Riverhounds SC Post Match Coverage on Pittsburgh Soccer Now is presented by The Bulldog Pub
The Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC and Louisville City FC showed why they’re two of the tougher defensive clubs in the USL Championship, playing to a hard-fought, scoreless draw at Highmark Stadium on Saturday night.
With the result, the Hounds (8-2-7, 31 points), are now level with Charleston Battery at the top of the USL Championship’s Eastern Conference standings at the halfway point of their 34-match campaign.
Between the two teams, only one shot found its way on frame, with goalkeepers Luis Zamudio and Oliver Zemmle picking up clean sheets.
Pittsburgh were on the front foot for most of the first half, primarily working the wide channels to create some dangerous moments.
In total, the Hounds sent 14 crosses and set up four corners, while sending four shots toward goal, with one needing to be saved. On the defensive side, Pittsburgh picked off six Louisville City passes.
It wasn’t enough as the midfield in particular didn’t have a strong game.
“We had balls in the middle of the box, but no one there. Decision making on ball wasn’t good. I don’t know if we did enough to win. Can’t have one or two chances a game,” Bob Lilley, Riverhounds Head Coach said afterwards.
“We just didn’t play particularly well,” Lilley said. “We didn’t connect for possession much, and we got pushed off a lot of balls. It seemed like (Louisville) was able to hold on to the ball, and we got pushed around. We were largely ineffective with our movement. We had poor crosses that got cut out and very little movement within the group when we got into the final third.
The Hounds lone shot on frame came from a Joe Farrell header of a free kick that was saved by Louisville’s Semmle.
Lilley added: “You’re not going to win games just on defending and hard work.”
This result was especially bothering Lilley as he feels once again that his team has left points on the table against a team they would have loved to create more distance in the standings.
The defending Eastern Conference champions haven’t exactly lit it up this year, and came into the match in mediocre form, and have struggled all season scoring goals, with 16 now in 16 matches.
Yet, the veteran laden squad turned the tables on the Hounds, and once again came away from Pittsburgh with a result. Since 2015, when they came into existence, Louisville has never lost a match in Pittsburgh. Since Lilley has taken over, the Hounds and Louisville (7-4-5) have drawn all four regular-season meetings at Highmark Stadium.
The Purple and Gold matched the Hounds at their own game on Saturday night at Highmark, turning the match into a massive struggle on both ends for large stretches, and in the final 45 minutes, the hosts dictated the terms of the match, created some dangerous moments, and left Bob Lilley to question his team’s ability to respond against a battle-tested opponent when the chips are on the table.
Hounds Personnel, Formation and Tactics
Pittsburgh ran out a similar line up from the week prior with a few different tweaks to the lineup but the same base 5-4-1 formation.
With Nate Dossantos out of the lineup, his former Marshall Thundering Herd teammate, Illal Osumanu, got the start on the backline.
The Hounds rotation included Burke Fahling and Langston Blackstock coming on in the 68th minute, for Rovira and Etou, while Edward Kizza spelled Luke Biasi in the 82nd minute. The final two subs came late in the 89th, as Trevor Zwetsloot and Pat Hogan came on for Marc Ybarra and Joe Farrell.
After Kizza came on, the Hounds tried to switch some things up, moving to a 4-2-3-1.
The Hounds spent more than 42 percent of the first 15 minutes in the final third of the field.
However, that didn’t translate into many chances.
There was a flurry of corner kicks which came from veteran midfielder Kenardo Forbes, who delivered three consecutive corner kicks between the 26th and 27th minutes, with one clever attempt to freeze everyone after on one of his c corner attempts rolled back to him, sending a bending cross that Semmle grabbed.
As the half progressed, Louisville began to gain more of possession, though the Hounds kept their territorial edge with nearly double the passes in the final third, 73-38.
The elements also played a role, as a torrential downpour that began in the 25th minute slowed the pace of play for both teams.
“(It) was a difficult night. We started well. The rain changed the game a little bit,” Arturo Ordonez said.
“That’s something we can’t control, so we need to do better.
Lilley wasn’t pleased with his entire team’s inability to extend possessions and raid the final third more, but expressed further concern about his midfield, which included Danny Griffin, Kenardo Forbes, Junior Etou and Marc Ybarra in this match.
‘It’s not a decoy thing. It’s not a forward thing. Our midfielders are not playing the right balls at times,” Lilley explained.
“That’s the strength of our team, and we’re not controlling the tempo. They’re not getting in the box. And that includes Kenny, Junior and Danny Griffin and some of our best players. The quality of our crosses need to be better, the movement has to be better. We have to attack the corners. We’re sitting there, waiting for the ball to bounce our way. We’ve been saying this for a while. We have to do more.”
