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Pittsburgh Riverhounds

A Work of Arturo: Riverhounds hold off Phoenix Rising FC, 1-0, for sixth straight victory

Photo courtesy Mark Goodman

PITTSBURGH —  Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC faced many challenges from Phoenix Rising FC Saturday night, but held on for the 1-0 victory at Highmark Stadium.

The win for the Riverhounds (6-2-5) is their fourth straight in the USL Championship, sixth straight in all competitions and makes it nine straight games undefeated since late April. It is also the third straight clean sheet for the Riverhounds in all competitions, back-to-back in the USL Championship and seventh of the season. This win also puts them into second place in the Eastern Conference, overtaking Louisville City FC and the Tampa Bay Rowdies.

The Riverhounds took the lead in the 22nd minute off an incredibly worked set piece. Midfielder Kenardo Forbes put in a perfect ball, which defender Arturo Ordoñez headed into the back of the net to give his side the opening goal.

The goal for Orodoñez is his third this season, with all three coming off set pieces in the past three USL Championship matches.

Ordoñez said that the game was a tough one, but that overall, the Riverhounds were strong in the box and dominated in aerial challenges. He also spoke on his preparation in the offseason to attack balls better in the box, which has led to his scoring streak this season.

“I was looking at Kenny [Forbes] and he was kind of telling me to go to the near post,” Orodoñez said on the goal.

“I knew that defender, because I scored at that near post against Las Vegas, he was cheating the first corner kick. So, I made a move, then I just dropped him and I was free and I could jump. The guy was kind of cheating and anticipating that I would go to the near post, so then I faked that I was going to go and I went around him and I got free and I jumped over him.”

The Riverhounds didn’t allow Phoenix many opportunities in the first half to score, staying strong defensively and keeping the ball out of the box.

Pittsburgh forward Edward Kizza found himself with a great chance to score after Phoenix midfielder Kevon Lambert passed a ball back that went into open space. Kizza got the ball, but Phoenix goalkeeper Rocco Rios Novo blocked his weakly chipped shot to keep the deficit at one.

Phoenix controlled possession in the second half and had much better chances to tie the game throughout.

One chance came in the 53rd minute, when defender Edwin Munjoma cut inside and put a hard shot on goal. Pittsburgh goalkeeper Jahmali Waite stood strong and used his right glove to palm away the dangerous chance.

Phoenix almost scored a goal in the 61st minute, as Waite missed the punch on a cross and Lambert headed it towards goal. Ordoñez got to the ball to head it away for a goal line clearance to keep Phoenix scoreless.

Waite then made another brilliant save in the 70th minute, as Munjoma put a curling shot to the top right corner of the goal. Waite stayed composed, saw the shot and then dove, making a great save with his reaching right hand to push the shot out for a corner.

“You just got to be switched on, especially on those [shots] that are off the volley,” Waite said on making those big time saves. “You got to be set early, you see it early, have your feet ready and you make a save.”

Waite also spoke on the Riverhounds’ defensive performance, noting that the clean sheet streak is emblematic of their growth as a team.

“We have a lot of good centre-backs back there,” Waite said. “We’ve seen a lot of guys in and out and the level doesn’t really change. That shows the depth of our team and how well guys can do filling in.”

The Riverhounds managed to keep Phoenix from having any serious chances the rest of the game, as they defended their box and even tried to work some attacking play later in the second half. This strategy worked well and the Riverhounds held on for another important victory.

Pittsburgh head coach Bob Lilley praised his team for their current form, but also wanted to see more from his team when they went up a goal. He didn’t like that his team didn’t go for the second goal when they went up early, but that the rotations of so many players is a large task for his squad.

“We defended well in our own box, that’s about the extent of it,” Lilley said.

“It’s too easy. They played through us, they dribbled through us. We weren’t able to hold the ball in higher areas and make them defend…I’m proud of the determination to keep them off the board when we we’re backed up on our own goal line, but overall, there’s a lot we can do defensively better higher up the pitch and in the middle third and even how we organize out of the back.”

Pittsburgh travels to take on MLS side FC Cincinnati in the U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday, June 6 at 7 p.m. They then return to Highmark Stadium to face Charleston Battery, the No. 1 team in the Eastern Conference on Saturday, June 10 at 7 p.m.

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Glory on the Grass

Riverhounds MF Kenardo Forbes

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