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Takeaways & Player Grades: Hounds have ‘soul searching to do’

Despite controlling play for most of the match, the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC’s 1-0 lead against Detroit City FC was precarious on Saturday night at Highmark Stadium as the match entered the 70th minute.

The Hounds would let their guard down to allow a goal in a pivotal match against the team that led them by one point in the USL Championship Eastern Conference standings heading into the match.

Following the equalizer, with 20 minutes plus stoppage time remaining, the Hounds went back to controlling the flow of the match, but weren’t sharp enough to get another go-ahead goal, leaving them with another 1-1 draw against Detroit City FC in a rematch between the two clubs, who played to the same result in late March.

This time the Hounds were the better team throughout, with the exception of a defensive lapse, which credit should go to Detroit for exploiting and executing in that moment to help the USL Championship newbies stay ahead of Pittsburgh in the standings.

The Hounds (7-3-3, 24 points) remain one point behind DCFC (7-2-4, 25 points), and walk away from this result, its only home match in a five-game stretch, with some soul searching to do.

It’s time that the Hounds answer the question: can they be an elite, top-level team this season, or one that will continue to underachieve?

For three consecutive home matches, they have left plenty of opportunities on the table. Sure, they take chances and have been aggressive on the road, as I pointed out last week, but it all doesn’t matter without quality wins.

Lets face it, against teams in the top half of the Eastern Conference standings, the Hounds are not getting the job done.

In the past month and half they’ve had losses at Louisville City (2nd place) and at Tampa (now hot on their heels, one point behind after beating Lou City), coupled with diappointing draws at The Miami FC and Detroit City FC at home.

Riverhounds SC Head Coach Bob Lilley didn’t spend a lot of time talking to his players after the match. He decided instead to vent his frustrations to the media in his post game press conference.

“We had plenty of good opportunities to put the game away, and get the second goal, and we didn’t capitalize,” Lilley said following the match. “We missed the target on a number of chances. They’re always going to be dangerous because they have a lot of speed up top, and they can get in behind you. They hung around. Then got one.”

“But this one is on us.”

Tactics, Formation, Personnel

From the start, the Hounds formation was pretty fluid.

The base was a 3-4-3, which saw winger Nathan Dossantos dropping deeper on the left side then his counterpart Alex Dixon did on the right, while Kenardo Forbes and Danny Griffin were predominently in the central midfield, with Forbes pushing up higher, while Luis Argudo moved around, looking to make runs forward and getting behind Detroit’s big, physical back line, or cutting into open spaces in the attacking central midfield.

In addition, the Hounds didn’t make a substitution until the 70th minute, when Dane Kelly came on for Argudo. When Shane Wiedt was injured in the 77th minute, Toby Sims replaced him.

Early Adjustment Leads to Dikwa Goal

Not happy with the movement from his forwards early on, Lilley made a quick adjustment when he pulled Albert Dikwa aside — giving him orders to swap with Russell Cicerone.

Dikwa moved over to the left right side of the attacking top line, while Cicerone moved to the middle.

“They were marking our front-runners,” Lilley explained. “Dikwa, Russ (Cicerone) and Argudo was a bit higher. They’re a big physical back line. They were marking, and we needed more movement.”

The Hounds’ veteran coach’s instructions to Dikwa were pretty straighforward: don’t be too stagnet. He pointed out that posting up the defenders as a target forward wasn’t good enough.

“Spin out on them,” Lilley pleaded to Dikwa.

“Get into spaces.”

After making these adjustments, more chances started to come for the Hounds.

Luis Argudo, getting the start as an attacking midfielder, fed Russell Cicerone in the 24th minute for a clear chance, but DCFC’s goalkeeper Nate Steinwacher came off his line to deny a goal scoring chance.

Eventually, Dikwa gave the Hounds the lead in the 30th minute, following a solid build-up of play that began with Kenardo Forbes and Alex Dixon showing plenty of patience and vision to extend possession and draw defenders toward them, then finding Luis Argudo in the center edge of the box.

Argudo delivered a well-placed thru ball on the ground between the stretched out defenders for Albert Dikwa, who made a run to beat Steinwacher to the ball — by a hair — and cleverly redirected the ball with his outside foot to the right side of goal.

A ‘Perfectly Good Goal Disallowed’

With all of the momentum of the match, the Hounds were in position to finally break through at home for an elusive two goal lead.

A few moments after Dikwa’s goal — in the 39th minute it appeared, for a second, that the Hounds doubled the lead when Jelani Peters headed a ball into goal in a crowded scrum at the far post after a Kenardo Forbes corner kick chance.

The official waved off the goal, then after a lot of pushing and shoving that spilled inside the goal, waved off the goal.

Then, Pittsburgh defender Shane Wiedt was issued a yellow card from the play.

“It was a perfectly good goal disallowed,” Lilley said.

KDKA’s Bob Pompeani caught the play from the Highmark Stadium suites.

Quite frankly, after second review, there was a lot going in the far post area.

Peters did get a clean look to head the ball into the goal. However, even Riverhounds fans can’t ignore that Shane Wiedt did run into Steinwacher.

Whether that constituted a foul and a yellow card, is certainly up for debate.

LIlley offered his two cents, and then some, after the match.

“I don’t agree with the call. Jelani didn’t push anyone. It was a high ball. We pushed it over the line,” Lilley stated. “I thought they (the officials) were allowing a physical game. There were physical challenges that could have been construed as a yellow card, that were not acknowledged. I thought they were allowing a physical game. I don’t care if the game was being call tight. I don’t see a foul in any scenario. That’s a big problem. You can’t have a restart, and bail teams out. There’s a free ball in the box. There’s no one who impeded the goalie. Or blocked someone. It’s crazy. It’s irresponsible, because you’re going to go watch the tape, and see nothing.”

