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Pittsburgh Riverhounds

Takeaways & Player Grades: Hounds break even in the ABQ

Photo courtesy New Mexico United

The Riverhounds SC and the New Mexico United, two teams who came into their match sitting in the same place (4th) with the same number of points in their respective conferences, played to a hard-fought 1-1 draw in the first meeting ever between the sides at Isotopes Park in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on Saturday night.

FINAL: Riverhounds SC 1, New Mexico United 1

The Hounds spotted the United with early advantage, thanks to a bad giveaway.

As the saying goes, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.

On this night, after putting themselves in a hole, after being outpossessed for much of the night, playing against a very strong defensive side, on baseball field in 90-plus degree desert heat in high altitude, the Hounds found a way to persevere and get a result.

The Hounds are now 10-6-4 (34 points), and remain in fourth place, tied with Detroit City FC, who also tied against a Western Conference side, Monterey Bay on Saturday.  Third place Memphis 901 FC are within range, after their loss to Louisville.

Pittsburgh travels to Hartford, then comes home to Tulsa then goes to Indy before a potential showdown vs Memphis.

Things should get very interesting in the coming weeks, but unlike earlier in the season, the Hounds proved that they’re up to the challenge when facing less than ideal circumstances.

Tactics, Formation & Personnel 

Pittsburgh lined up in a 3-4-1-2 formation, with Kenardo Forbes as the one roving midfielder who spent most of hs time higher up in the formation, but also dropped deeper at times to help with playing the ball out of the back.  Danny Griffin and Dani Rovira stayed deeper and in the middle, while Nathan Dossantos and Alex Dixon were working on the wide channels.  Albert Dikwa and Russell Cicerone were asked to provide plenty of movement, both pressing and pulling defenders.

The back line featured Arturo Ordonez in the middle between Jelani Peters on the left and Shane Wiedt.

Ironically, after much discussion in our most recent Sounding Off on Soccer podcast about formations and tactical approach that this team, it was interesting to see the Hounds average positions saw their 3-4-1-2 (or a 5-2-1-2) morph into a very tight 4-3-3 at times.  If you look at average positions for the night, it certainly looked that way.

It was imperative playing on the road, in unfavorable conditions that Lilley would fully utilize his bench, bringing on four subs in the 62nd and 70th minutes, with Dane Kelly, Angelo Kelly-Rosales, Marc Ybarra and Mekeil Williams all providing helpful sets of fresh legs, for Dikwa, Rovira, Peters and Wiedt.

In the 84th minute, Luke Biasi came on for Nate Dossantos, as the Hounds also switched over to a four-man backline to close out the match with both Mekeil Williams and Ordonez as the primary center backs.

Early Defensive Lapse Doesn’t Rattle Back Line

The United’s Jerome Keisewetter scored in the the first minute of the match, taking advantage of a Hounds giveaway when Shane Wiedt played a ball right back to the United, which turned into a quick three-on-one break into the final third.

It was an unfortunate error, but some credit should go to New Mexico’s press for cutting off Wiedt’s options to get to the outside, as he was forced to play a ball toward the middle, when he could have tried to play it back as the safer bet.

Former Hound Neco Brett spotted Keisewetter breaking into the box, and the 29-year old New Mexico forward who once played in the Bundesliga with VfB Stuttgart, had an easy finish just 51 seconds into the match — and the fastest goal in New Mexico United’s short history.

There were a few other shaky moments, mostly coming in the first 30 minutes, but the Hounds back three kept it together. At the end of the night, they combined for 15 clearances and Ordonez in particular was rock solid all night long, especially in a few dicey one-on-one situations.  In fact, Ordonez was a perfect 7-for-7, winning each of his duels.

Playing with a back three, with two holding midfielders and especially with Alex Dixon often working the higher attacking channels. This sometimes leaves them compromised and can compound mistakes (as was the case with Wiedt’s error.  if the Hounds were playing four in the back, maybe that doesn’t happen?

But then again, playing with this aggresively and open-ended also leads to more moments like early in the second half when Wiedt delivered a fabulous ball over to Dixon on the right side behind the defense.  Dixon’s effort got him into the edge of the goal box, but he pulled his shot too wide.

