone again!! Danny Griffin picks up the ball at midfield and slots a direct ball into Cicerone. His 10th goal of the year really showed off his talent as he beat Bryce Washington in a 1v1. Griffins first assist of the year, much deserved.. 3-1 Hounds.

26′ – Hounds take the lead again. Griffin picks up the trash off the corner and plays a high ball into the corner onto the feet of Forbes and the veteran smashes a low cross to Tommy Williamson for his 4th of the season. Kenny’s 5th assist.

24′ – Noticing that Danny Griffin is moving up a bit more when he can. Him and Todd Wharton are switching back and forth on that holding mid position. Lots of communication between the two. Griffin has been very unselfish this year so I like to see him in the offense when he can.

18′ – And soon after, Mekeil Williams hits the post off a header from a corner kick. And then the other way, Kilwien scores and Jackson Conway gets a chance. I’m sure Bob Lilley would like this game to calm down a bit.

14′ – Shane Wiedt fouls Darwin Matheus and gives him a shove. Maybe Wiedt playing with a chip on his shoulder in front of Pitt Men’s Soccer team tonight. Either way a minute later, Matheus scores a brilliant goal off a cross from McFadden. Game tied 1-1.

10′ – Now the captain Kenny Forbes almost heads one in off a cross. Fans are getting a show tonight. Hounds end their 180+ minute scoring drought just 4 minutes into the game. Hounds still up 1-0.

7′ – Now Atlanta has two chances but no cigar. Machop Chol hits the crossbar and then on a corner kick attempt after, the ball was whipped in and saved on the goal line by Vitiello. So far in 7 minutes we’ve seen more action than all last game against Tampa Bay.

4′ – CICERONE GETS IT BACK!! Russell Cicerone with his 9th goal assisted by Alex Dixon. That’s Dixon’s 6th assist on the year. Dixon played a great ball into Cicerone on the run. Wow, tons of action here so far. 1-0 Hounds.

2′ – PENALTY KICK SAVE!! Aiden McFadden threw down Russel Cicerone in the box which resulted in a PK chance. The Hounds leading goal scorer misses the attempt. He aimed bottom left and what was a good shot was greatly saved by Rocco Rios Novo.

1′ – Robbie Mertz hands an Atlanta team flag to Kenardo Forbes before the anthem and shakes hands with his fellow teammates. Game begins here at Highmark.

Look for starting lineups and game updates to be posted here, beginning shortly before kickoff.

On Saturday, PSN’s John Krysinsky caught up with two Atlanta United 2 players returning to Pittsburgh: Robbie Mertz, the Upper St. Clair native who played with the Riverhounds SC in 2019-2020 and Bryce Washington, who helped lead Pitt to the College Cup and has since signed a homegrown contract with Atlanta United.

Reinvigorated Robbie Mertz returns to Pittsburgh with Atlanta United 2

Preview 

After a run of four high-intensity divisional games, the Hounds’ fifth match in 16 days comes against a fresh opponent.

Atlanta United 2, currently third in the Central Division, comes to Pittsburgh for the first time in two years.

While it might not have divisional implications, this is far from a trap game for the Hounds, who know their chances in the Atlantic Division come down to whether they can keep pace with Tampa Bay entering October and their final meeting.

The game will also be the return of former Hounds midfielder and Pittsburgh native Robbie Mertz, who leads Atlanta in assists this season despite an injury-bothered start to the year.

That very well could set up an excellent battle of young central midfielders between 24-year-old Mertz and the Hounds’ rock in the center of the park, 23-year-old Danny Griffin.

The former teammates had similar paths to the Hounds — both were unsigned MLS SuperDraft picks out of college — and both were fixtures in the lineup by the end of their rookie season. Though both played similar positions in college, Griffin has settled into a holding role this season with the Hounds, which means he’ll frequently be the one trying to break up attacks going through Mertz.

While games are rarely won or lost on a single 1-on-1 matchup, which of those two controls more of the ball will give their team a decided leg up in the match.

Atlanta United 2 doesn’t skew quite as young as some of the other “2” sides in the USL Championship, but one of their breakout  players in recent weeks has been 18-year-old striker Tyler Wolff.

Wolff, the son of former U.S. international Josh Wolff, was the Championship Player of the Week after bagging his first pro hat trick in a 6-2 win over Indy Eleven, and he has four goals in his past three matches. With six on the season in just nine appearances, Wolff has a goal per every 106 minutes played, and those minutes are trending upward with his recent form.

Wolff is likely to be in the starting lineup again Sunday, and the Hounds will need keep close tabs and make things uncomfortable for a young player just finding his form at this level.

PSN Coverage 

Analysis & Player Grades: Hounds rediscover defensive identity in scoreless draw with Rowdies

Hounds Notebook: The Battle for Atlantic Division supremacy is just beginning

Pittsburgh Division I College Soccer Schedule (Spring 2021)

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