Caught Watching

Despite the Hounds controlling play for much of the match and into the second half, Detroit City FC seized an opportunity in the 70th minute when a well-placed diagonal ball from Michael Bryant deep on right side found DCFC’s Deklynn Wynn with plenty of space on left side.

It started when Hounds center back Artuoro Ordonez stepped forward to make a play to deny Detroit’s advance. The ball came to Bryant, who immediately saw Wynn put his hand up on the far side of the field.

Bryant played a brilliant ball over to Wynn, who, as Lilley pointed out in his post game presser, had all kinds of time to do what ever he wanted.

“It’s disappointing, because it was well documented all week that we can’t get caught watching when they hit a diagonal to the wing back,” Lilley said.

“Obviously, on the goal, we didn’t account for their wing back. We didn’t do our job in that moment. He came in so clean, he had all day to pick out a runner.”

How much did this defensive gaffe bother Lilley?

“On a scale of one to 10, that was a 10 in terms of a defensive mental lapse,” Lilley said of the Detroit goal.

It was the first goal the Riverhounds had conceded at Highmark Stadium since the first half of the home opener against Hartford Athletic on March 19 and ended a five-game shutout streak at home across all competitions.

Not ‘Ferocious’ Enough

Even as Lilley expressed his displeasure with the officials and the defensive lapse that’s going to drive him nuts this week, he acknowledged that his team had chances they couldn’t put away.

In the latter stages of the first half, Kenardo Forbes near half-sissor, one-time effort from 23 yards hit with lots of pace, but right at Steinwacher. In the 44th minute, Dixon set up Argudo in the box, but the right footed shot attempt sailed way over the bar.

The second half brought more chances, but they continued to lack quality finishing.

“We were trying to put too many shots in the upper half instead of driving them low,” Lilley added.

“We’re being wasteful.”

More late chances would follow for Pittsburgh from Dikwa, Dane Kelly, who entered the match in the 70th minute, and Forbes, but they weren’t sharp enough to regain the lead.

“We had 20 minutes, and I would’ve liked to have seen us ferocious in those last 20 minutes,” Lilley said. “There has to be more energy. We have to find it from somewhere to put an all-out press in those last 20 minutes to force something over the goal line. We got a couple balls in the box, but we didn’t get a clear look during that time. That’s not the response we’re looking for late in the game, home or away.”

The Hounds (now 7-3-3 overall, good for 24 points) ended the match with most of the statistical advantages, including possession (55%-45%) and shots (16-10, 6-2 on target), but still remain in fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings, one point behind Detroit City FC.

Lilley didn’t feel like his squad played with enough energy after conceding an equalizing goal, but still have 20-plus minutes to get one back.

“We have some soul searching to do,” Lilley said.

“We played reasonably well. But playing reasonably well and being mentally sharp, committed, efficent and times you have to be able to do different things. And you have to be able to do that in big games. We have to get better, clearly.”

The Riverhounds travel to Charleston and Rio Grande Valley the next two weeks. They’ll look to get their first road victory since a 4-3 win at FC Tulsa on April 9. They’ve gone 0-3-1 in their last four road games and are without a win in its last three matches.

Player Grades

Goalkeeper

Jahmali Waite – 5- wasn’t really tested much throughout the match, but did allow the goal.

Defenders/Midfielders

Nate Dossantos – 5 – spent most of the night playing deeper — and looked like the Hounds were playing four in the back at times he was so deep. Didn’t get forward as much as we’ve seen him.

Jelani Peters – 5.5 – header goal taken away. Solid in all duels.

Arturo Ordóñez – 5 – not sure if he needed to come up on that challenge prior to the goal. Otherwise solid throughout.

Shane Wiedt – 4 – defended well for 76 minutes, but that lapse which came on his side led to the DCFC goal.

Toby Sims (78’) – n/r – came on for Wiedt who was injured

Alex Dixon – 6 – created a few nice chances. His patience on the ball in the goal sequence pulled a few Detroit defenders his way, giving Argudo time and space to pick out the space for Dikwa’s goal.

Danny Griffin – 6 – solid night as the Hounds did have more of the ball and controlled the center of the field. Would like to have goal scoring chance back on the

Kenardo Forbes – 6 – remains in good form as conduit between Griffin and the attackers, on a night when the Hounds controlled possession. Even he couldn’t escape Lilley’s ire after a couple giveways at one point in the match.

Russell Cicerone – 5.5 – always moving and trying to get forward, but has he frustrations through the night.

Luis Argudo – 6 – he was terrific in creating opportunities, by my calcuations, created four chances. Not so great with his shot chance — as I am sure that one in the 44th minute he’d like to have back.

Dane Kelly (71’) – 5 – had a nice opportunity late but he missed his header wide. WHen he comes off the bench, the USLC’s All-Time Leading scorer needs to have a bigger impact.

Albert Dikwa – 7 – work rate is never an issue with Dikwa, but once he moved around a bit more chances started to come his way — and it paid off with a goal.

John Krysinsky has covered soccer and other sports for many years for various publications and media outlets. He is also author of 'Miracle on the Mon' -- a book about the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, which chronicles the club, particularly the early years of Highmark Stadium with the narrative leading up to and centered around a remarkable match that helped provide a spark for the franchise. John has covered sports for Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, DK Pittsburgh Sports, Pittsburgh Sports Report, has served as color commentator on Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC broadcasts, and worked with OPTA Stats and broadcast teams for US Open Cup and International Champions Cup matches held in the US. Krysinsky also served as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach at his alma mater, Point Park University, where he led the Pioneers to the first-ever winning seasons and playoff berths (1996-98); head coach of North Catholic boys (2007-08), associate head coach of Shady Side Academy boys (2009-2014).

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