The Riverhounds SC traveled to the Sooner State for a midweek match vs FC Tulsa, for a match between two teams operating on short rest.
The teams battled to a scoreless draw, one that included some controversy, with goals for both teams being wiped away by the officiating crew.
It was a choppy affair, lacking much in the way of either team really having success building up play and knocking the ball around.
The Hounds came away from this Tussle in Tulsa with a point, and a potential major injury to a key new player, as midfielder Junior Etou, who has started in all four matches this season, had to come off the field on a stretcher in the waning moments of the match. Quite frankly, it was a scary moment if you were watching closely, as he was moving his leg around in apparent pain when the broadcast camera was centered on the training staff attending to Etou, however they cut away quickly while he was being treated. Here’s hoping that Etou is doing well and will be able to recover quickly.
Pittsburgh Soccer Now has reached out to the Riverhounds SC to find out Etou’s status. The team landed in Pittsburgh from its trip late Wednesday, and when reached, club officials did not have anything to share. The team will have a few more days off as they don’t return to action until next Saturday, in Colorado.
On the bright side for the club and its fans, after four matches the Hounds remain without a loss (1-0-3 | W-L-T)
Hounds Formation, Tactics, Personnel
With a quick turnaround between matches, Head Coach Bob Lilley and his staff gave five players a chance to get their first start.
Tola Showunmi, Tony Lopez, Burke Fahling, Luke Biasi and Joe Farrell made their first starts as Riverhounds on Tuesday.
If you look at the average positions for the starters, the Hounds kept the 4-2-3-1 shape, with the attacking wide midfielders doing a lot of pressing.
While the Hounds were in a 4-2-3-1, and have shown to be solid in possession this season, Lilley’s intent with this starting group was to use the high energy make-up to press and harass Tulsa’s back line and midfielders throughout the match into making mistakes and look for quick, transition opportunities on the counter.
All three attacking midfielders (Showunmi, Lopez and Fahling spent much of their time on the edge of the attacking third buzzing around and putting initial pressure on the ball, It was up to Etou, Kenardo Forbes, who started deeper in the midfield, to step into passing lanes attempting to make interceptions and get the transition game going.
At the start of the second half, Robbie Mertz came on for Fahling. Additional subs followed to provide more energy off the bench, as well as Marc Ybarra, DZ Harmon and Edward Kizza.
The Hounds’ ironmen from the past two games were Albert Dikwa and Arturo Ordonez, who each played full 90 minutes in the two draws against Miami and Tulsa.
High Press Brought Mixed Results
While the Hounds did a lot to disrupt Tulsa’s possession and ability to build-up play, especially through the middle of the field, the tactics brought mixed results, as the Hounds didn’t quite execute the game plan probably the way Lilley had envisioned.
They created plenty of disruption, but not tons of quality scoring chances.
Some of that credit should go to the Tulsa defenders who were under pressure all night, but often times were right there to scramble back to get behind the ball and deny clear-cut chances for Pittsburgh. Tulsa had five blocked shots on the night.
While the Hounds conceded possession in a big way (Tulsa had the 70/30 edge with 671 passes to the Hounds’ 273), Pittsburgh still sent 22 crosses, had 18 shots (only three on frame) and won four corner kicks.
A good number of the crosses (actually 43%) connected, but the Hounds couldn’t put their chances away.
Etou forced the best save of the day from Austin Wormell with a rising shot in the 61st minute that the Tulsa keeper could only tip over the bar.
Lopez was the most active attacker for the Hounds, accounting for five shots, with two that forced saves including one in the 40th minute from the top of the box that had lots of pace, but was cleaned up by Wormell.
Ultimately, the Hounds came up short and couldn’t capitalize on the chances and moments they had in getting into transition, sending more than 20 crosses and 18 shots, seeing their conversion rate drop after 90-plus minutes of attrition in this important area.
Controversial Call Denies Dikwa Header
This match may be remembered for the goal that didn’t count.
In the 16th minute, Arturo Ordonez set up Dikwa with a well-placed long ball over the top of the Tulsa back line and into the center of the box. Dikwa and Michael Nelson came together converging on the ball for a hard collision, as Dikwa did get a header on the ball, which landed in the goal.
Let's take a look back at the Dikwa play. Thought we had our first on this one…#TULvPIT #HOUNDTAHN pic.twitter.com/fUvlkkYLSQ
— Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (@RiverhoundsSC) March 29, 2023
However, main official Melvin Rivas quickly ran in to wave off the goal, and put Dikwa into the book with yellow card, for what was apparently a dangerous play on the keeper.
While in real time, in the moment, it is a very, very difficult call for Rivas, the replay does clearly show DIkwa’s head on the ball before the primary contact.
There was much debate (not among Hounds faithful) about the call. In the broadcast booth, it was acknowledged that it was a tough call too.
However, a few years back, since this type of play often comes up, I asked a very high level official about the scenario when a goalkeeper collides with an attacker as they’re both going for the ball, and he shared this bit of information from United States Soccer Federation:
- if both players are clearly (and fairly) playing the ball and not one another and, as a result, they collide, there is NO FOUL. PERIOD. This despite the penchant some referees have for calling this a foul.
