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Final: Riverhounds SC 2, Tampa Bay Rowdies 0

Photo courtesy Mark Goodman

Final: Riverhounds SC 2, Tampa Bay Rowdies 0

USL Championship Atlantic Division

FINAL: Riverhounds SC 2, Tampa Bay Rowdies 0

Game Statistics: USL Championship Match Center

PSN Coverage Team:  Jordan Smith & Mark Goodman

Game Summary

The Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC made an emphatic statement, surged back into second place and officially clinched a playoff spot by defeating the Tampa Bay Rowdies 2-0 at Highmark Stadium on Sunday evening.

Tommy Williamson scored in the first half, then Russell Cicerone added to the Pittsburgh lead by converting a penalty kick only moments after goalkeeper Danny Vitiello saved one of his own to keep the clean sheet.  The Hounds keeper had four saves in the match for his seventh shutout of the season.

This was the first place Rowdies’ first loss since July, when they also lost 2-0, to the Charlotte Independence.

With the win, the Riverhounds (15-8-6, 51 points) move into sole possession of second place, behind the Rowdies (61 points), with three matches remaining.

How It Happened

First half

The match started out as a cagey battle, with neither team taking too many chances in the early going.

Williamson nearly opened the scoring after receiving a pass dropped back to him at the top of the box in the 17th minute, but his shot headed toward the far corner struck teammate Kenardo Forbes on its way through and was cleared out by the Rowdies.

The Rowdies then had a near-miss of their own, as former Hounds striker Steevan Dos Santos headed a ball off the crossbar, only to have it bounce straight down and away from the goal line in the 25th minute.

Williamson made the breakthrough with three minutes left until halftime. Preston Kilwien sent a cross into the box from the left side, and Tampa Bay defender Jordan Scarlett misplayed the pass, flicking the ball right to where Williamson could tap it home from 6 yards out for his sixth goal of the season.

Second half

The moment of the match happened in the 57th minute, as the Rowdies swept forward on the counter attack after a Hounds corner kick. Dos Santos got clear behind the Hounds defense, and Vitiello was whistled for taking him down on his slide after charging off his line to meet his former teammate.

Leo Fernandes stepped up to take the penalty for Tampa Bay, but Vitiello dove low and to his left to make the save and preserve his team’s 1-0 lead.

In the 72nd minute, the tables turned, as Alex Dixon was tripped by Tampa Bay defender Forrest Lasso entering the penalty area, and the Hounds had a penalty kick of their own.

Cicerone stepped up and slotted the ball toward the right side of the net for a 2-0 lead and his team-leading 15th goal of the season. That ties Cicerone for the third-best goal-scoring season by a Hounds player with Said Ali (2004), José Angulo (2013) and Neco Brett (2018).

Vitiello capped his shutout with a diving save of a free kick in the 83rd minute, and the Hounds were able to see the clean sheet through to the finish.

With the playoffs assured, the Hounds next turn their attention toward claiming home field in the first round. Doing so almost certainly requires getting a result at 7:30 p.m. Saturday when the team visits Miami FC. Miami (14-8-6) was stunned by last-place Loudoun today, 3-2, but the Hounds have gone 0-2-1 this season against Miami after letting a lead go in all three games.

Post Match Reaction 

Gameday Updates 

Final – Riverhounds win 2-0! An impressive win for Bob Lilley and his squad. Pittsburgh punches their ticket to the playoffs for the 4th consecutive year and end Tampa Bay’s 12 game unbeaten streak. Riverhounds 2-1-1 this season against the Rowdies and didn’t allow a goal to them at Highmark.

90+’ – Perez subs on for Dixon with a minute left.

90′ – Wyke gets a yellow card for a trip on Dixon. Looks like 3 minutes of stoppage time added.

81′ – Dikwa and Velarde now on for Forbes and Cicerone. Dixon given a yellow card for his foul a minute earlier. I believe Griffin is wearing the captains band now.

78′ – Doherty on for Lasso. Tampa Bay bench probably making sure Lasso doesn’t get a red. He’s one foul away from one.

