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Pittsburgh Riverhounds

Hounds earn sloppy 2-2 draw against NYRB II

If you’ve ever heard the old adage of a team “playing down to their opponent”, but weren’t quite clear on what that looks like, then look no further than tonight’s Riverhounds-Red Bull II game at Highmark Stadium. In a sloppy, funky match filled with unfinished chances, mis-dribbled balls, overhit passes and out of sync interactions, the Hounds proceeded over 90 minutes to fritter away a 2-0 lead, ultimately to come away with only a 2-2 draw.

It was, in the words of Head Coach Bob Lilley “one of the worst performances in the four and half years I’ve been here.”

Tactically, the Riverhounds were sound. NYRB were true to form in setting up in a high press, pushing both of their fullbacks up high to take away the ball. The Hounds responded, over and over again, by pinging fierce diagonals to their attacking wingers – Robbie Mertz, Russell Cicerone, Alex Dixon, and Luke Dibiasi. But the finishing and the final third passing wasn’t there on the night, and the defense let them down in critical spots. The Riverhounds came away with only one point when they probably should have had three.

Coach Lilley explained, “We allowed it to be an athletic contest and not a soccer game. We kinda took New York for granted – and it’s something we talked about all week. We beat New York 3-0 in New York, and we suddenly feel like we’re safe.”

The Riverhounds let the game go end to end when perhaps they should have thought more deeply about organization and buildup. Despite the problems, though, the team was still in control through the first 25 minutes.

The Hounds got on the board first in the 21st minute with a goal from Alex Dixon. The wingback feathered down a pass perfectly on the far right, dribbled to the wide of the box, and swung a big cross to the opposite side to find Russell Cicerone. The Michigander cut a pass back to the center of the box where local hero Robbie Mertz half-volleyed it right into the back of the net from 19 yards out to give the Hounds a 1-0 lead.

After some spotty play and missed opportunities, the Hounds would double their lead in the 43rd. On a corner kick, Kenardo Forbes would put a ball straight into the center of the goal box for Mekeil Williams, who rose to meet and headed it perfectly past the keeper to put the Hounds up 2-0.

That lead would not last.

Just a minute later, Red Bull would respond, as a little chipped pass came to midfielder John Murphy. He would put it past Hounds keeper Kevin Silva, and the Hounds lead was cut to 2-1.

As the second half unfolded, the Hounds provided several more opportunities for goals but could not find the net, as both Mekeil Williams and Alex Dixon got early opportunities. In the 57th minute, NYRB would strike again. Wide midfielder Wiki Carmona scored a goal after dribbling past the Hounds centerbacks without resistance. Carmona was played in after a lovely pass from Red Bull’s Jordan Adebayo-Smith, who created havoc for the Hounds all game with his speed and ball control when dribbling down the left flank in attack.

From minute 60 to 90+5, the Hounds would see multiple clean chances – a blown volley from Mertz; an overcooked cross from Dixon; a turnover from Kizza; a muffed dribble by Cicerone, etcetera, etcetera. In the end, the Hounds probably should have won 3-2, or 4-1, or better, but that wasn’t the story on the night and instead Pittsburgh will go away with a 2-2 draw against a NYRB II team that had a record of just 3-3-18 entering the game. Rather than string together an organized resistance, the match devolved into what Bob Lilley called “random acts of soccer.”

Goalscorer Mekeil Williams diagnosed the problem thusly; “We have a great group of guys. We have talent. But we don’t execute.”

“We need to take every game as if it was a cup final.”

Bob Lilley’s summation was a bit more emphatic: “We had a sloppy game, across the board.”

“Nine games left and we’re still beating ourselves.”

 

 

Minute-by-Minute Ticker

90+3 – Hounds cross left to right runs all the way through the box for a wide open Alex Dixon, who doinks it off the crossbar and out. Still level at 2-2.

90+1 – Referee signals 6 minutes of extra time. Goalkeeper theatrics at both ends to keep the game level.

89′ – Hounds have had two bites at the apple late. Robbie Mertz had a scissor-kick volley at the far post that he couldn’t hit cleanly. On the subsequent Hounds possession, they get a great ball over the top to Alex Dixon that he crosses to Russell Cicerone, but it’s overcooked a touch. The ball gets played back into the box and bounces around three times before getting cleared.

84′ – Albert Dikwa makes a nice run on goal  to the right side of the box, but gets clipped from behind by Arian Recinos for a foul. The Hounds have a great opportunity at a free kick. Unfortunately, they can’t finish at the far post. Recinos is issued a YELLOW CARD.

82′ The Hounds get a good run onto goal, and the final ball into the box is close to a lurking Cicerone at the far post, but O’vonte Mullings clears it … a little to close to putting it in his own net. But hey, clearance is a clearance.

80′ – Another deep ball and another defender misplay as Shane Wiedt doesn’t deal with it. Kevin Silva and Kenny Forbes deal with it, but the Hounds continue to make sloppy misplays instead of closing it out.

76′ – SUB NYRB Lamine Corte comes on for Daniel De Leon.

73′ – YELLOW CARD – NYRB’s Daniel De Leon fouls Edward Kizza, also goes down hurt.

