Riverhounds SC Post Match Coverage on Pittsburgh Soccer Now is presented by The Bulldog Pub
Final: Pittsburgh 1, Indy Eleven 1
The Riverhounds SC continue to play with fire when it comes to conceding possession, while relying on a stout defensive game plan and finding bits and pieces of goal scoring opportunities, here and there, on the counter attack.
This is a formula that almost worked Saturday night in Indianapolis, as the Hounds took an early lead in the 18th minute, thanks to a well-placed direct ball over the top from Luke Biasi to Albert Dikwa, who scored his fifth goal of the season with excellent composure. However, the Hounds, as their Head Coach, Bob Lilley would say after the match, lost much of their ambition in looking to get forward for long stretches of the match, allowing the talented and strong possession Indy side, find their way to hit the equalizer.
PSN’s Midwest contributor, Dan Angell was at Michael Carroll Stadium, and filed an excellent match report.
With the draw, the Hounds record in league play now stands at 2-2-4 (good for 10 points), as they remain in fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings.
Personnel, Formation and Tactics
The Hounds came into this match expecting to have to concede possession, so Head Coach Bob Lilley made a few tweaks to his starting eleven that including a start for Langston Blackstock as left outside midfielder.
Otherwise, much of the lineup was filled with the usual suspects, as Luke Biasi continues to start as right outside back, while Pittsburgh opted to lineup in a 4-4-2 to start, but throughout the match, Biasi and Robbie Mertz both pushing higher at times, it looked more like a three-man back line (3-4-3) with Arturo Ordonez, Joe Farrell and Nate Dossantos playing deeper.
Blackstock was taken out at the half, in favor of Trevor Zwetsloot, to give the Hounds a chance to push Kenardo Forbes higher in the attack.
With both sides coming off Open Cup matches during the week, squad rotation proved to be important, as Pittsburgh also brought on Pat Hogan and Tola Showunmi (for Kizza and Mertz) in the 67th minute, and Burke Fahling (for Marc Ybarra) in the 87th.
What We Learned: INDvPIT
As expected, this match provided the ultimate clash of styles, as Pittsburgh did what they could to slow down the Eleven, who were firmly up to the task in the midfield battles, but even with a pair of USLC all-time goal scoring wizards at the top of the attack, Sebastián Guenzatti and Solomon Asante, were fairly inept most of the night.
While the Hounds showed that even on a night when they’re not creating enough and bringing waves of pressure, that Albert Dikwa continues to deliver and make the most of his chances.
Dikwa scored his team leading fifth goal of the season by making a well-timed run behind the Indy back line, then with plenty of composure gave his club the lead with a clinical one-time finish.
Yesterday's @PALottery Play of the Game! #INDvPIT #HOUNDTAHN pic.twitter.com/NBSz6RfLoi
— Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (@RiverhoundsSC) April 30, 2023
While the Hounds couldn’t find another quality goal scoring chance in the first half, they ended the first 45 minute feeling like they were in control.
“It was a pretty good performance from us in the first half, but I thought Indy kind of worked their way into the game near the end of the half,” Pittsburgh coach Bob Lilley said. “We probably needed a second goal, and I don’t know if we were ambitious enough. We had a few counters, but I think we could have been a bit more proactive trying to get that second goal.”
Eleven really stepped things up in the second half, as they were clearly the more aggressive side, and eventually it paid off.
Indy owned the possession battle (62/38) and kept bringing crosses (holding a 29-5 edge), had more corners (4-0), while the Hounds were pretty resilient for most of the night in turning them away to the tune of 21 clearances and 28 tackles (that was a 71.4% tackles success rate). The center back pairing of Ordonez and Farrell were unshakable, winning 10 of 11 duels, with 14 clearances and playing out 111 passes combined.
Giving a team with as many talented and experienced players that much time on the ball, eventually the bubble was going to burst for the Hounds.
But Indy’s coach Mark Lowry has just one win thus far, despite many big off season acquisitions, so you have to also be wondering if he was feeling the heat going into the half down a goal. He brought on Jack Blake and Douglas Martinez, and in the 81st minute, Blake, who played a full match vs Columbus in the Open Cup, made the Hounds pay for their lack of aggression.
Robby Dambrot’s cross seemed harmless at first, especially when Pittsburgh keeper Jahmali Waite punched it away, but the punch left him out of position for a rebound. That proved unfortunate when the ball bounced right to Blake, who had an open net to aim for.