75′ – Cicerone scores the PK!! Dixon got tripped by Lasso. Looks like the Hounds are the better team tonight.

Cicerone now ties Said Ali, Jose Angulo and Neco Brett for 15 goals in a season. Third best in a season in the Hounds organization all time.

72′ – Riverhounds make some subs now. Dover and Rovira come on for Williamson the goal scorer and Kilwien the assist man tonight.

70′ – Antley and Dos Santos coming off for Wyke and Dalgaard. Tampa Bay looking to do a better job controlling play in the midfield. No subs yet for the Riverhounds.

60′ – Lasso the captain gets a yellow card for a big trip on Cicerone. Williamson’s free kick opportunity is blocked by the Tampa Bay wall.

Rowdies sub. Guenzatti with 19 goals on the year now coming on for Tejada.

57′ – VITIELLO SAVES THE PK!! Fernandes shoots right and Vitiello saves it after getting a yellow card for a tackle on Dos Santos. Huge play from the keeper. Riverhounds still up 1-0.

52′ – Forbes with a chance in the box but his shot is blocked. Still 1-0 Hounds.

45′ – Second half starts up. Hounds with an early corner kick opportunity.

Half – No stoppage time. Riverhounds the slightly better team in that half for sure. More possession and more chances. Pittsburgh up 1-0, looking to end the 12 game unbeaten streak held by Tampa Bay.

43′ – GOAL HOUNDS! Scarlett fails to clear a cross from Kilwien and Williamson picks it up in the 6 and slots it home. Should be Kilwien’s first assist and Williamson’s 6th goal on the year. 1-0 Hounds.

35′ – Great ball this time by Forbes to Cicerone but called offsides.

30′ – What a ball from Dixon. Great diagonal run by Cicerone. These two have done this so many times. Good save by Louro keeps this game tied 0-0.

26′ – On that free kick the Rowdies completed a set play and the header looks like it’s in but no goal given. Could be 1-0. Hounds lucky there.

25′ – Foul called on Danny Griffin for slide tackling but he won the ball completely. I don’t agree with that call at all.

17′ – Williamson takes a shot at the edge of the 18 but Forbes unfortunately blocks it. I think Lasso would’ve saved it on the line anyways but Forbes could’ve tapped it in. Not sure what he was trying to do there. Huge chance missed.

9′ – Williamson volleys a cross just high. Shane Wiedt running down the wing crossing that one in.

6′ – Riverhounds playing in their 4-1-4-1 formation. Locking it in and treating this like a playoff game.

1′ – Game begins at Highmark!

Interested to see the matchups today. Cicerone vs Guenzatti, Lasso and his back line vs the Hounds back line which could be 4 in the back tonight. Vitiello vs Louro in net. Riverhounds can’t win the division but can finish second and make playoffs.

Look for lineups and game day updates/highlights to be posted here.

Preview

The Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC will be looking to get back in the win column when they face the red-hot, front-running Tampa Bay Rowdies at Highmark Stadium on Sunday evening.

With a win, Pittsburgh will earn its fourth consecutive playoff-berth.

The Hounds, despite continuing to show its attacking strengths as team captain and USL Championship’s all-time assist leader Kenardo Forbes has scored three times in the past two games, have not won since September 11 (5-0 win vs Loudoun United), and have hit a tough stretch, failing to win against playoff contenders.  The past couple of games Pittsburgh has seen second half defensive letdowns lead to a draw against Charleston at home, then a late collapse at the Miami FC, who have overtaken them in the USL Championship’s Atlantic Division standings.

These wild results have been concerning for Head Coach Bob Lilley, but more important than clinching a playoff berth, Pittsburgh needs to start to put together 90-minute performances — without defensive lapses.

If they do this, they’ll be able to turn the tide and climb back up in the standings.

In fact, the Hounds currently sit in fourth place in the standings after Charlotte Indepedence won its fourth straight match, 2-1, vs NY Red Bulls II on Saturday night.