72′ – SUB Riverhounds. Rovira, Kizza, Dikwa come on, Biasi, Williams, and Kelly come off.

69′ – SUB NYRB, Ryan off, Felipe on.

64′ – SUB NYRB, Ofori comes off, Recina comes on.

62′ – Ball floats into the box for what seems like an easy clearance, but Arturo Ordoñez whiffs on it. Zach Ryan has a chance to power head it into the goal, but puts it over the bar. Hounds living dangerously, playing stupidly right now.

57′ – GOAL NYRB II – Wiki Carmona gets a goal after dribbling past all the centerbacks without resistance after the pass from Jordan Adebayo-Smith. The Riverhounds seem in command in long stretches, but have surrendered the lead somewhat out of nowhere, to the crowd’s great dismay.

54′ – Once again, NYRB is pressing with their fullbacks high, and once again, the Hounds take an opportunity as Kenny Forbes swings his ax and lofts it perfectly from the center circle right to Alex Dixon, who can’t find the finish.

48′ – Another corner from Kenny, another headed ball onto goal and downward from Mekeil Williams, but keeper Giannis Nikopolidis makes the save.

HT – The Riverhounds take a 2-1 lead into the half. Coach Bob Lilley will likely feel that they deserved to be 3-0 going into the break, but a few careless touches and a momentary lapse on defense and they’re only up 2-1.

44′ – GOAL NYRB II. A little chipped pass to John Murphy, who puts it past Kevin Silva and the Hounds lead is cut to 2-1.

43′ – GOAL Riverhounds! After Dane Kelly’s shot is blocked away, the Hounds have a corner kick to Kenardo Forbes. Kenny places it dead center, Mekeil Williams rises to meet it, and the Riverhounds go up by a score of 2-0.

It is Mekeil Williams first goal since August 16, 2019 against Portland Timbers II, when he played for OKC Energy.

40′ – A few minutes ago Robbie Mertz airmails a cross too far on a play that was fairly open. And then Cicerone has a through ball in a perfect spot just left of the far post, but he stumbles on the touch and it goes wide. Hounds could really be up by two or three right now if they were a little bit more bloodthirsty.

36′ – Red Bull keeps on committing seven or eight players to pressing the Riverhounds in the back, but Kevin Silva or one of the CBs just keeps pinging a big ball over the top Cicerone or Dixon or Luke Biasi to break the press. NYRB has looked unable to adjust to … uh … the Riverhounds … adjustments.

33′ – Wiki Carmona takes the free and puts it through the wall, but right at Silva and without much pace for an easy save.

32′ – YELLOW CARD – Mekeil Williams trips up an NYRB dribbler 8 yards from the box and is shown a card. Hounds now have two CBs in the book, and Red Bull has a free kick in a dangerous spot.

28′ – RBNY gets a great dribble drive down the right side and shot from Jordan Adebayo-Smith, and he fires a shot, but Kevin Silva slaps it away for the save to keep the Hounds on top.

27′ – Big ball swings over the top to the left side for Russell Cicerone and he dribbles it one-v-one in on goal, but the flag goes up for offside.

21′ – GOAL Riverhounds! – Alex Dixon feathers down the pass perfectly on the far right, dribbles to the wide of the box, and swings a big cross to the opposite side, finding Russell Cicerone. The Michigander plays a cut back pass to the center of the box, and local hero Robbie Mertz half-volleys it right into the back of the net from 19 yards out. Hounds jump out to a 1-0 lead.

19′ – YELLOW CARD – Arturo Ordoñez goes into the book for a physical tackle.

17′ – No sooner do I say ‘it’s end to end action!’ than we get a midfield slog and a lot of head tennis. Still no score at Highmark.

6′ – It’s a bit end to end here in Pittsburgh as both sides seem to be tearing their way to the end line.

1′ – Red Bull is in a 4-2-3-1 to start the match. The Hounds are in a 5-2-3, with Cicerone, Kelly, and Mertz across the from.

Starting lineups posted below.

And read John Krysinsky’s match preview below as well.

Starting XI – Riverhounds

Kevin Silva; Mekeil Williams, Shane Wiedt, Arturo Ordoñez; Luke Biasi, Danny Griffin, Kenardo Forbes, Robbie Mertz, Alex Dixon; Russell Cicerone, Dane Kelly

 

The Riverhounds host New York Red Bull II, likely for the last time ever before they move on to MLS Next Pro in 2023. The match is tonight at 7pm at Highmark Stadium before what is expected to be yet another sellout match for the Hounds.

Keep your eyes here at PSN for live updates and the post-game recap with player quotes and a match assessment from gaffer Bob Lilley.

Preview: 

Preview & Game Notes: Riverhounds SC vs NY Red Bulls II, 7 p.m.

Mark Asher Goodman is a writer for Pittsburgh Soccer Now, covering the Riverhounds, the Pitt Men's and Women's teams, and youth soccer. He also co-hosts a podcast on the Colorado Rapids called 'Holding the High Line with Rabbi and Red.' He has written in the past for the Washington Post, Denver Post, The Athletic, and American Soccer Analysis. When he's not reading, writing, watching, or coaching soccer, he is an actual rabbi. No, really. You can find him on twitter at @soccer_rabbi

Riverhounds MF Danny Griffin

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