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Riverhounds Reaction: Shaky defending points the way to unprecedented third straight loss

Without a win since May 14, the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC returned home hoping to turn things around.

Instead, things went from bad to worse, as the Hounds were dealt their third straight loss, this time in humbling fashion, 5-2, to the Tampa Bay Rowdies, at Highmark Stadium on Saturday night.

The Hounds (7-6-3, 24 points) were dealt their first loss at home this season, putting them in sixth place in the Eastern Conference standings.

FINAL: Tampa Bay Rowdies 5, Riverhounds SC 2

Arturo Ordonez’s goal in the 11th minute gave the Hounds the early lead, but that lead evaporated quickly, as Tampa Bay exploited Pittsburgh on the counter, with goals coming from Kyle Greig, Leo Fernendes and Jake LaCava.  Fernandes added another in the 59th minute, and Lucky Mkosana capped Tampa’s scoring surge in the 64th minute.  Russell Cicerone scored in the 77th minute to cut the lead.

Head Coach Bob Lilley was asked if this is the low point of his four-and-a-half year tenure with the club, as he’s never lost three straight league matches when at the helm in Pittsburgh.

“It’s tough stretch. We had high expectations going in (to the season).  This is definitely a tough stretch,” Lilley admitted.

“We started the game great. We got a lead. They (Tampa Bay) responded well.  We looked shaky on defensive side. But it was the best we looked attacking in a while, while we couldn’t capitalize.”

“It’s clear we made a lot of fundamental mistakes on the goals that we gave up. A lot of basic stuff and multiple errors on some of those that obviously we’ve been doing more frequently, and today it seemed like an avalanche of mistakes on the defensive side of the ball.”

Ordonez’s goal was set up by solid build-up, initiated by Russell Cicerone on the right side.  Cicerone sent a hard, low pass in the middle of the box for Alex Dixon, who found the rookie on the right edge of the box.

It was Dixon’s 30th career assist in the USL Championship.

Dixon caught up with the media after the match.

The Rowdies then picked apart the Hounds with five unanswered goals, three coming in the first half, then another two in the second half.

Each time, the Hounds defending left a lot to be desired.

Lilley was asked about the performance of goalkeeper Kevin Silva, who was chipped on the first goal by Greig, then slipped when coming off his line, allowing for Fernandes to put an unchallenged clinical finish into goal for the 2-1 lead.

“On the defensive side, we have to be able to manage games  Have to be tight. Right now, we’re giving up goals,” Lilley, who came to Pittsburgh with a strong reputation for having strong defensive teams, has been left searching for answers, pointed to his entire back line and the goalkeeper as a whole after this humbling loss.

Lilley didn’t specifically reference Silva, or any of his defenders.

“Lot of poor performances in the back.  In general, we’re not very good in the back right now.”

Lilley did applaud his club for playing with fight in the second half, as Albert Dikwa’s attempt was saved, but Russell Cicerone was there to cut the lead to 5-2 in the 75th minute.

Statistically, the Hounds held a lot more possession and by the end of the night, while also holding the edge in shots (11-9), but the Rowdies were way more efficient, scoring five times on nine shots (seven of those were on frame).

“The margin feels miles away when you’re struggling. Not easy to get first goal. But we got the early lead,” Lilley said. “Tampa is a very good team. But we played poorly on the defensive side. This group we have is capable of defending better.”

Lilley wrapped up his thoughts by putting much of the blame on his shoulders.

“My job as head coach to turn this around. This is what we have to work on.  We’re not going to be dwelling on it.  The reality is that it’s been poor play. Missed tackles. Can’t finish chances. They trained hard this week.  I am disappointed.  We’re on that edge right now. We have to start playing better.  We’ve played 16 games. Have 18 to go. If we play to our ability, we’ll be able to work our way back.  Hopefully sooner rather than later. Its only going to happen if we’re more consistent.”

After the match, Jordan Smith joined me to share our thoughts on the Hounds latest, and possibly most humbling loss to this point in a season and possibly in the Bob Lilley era.

Also, look for more coverage later in the week, with Player Grades/Analysis, Hounds Notebook and another new edition of ‘Sounding Off on Soccer’ Podcast.  

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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