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Match Report: In ‘A Battle of Attrition’ Hounds salvage draw on Fahling’s wonder strike

In a match that was short on attacking flair and shots, but long on whistles and choppy, physical play, the Riverhounds SC found a way to battle back late in the second half in its home opener, finding a late equalizer from newcomer Burke Fahling in a 1-1 draw with Eastern Conference rival The Miami FC on Friday night at Highmark Stadium.

“I am proud of the guys for the way they responded. Miami was very physical. We didn’t do much for most of the match,” Riverhounds SC Head Coach Bob Lilley said.

“It was a battle of attrition.”

Riverhounds controlled possession for most of the first half (58%/42%) edge, but they lacked creativity and couldn’t create many chances in the final third.

A poor defensive lapse led to the only pair of shots on frame for Miami in the first half, as USL Championship veteran Kyle Murphy’s persistence paid off, as he was the recipient of a deflected ball following a second-effort play by his teammate Christian Sorto.

Murphy bulldozed his way toward goal, after his first shot was saved by Hounds keeper Christian Garner, he stayed with the play, and put the rebound back into goal to give the visitors the 1-0 lead.

“We didn’t deal with the first ball,” Lilley explained on a goal he felt was preventable.

“We made multiple mistakes on that play. It bounced between Arturo (Ordonez) and Nate (Dossantos). Then a guy sneaks between the two of them. That shouldn’t happen. They carve out a shot. Even after the initial save was made, Dani Rovira was first on the ball.  He needs to kick it sideways.  He tried to dribble out of it when he should have kicked the ball out of bounds. That gave Murphy another crack.”

Things were so choppy and physical, Lilley cited that the Hounds decided to play more direct for the remainder of the first 45 minutes, then would make adjustments at the half.

The Hounds had three shot attempts in the first half, none on frame.

“That’s how the game can be sometimes,” Fahling said.

“You have to be willing to win 50/50 balls. You have to be willing to fight. But we did a lot of things that don’t always show up in the stat sheet, that matter, to get back into it.”

The Hounds started to build more positive advances into the final third, finding ways around playing through the middle, where they were meeting a lot of Miami resistance early in the match. Using the width and bringing a bit more speed and fresh legs, all five allotted substitutions, as Fahling along with Tony Lopez, Tola Showunmi, Joe Farrell and Langston Blackstock, helped spur on a late push.

The Hounds would not get a shot on frame until the 86th minute, when Fahling found a ball come to him in the box, about 14 yards from goal follow an initial corner kick attempt header clearance came back his way on the bounce, giving Fahling a chance to deliver a stinging one-time volley into the top left corner.

“It was very nice,” Fahling said.

“I was fortunate it bounced the way it did, and luckily we had some big guys in the box who were able to move around and get a piece of it. I’d say it’s the best goal I’ve scored as a professional.”

“(Riverhounds) coach Bob (Lilley) just said to impact on the game,” Fahling said about coming in as a sub. “Everyone is expected to have an impact on the game. Everyone here is a professional player, and everyone is here for a reason. Whether it’s Langston (Blackstock) or Joe (Farrell) or me … it’s go in and do your job. I thought all the guys that came in did a good job tonight. We just have to make sure we’re pushing and we can get a win next time.”

Following the goal, the home opening crowd, which had been relegated to a few boos and heckles toward the official, sprung to life, as did the Hounds in making a late push for the go-ahead goal.

Right before stoppage time, Farrell made his own volley attempt from the top of the box.

The defender’s effort was on target, but Miami goalkeeper Adrían Zendejas made an excellent diving stop to ensure the points were shared.

“I think we coped well (after the first goal) and didn’t give them a ton of chances,” Lilley said.

“It was always going to be a tight game. Miami came in and made it very physical. They didn’t want to give anything away, so it wasn’t real adventurous. There weren’t a lot of holes, so we had to do it with smashmouth football and I thought we did a good job of that in the second half.

“Burke took his chance very well, and it was an important goal to get something out of the game. I felt like it would’ve been very deflating dropping all three points in the home opener.”

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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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