- If one of the players (whether goalkeeper or a field player) is clearly playing his/her opponent, rather than playing the ball, that is a foul. If the act is aggressive, it is serious misconduct, worth of a sending-off (red card). If it is instead reckless, it is unsporting behavior and must be cautioned (yellow card).
- If the act by the “aggressor” is a foul, interferes with a goal-scoring opportunity (including the actual preventing of a goal), and all “4 Ds” are present, then the “aggressor” should be sent off for denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity to an opponent moving towards the player’s goal by an offense punishable by a free kick or a penalty kick. However, if the act in and of itself is worthy of a sending-off, then that is the reason to be included in the match report.
It appears that Rivas settled in on number two, in his view, Dikwa was reckless and therefore was assessed a yellow card and the goal did not count. Clearly, Riverhounds die-hard fan-based groups were quick to offer their displeasure with call, sharing their disgust on Twitter.
— Steel Army (@SteelArmy) March 29, 2023
You MUST figure out a way to ensure that the refs aren't the talking points of most of your games. It's ruining your league.
— Mon Goals (@mongoals) March 29, 2023
Later in the match, in the second half, Tulsa had a beef of their own with the linesman, who brought the flag up to takeaway a goal in the run of play due to an offside call.
It was Moses Dyer who hit the back of the net, but the assistant referee deemed the New Zealand substitute offsides.
The closest Tulsa came to getting the go-ahead goal came when Bradley Bourgeois redirected a shot into an open goal, but a goal line clearance from a Riverhounds center-back (will have to check the replay again, but it appeared to be Ordonez), keeping the match deadlocked.
Hounds Player Grades (#TULvPIT)
Jahmali Waite – 7 – credit to the Hounds keeper for making his third start and getting his first clean sheet of the season, less than 48 hours removed from playing against Mexico at Azteca, where he flew from to reconnect with his teammates in Tulsa. Overall, a pretty quiet night for Waite who made one save in stoppage time, as he denied Dario Suarez with a leaping stop to his right.
Arturo Ordonez – 7.5 – another top-notch performance for Arturo, who led the team with four interceptions and three clearances, won both tackles he contested, and set up Dikwa’s disallowed goal with one of a team-high 39 passes completed.
Nate Dossantos – 5 – how valuable is Dossantos to this team? Has started in all four matches. Three fouls and two tackles in his first 90 minute performance, showing his fitness is where it needs to be now.
Joe Farrell – 5.5 – first start for the veteran defender. Came up a few times on set pieces, with two shot attempts. Two tackles/four interceptions.
Luke Biasi – 5 – two tackles, interception, got one cross in — and drew a foul in a full 90 playing the outside right back position.
Tony Lopez – 5.5 – was very active as the middle man in the attacking line. Maybe too many touches a few times, but created five shots (two on frame), while drawing a foul, had three crosses too.
Burke Falhing – 5 – brought plenty of energy to the press and service in transtion in his 45 minutes, sending four crosses into the box with varying success.
Robbie Mertz (46′) – 5.5 – in addition to creating chances from the width (4 crosses), also had two shot attempts
Kenardo Forbes – 5.5 – was surprised he got the start, being that it was a midweek match, but Kenny put in a sold 66 minutes.
Marc Ybarra (67′) – 5 – solid off the bench. Two shots, a cross (set up Mertz who couldn’t pull the trigger quick enough), one interception.
Junior Etou – 6 – unfortunate that he went down with an injury, as he put in another solid 90-plus minute performance doing a lot of the dirty work in the middle (drew three fouls, had three interceptions, won majority of duels) and even had arguably the Hounds most dangerous chance on the night. If he’s going to be out for a while, the Hounds will have to find someone else to step into this valuable role.
Trevor Zwetsloot (90′ + 8) – made his Hounds debut, for Etou after the injury. Will the New Zealand native be someone who the Hounds look to fill in for Etou, if his injury is significant?
Edward Kizza (76′) – N/R – first appearance off the bench this year for Kizza. Didn’t generate much in attack. Was offside on one sequence.
Albert Dikwa – 6 – if anything, Dikwa proving that he’s a non-stop engine at the top of the attack, playing two 90 minute matches in a five day span, and arguably should have cashed in his fourth goal in three games. He was there to knock home the header that was disallowed.
Tola Showunmi – 4.5 – first start for the young English lad. Saw plenty of action (won four fouls / had three fouls too). Had one cross but didn’t get too involved with generating chances in the attacking midfield role on the width.
DZ Harmon (67′) – 4.5 – first appearance for the Hounds. Did register a shot, but also got in the way late of Ybarra’s chance during that last mad scramble in the box.
The Hounds will have a nice respite from the early season grind, as they’ll be off this coming weekend, then won’t have to play in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup’s Second Round either (have already earned a forfeit win thanks to Rochester NY ceasing operations), so they’ll be next playing a competitive match on Saturday, April 8, as they travel to Colorado Springs in their first ever match versus the Switchbacks (8 p.m. ET kickoff).