Pos. P W L T GD Pts Form
1
Tampa Bay Rowdies 27 20 6 1 29 61
WWWWW
2
Charlotte Independence 28 15 9 4 15 49
WLWWW
3
The Miami FC 27 14 7 6 14 48
WDLWW
4
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC 28 14 8 6 14 48
DWLDL

With four games to go, Pittsburgh can still move back up to second place, and they can begin the climb and make a statement by beating the Rowdies at home.

The Hounds have played Tampa three times this season, with the teams each taking a win and the last time they played, it was a scoreless stalemate.

We know that Pittsburgh can hang with the Rowdies, as they responded after a season opening loss, by going back to St. Pete to steal a 2-1 win in June.

Can they do this again?

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

This will be the regular season rubber match between the two sides, and possibly another chance for Pittsburgh regain its defensive identity under Bob Lilley, especially if they can find a way to score an early goal, then try to put the clamps down.

Pittsburgh appears to be getting healthier as well, as Albert Dikwa, who has been out of the lineup for nearly two-and-a-half months with a groin injury, is now listed as questionable.

PSN’s recent Riverhounds SC Coverage

Road to USL Championship Playoffs: Riverhounds SC playoff clinching possibilities

Final: Miami 3, Riverhounds 2

Make or Break Time: Hounds begin daunting October stretch at Miami FC

Riverhounds SC Game Notes

On the head-to-head front, the match will decide the season series between the two teams. The Hounds and Tampa Bay split two matches earlier in the season in St. Petersburg before playing to a scoreless draw — the only 0-0 game for the Hounds this season — on Aug. 18 at Highmark Stadium.

The Hounds, despite being winless in their past three outings, are the healthiest they have been since the opening months of the season, as striker Albert Dikwa has been upgraded to questionable after being out since July and having surgery on his injured groin. Only Josh Gatt (knee) remains out for the Hounds, who have mixed up their formations in the previous meetings with Tampa Bay and could do so again to spark some offense from Russell Cicerone, who scored the game winner in the Hounds’ 2-1 win over Tampa Bay and leads the team with 14 goals.

Tampa Bay, on the other hand, is riding a nine-game winning streak that began the game after the scoreless draw with the Hounds and has the league’s best defensive record with only 19 goals allowed in 27 games. That defense, with the back three of Jordan Scarlett, Forrest Lasso and Aaron Guillen in front of goalkeeper Evan Louro, has been intact for every match this season.

At the stadium, there will be a pair of promotional nights. The Hounds will be celebrating Hispanic Heritage Night, sponsored by the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

special ticket offer for the night makes $20 Midview tickets available, with $5 of each ticket going to the PMAHCC’s Scholarship Fund.

It is also Kick Out Cancer Night, part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Fans are encouraged to wear pink to the match, and the first 1,000 fans in attendance will receive special pink Hounds T-shirts provided by Allegheny Health Network.

The Tailgate Zone will be rocking as usual with a 4 p.m. opening time for the earlier-than-usual kickoff. This Sunday’s food trucks will be Haskel’s Deli and Benvenuti’s Pizza Factory, and there will be Riverhounds Session Copper beer on tap.

As part of the Hispanic Heritage Night celebration, expect some Latin flair to the Tailgate Zone music, and look for beer specials on Tecate and Dos Equis in the stadium.

 

Jordan joined the Pittsburgh Soccer Now team in 2020 as a contributor to Riverhounds SC & WPIAL coverage. He is also a current Graduate Assistant at Point Park University in the athletics department, while also obtaining an MBA and MA in Media Communications. Jordan, during his undergrad four years at La Roche University, interned and worked part time for every pro team and several universities in Pittsburgh: Riverhounds SC, Pirates, University of Pittsburgh, La Roche University, Duquesne University, Steelers and the Penguins. With all of these experiences he began to gain a passion to work in sports as a career. Smith played cup soccer for Century United and Beadling during his youth years and also trained with the Riverhounds. He attended South Fayette High School where he helped his team win WPIAL's and a section title his senior year in 2015, while earning All-Section and All-WPIAL honors.

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