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Pittsburgh Riverhounds

Riverhounds battle back for season opening draw

FINAL: Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC 1, Birmingham Legion FC 1

Match Stats

The Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC battled back after surrendering a first half goal, to level the match in the second half, then settled for a 1-1 draw against Birmingham Legion FC in the season opening match for both clubs at Protective Stadium on Saturday night.

In the 75th minute, Hounds midfielder Robbie Mertz received a well-placed diagonal ball from defender Arturo Ordonez. The Pittsburgh native took his first touch behind the Birmingham back line, then slotted through his shot attempt inside the right post to level the match.

Birmingham outshot the Hounds 6-1 in the first half, and took advantage of a corner kick opportunity in the 27th minute when Alex Crognale rose above the fray to redirect a header past Riverhounds keeper Jahmali Waite.

The result is the first season-opening draw for the Hounds since 2018, when they began the season with a scoreless contest at Nashville SC. It is also the Hounds’ second straight draw at Birmingham after last year rallying to send the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals to a shootout, from which the Hounds advanced.


First half

The Hounds nearly got the scoring open very early with a free kick in the sixth minute. Mertz curled in a shot from the left side that forced Legion goalkeeper Matt Van Oekel to parry the ball off the post, but the offside flag was raised against the onrushing Hounds to negate any rebound chance.

Given the playoff familiarity, the game took an early physical tone, as well, as two Legion players — Jacob Rufe and Anderson Asiedu — and Hounds captain Kenardo Forbes received first-half yellow cards.

The Legion pulled ahead in the 28th minute, when Rufe curled a corner kick inward toward the near post. Crognale was first to the ball, and he flicked his header across the face of goal and into the right side of the net.

Second half

Chances were limited early in the second half as a light rain began to fall, but as the final 20 minutes approached, the Hounds were on the front foot.

The tying goal came when Arturo Ordóñez floated a diagonal ball that carried across the Legion defense to an open Mertz in stride on the left. Mertz took a couple touches into the box before firing a shot to the far corner to tie the game.

The Hounds nearly pulled ahead in the 80th minute, but Van Oekel made a spectacular double save to keep the score tied. Tony Lopez pulled the trigger from distance and forced a diving stop by the goalkeeper, and Tola Showunmi appeared to have an open look on the rebound, only for a sprawling Van Oekel to touch the ball out for a corner.

Van Oekel and Hounds goalkeeper Jahmali Waite both made two saves in the game, and six total players — Pat Hogan, Junior Etou, Joe Farrell, Burke Fahling, Lopez and Showunmi — made their Hounds debut in this year’s opener.

Match Updates

FINAL:  Pittsburgh 1, Birmingham 1

87′ – Final Hounds change. IN: Burke Fahling OUT: Robbie Mertz Fahling is the sixth new Hounds player to see action, and he comes on in relief of the goal scorer after a very hard-working shift.

82 – Van Oekel makes a superb double save to keep the Hounds from taking the lead. He made a save on Lopez’s shot from distance, and then got across goal to deny Tola Showunmi on his first touch!

78′ – THREE SUBS for the Hounds:

Of note with the last Hounds subs: This is the pro debut for Tola Showunmi, and it’s a Hounds debut for Joe Farrell.

77′ – SUBS for Legion FC

75′ – Almost a role reversal with Mertz serving one up to Ordóñez! The header was off target, and the flag was up, just the same.

73′ – GOAL – Riverhounds SC 1, Birmingham Legion FC 1

Terrific diagonal ball from Arturo Ordonez sets up Robbie Mertz for his first goal of the season.

The Hounds were working those diagonal balls left and right in the preseason, and that one was picture perfect. 1-1 73′

70′ – SAVE! Jahmali Waite denies Nwegbo!

Diba Nwegbo right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Tyler Pasher.

61′ – First Birmingham sub is Prosper Kasim entering the match for Jake Rufe.

54′ — First sub for the Hounds is Tony Lopez.  In for Edward Kizza.

Lopez played with Cal United Strickers past two years, scoring 10 goals and providing four assists. Also played with Lopez Rio Carlo FC in the Brazilian second division prior to that.

Lopez becomes the third player tonight to make his debut with the Hounds.

52′ – Mertz has a chance for a one-time shot off bounce, but it’s blocked.

48′ – Early free kick for the Legion in a shooting position, but former Hound Pasher fires it well over.

Here’s a look at how the Hounds have lined up tonight…

HALF — Birmingham 1, Pittsburgh 0

The Houndsare doing well to keep the ball (have 55/45 possession edge), but struggling in a number of other areas.

Birmingham looking more dangerous in transition and in the final third, forcing Pittsburgh to concede eight fouls.

41′ – YELLOW CARD – Kenardo Forbes is the first man in the book for the Hounds for a tactical foul. Veteran move to stop the counter 40+ yards from goal.

35’-  Junior Etou has a nice little tackle break, dribble and dish to Dikwa, but its a smidge long. First big play for the new kid.

Great strength by Etou as he powers through a two-armed hold by Agudelo… tries to thread a pass through the middle, and Dikwa can’t quite corral it.

27′ – GOAL – Birmingham – Alex Crognale

25’ Hounds with most of the possession, but not so many shots. Birmingham with two yellows already.

22′ – Hounds win a corner after playing on through another foul against Forbes. The trainers will come out, and Anderson Asiedu is shown a card for the head contact. Forbes can stay on because of the caution.


Starting XIs

Birmingham Legion FC

GK Matt Van Oekel; D Ben Ben Reveno, D Phanel Kavita, D Alex Crognale, D Moses Mensah; M Collin Smith, M Anderson Asiedu, M Jake Ruff; F Tyler Pasher, F Juan Agudelo, F Diba Nwegbo

Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC

GK Jahmali Waite; RB Nate Dossantos, CB Patrick Hogan, CB Arturo Ordoñez, LB Mark Ybarra; CM Kenardo Forbes, CM Robbie Mertz, CM Dani Rovira; FW Junior Etou, FW Albert Dikwa, FW Edward Kizza


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 Kenardo Forbes

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