Either way, the remaining 89-plus minutes, the back line responded well, played with composure and got better as the match evolved.

Point and Shoot 

In addition, New Mexico controlled possession well through the first 30 minutes, but after that it was pretty even, though NMUTD did end up with 57-43 edge.  The Hounds were having trouble penetrating and getting any additional touches or shot opportunities inside the box, as they were quickly being swarmed by dark jerseys.

New Mexico’s back line and midfielders were thwarting Hounds passes into the final third for most of the first 60 minutes of the match.  In fact, NMUTD had a huge edge in interceptions (15-4) on the night.

In a rare twist, Pittsburgh started to take what New Mexico was giving them.

They started to take some chances and let some shots fly from distance.

Danny Griffin’s first half rip led to a rebound that was put into goal by Cicerone, but the Hounds’ forward was barely offside. Kenardo Forbes, Shane Wiedt, Jelani Peters and Alex Dixon all took turns with hard hit shots from beyond the 18, that missed their mark.

Of the 11 shots the Hounds had, they finished with more from outside the box (6) for the first time that I can think of during the past few seasons under Bob Lilley.

The Hounds were unable to capitalize, but as my colleague Jordan Smith pointed out, some of those shots created nervous moments for New Mexico, including Cicerone’s goal that was waved off.

A Little bit of patience, fresh legs and fantastic finish deliver a Hounds’ equalizer

The Hounds were held in check until a pair of subs helped spark the effort to get the game’s tying goal in finally solving New Mexico’s well-fortified shape with quick, precise build-up of passes that also needed a clever finish by the league’s most prolific scorer.

Angelo Kelly-Rosales connected with Russell Cicerone to get the ball into the edge of the box. From there, Cicerone laid a perfect through ball that caught Dane Kelly in stride.

The USL Championship’s all-time leading goal scorer took a clever touch to beat his defender and goalkeeper Alex Timbakis for the goal in the 75th minute.

This is the second time in the past three matches when the Hounds center forward rotation has netted a late second half goal from the substitute off the bench.  Against Indy Eleven, it was Albert Dikwa.  On Saturday, it was Kelly’s turn to show that he can also be effective to come into a match and turn the tide.

The Hounds continued to press forward despite running into a wall of defenders more often than not.  They had the confidence to attack New Mexico right through the center of their defense, and it finally paid off wth some great passing and world-class finish.

Player Grades ( NMvPIT ) 

# Player Position Grade Notes
26 Waite GK 6 Two saves. Emerging as the go-to keeper?
27 Peters DF 6 Can’t score two goals every game, but he tried with one of those shots from distance! Had team high 5 clearances & won 3/6 duels
15 Ordoñez DF 7.5 Was left on an island on the goal, but otherwise was rock solid
3 Wiedt DF 4.5 The giveaway was rough, but stayed the course. Had a fabulous feed to Dixon that could have been a goal.
2 Dossantos DF 5.5 Won 7 of 12 duels; created one chance; four tackles; two crosses
6 Rovira MF 4.5 Wasn’t too involved, stayed deep and kept shape; only 7 total passes and subbed in 62′
12 Griffin MF 6 Won 5 of 9 duels, created a couple chances and had a rippin’ shot from outside the box that just missed wide
11 Forbes (C) MF 7 Created two chances; two crosses (of 3) that connected; steadiest and most accurate passer for Hounds (no surprise!)
7 Dixon MF 6 Won 4 of 9 duels, missed couple of shots, created another chance and won two fouls.
9 Dikwa FW 5.5 Another hard working night, but didn’t merit results as much. Won two fouls/conceded three. Won 4 of 9 duels. Created one chance.
10 Cicerone FW 7.5 ASSIST; clever, clever, clever pass to set up Kelly’s equalizer; won 6 of 15 duels; barely offside or would have had goal #9.
Substitutes
1 Silva DNP
29 D. Kelly 62′ 7 Fabulous finish.
13 Biasi 84′ n/r
6 Kelly-Rosales 62′ 6 Pass that found Cicerone ahead of the goal, was terrific; conceded foul; won 1/2 duels
18 Ybarra 70′ n/r
9 Mekeil Williams 70′ n/r
Sims DNP

 

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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