Game on!@IndyEleven equalizes on a well-weighted strike from @jackblake94! ⚖️#INDvPIT pic.twitter.com/vKjSrxiWv5
— USL Championship (@USLChampionship) April 30, 2023
The Scotsman buried the shot, tying the match and throwing the Hounds into chaos.
It could be marked up as a mistake by the young keeper, who could have punched the ball in a different direction, or not come off his line (leaving chance for his defenders to close out Blake), Lilley didn’t lay the blame on Waite.
“Jahmali actually made a good play to punch it, but it just went right to Blake,” Lilley said. “Technically, he didn’t take a big swing at it. He’s just a quality player that knew if he steers it on frame (it would go in). If he had to trap it, maybe we get out and block it.”
Pittsburgh couldn’t regain its aggression in time to mount a counter, having to instead settle for a 1-1 draw with the Eleven.
Lilley wants his team to exhibit more aggression and take more risks, because when they do, they’re bringing quality. The Hounds had six shots, with five of those on frame. If they doubled that amount, it’s likely they could have finished the match with another goal, or two.
This result has been fairly emblematic of how the Hounds have performed this season. Strong defensively for the most part, but under duress for long stretches, they’re likely to concede at least one goal, while they have tip-toed their way for stretches in getting forward and trying to create more scoring chances.
Hounds Player Grades (#INDvPIT)
Jahmali Waite – 5 – it was another goal that wasn’t completely his fault, but could have punched in a different direction and we might be talking about a clean sheet for Waite and the Hounds.
Pat Hogan (67′) – N/R – played full minutes in the Open Cup, and came on as a sub to add another big body in the back to keep the shutout.
Nate Dossantos – 5 – busy on the back end (3 tackles, 2 interceptions, 3 clearances) but just one unsuccessful cross showing that he was tucked back deeper rather than having an impact in getting forward.
Joe Farrell – 6 – Remained steady and in the central defense most of the night, initiating a lot of possessions (59 passes), while turning everything back (6 clearances and 2 interceptions) but didn’t face a lot of 1:1 battles (won 3/3 duels).
Luke Biasi – 6.5 – it was a solid two-way performance for Biasi, who set up the goal with a deadly accurate long ball over the top, that gave him the assist in the scoresheet.
Arturo Ordonez – 7 – Paired with Farrell for much of the night, was equally solid, winning 7 of 8 duels, had 54 passes (80% passing accuracy), team-high 8 clearances and 6 interceptions. Making his case in the first half of the season for All-USL Championship Team selections.
Robbie Mertz – 6.5 – Mertz was pretty active as usual. One of the announcers said that Mertz is one of those players who teammates love to play with, but opponents hate to face. Robbie was team high 90% passing accuracy but needs more touches with just 22 passes, while winning 8 of 14 duels.
Langston Blackstock – 4 – in his first league match start, Blackstock was pretty quiet, not offering up any crosses or chances to create, just 13 passes, while winning just 1/4 duels, while picking up a yellow card, prompting Lilley to take him off at the half.
Kenardo Forbes – 4.5 – An off night for the Hounds captain with just 32 passes (needs more of the ball), while being more aggressive taking two unsuccessful shots, was 0/5 in his duels.
Marc Ybarra – 5.5 – truly evolving much like Danny Griffin did under Lilley in the holding midfield spot. Team high 85% passing accuracy, won two fouls, 2 tackles, 2 clearances, 1 interception, won 4/10 duels.
Trevor Zwetsloot ( 45′ ) – 5.5 – five tackles, one interception, created a chance in the second half
Burke Fahling ( 87′ ) – came on very late.
Albert Dikwa – 7 – Another solid 90 minute shift for Dikwa, who was active throughout, winning four fouls, taking 7 of 12 duels and leading all players with four touches in the opponent’s box.
Edward Kizza – 5 – thought he was a bit more involved in trying to create chances (had 3), winning a foul, but ultimately, still without a goal or assist in league play this season.
Tola Showunmi ( 67′ ) – 4 – did the usual thing off the bench, but didn’t have much of an impact as the Hounds were too busy defending. Couple advances he couldn’t get shot attempts off, as he was dispossessed each time.
The Hounds will train all week, then travel across the country to take on Monterey Bay FC, a team with a few former Hounds players, including Alex Dixon, Christian Volesky, Hugh Roberts and Jason Johnson, for a 10 p.m. ET kickoff on Friday night.