“Yeah, there were one or two golden moments, but to score consistently, we need to get five, six, seven of those, and seven or so chances on top of that. And we’re getting very few looks, and you’re not going to always capitalize on one or two chances every game.”
Louisville Turns the Tables
Some of the match’s biggest fireworks to that point took place shortly after second half kickoff.
The Hounds were pressing high, and nearly stole one when Marc Ybarra intercepted a ball on the top of the 18, then chipped a ball forward for Tola Showunmi, who couldn’t get a solid touch on it before Semmle pushed it away.
While the Hounds brought a lot of pressure forward in the first half, Louisville City increased its chances, sending eight shots (none on frame) in the second ha lf, as they held the advantages in corners and crosses in the final 45 minutes.
After getting one shot off the entire first half, Louisville’s increased second half pressure included two solid chances, eight shots, five corners and a flurry of 11 crosses.
The visitors also brought on their big, lanky Dutch forward, Maarten Pouwels’ at the top of the attack, plus the addition of veterans Cam Lancaster and Niall McCabe also added a more dynamic dimension to their attack.
Hounds Escape Danger With Crazy Clearance
City’s best chance came in the 64th minute when Elijah Wynder’s shot from the middle of the box at the end of a rare 3-on-2 counter chance pinged off the right post, then bounced toward the six-yard box, where Hounds’ defender Arturo Ordonez cleared it away with a header.
Beautiful goal Elijah!!!!!! Referees seriously struggling….
— Ranae Wynder (@RanaeWyn) July 2, 2023
It was a crazy sequence as Pittsburgh narrowly escaped allowing a goal.
Ordonez spoke about the play after the match.
— John Krysinsky (@JohnKrysinsky) July 2, 2023
While the Hounds posted yet another clean sheet, Lilley felt like his three center backs were more uncomfortable and stretched more times in this match while Louisville, playing with two center backs didn’t have to do anything.
Lilley Laments Soccer Decisions and More
Hounds Head Coach Bob Lilley stayed with his players on the field after the match to deliver a message in a torrential downpour sharing his displeasure with their performance and in particular, their lack of focus.
When asked questions about his team’s injured players and about next week’s matchup vs Western Conference leaders, Sacramento Republic, Lilley held nothing back in his replies, especially to Amadeo Eichberg, of La Mega Media, Inc.
The veteran coach responded to the question about facing three former Hounds who are now with the Republic by turning the tables, asking the reporter how many quality players did he think the Hounds have?
Lilley made his point eventually that he’s never focused on just three players, pointing out his team is filled with a lot of very good players, and Sacramento have many other outstanding players besides the three former Hounds, Russell Cicerone, Danny Vitiello and Shane Wiedt.
“If we don’t have the ball, it doesn’t really matter. They’re (Sacramento) scoring goals,” Lilley exclaimed.
“We lucked into not giving up any goals tonight. Not that they had a ton of chances, but we were lucky to have a shutout tonight. Because we don’t play better when we don’t have the ball. Sacramento, or anybody, will come in here and score goals. It’s more about what we’re doing. Making soccer decisions. I love my team because they train hard. They play hard.”
In his extended answer, Lilley lamented about his squad’s lack of focus and maturity at times despite pointing out that his players, making up the third youngest roster in the USL Championship.
“But, they’re still not good decision makers, period,” Lilley stated.
“They’ve had stretches where they’ve played better, and made good decisions. Had good games, but have struggled to put together 90 minutes consistently.”
It wasn’t the result Lilley and the Hounds wanted, but with half the season left, they’re in the top of the standings and have to work out their growing pains, and look to get better with their decision making and creating chances as every team in the conference coming for them.
“We all have to take responsibility. And do better. We have to play at a higher level. We know that. We’ll keep working on it. Maybe the guys have a different perspective,” Lilley stated.
For all his frustration on the night, Lilley acknowledges that his team needs to get back to work.
“We have to put this one behind us quickly. We have Sacramento coming, then on the road to Louisville. The next two weeks are not going to get any easier. We have to find a way to get better between now and next weekend.”
#PITvLOU Hounds Player Grades
Luis Zamudio – 6 – no saves needed, was solid off his line.
Defenders / Outside Backs
Dani Rovira – 7 – busy match on the width for Rovira against big, athletic Louisville wingers. In addition to his header to safety ending Louisville’s best chance, Rovira connected on 80 percent of his passes, best among the starting 11, won possession a team-high 11 times and added a chance created in 68 minutes of action.
Arturo Ordonez – 6.5 – 4 interceptions, 3 clearances, 9 recoveries and that ridiculous goal saving headed clearance.
Joe Farrell – 6.5 – won 6/13 duels, 3 clearances, 8 recoveries in the central spot on back line
Trevor Zwetsloot (89′) – N/R – mop up time.
Illal Osumanu – 6 – won 4/8 duels with five recoveries in his second straight start
Luke Biasi – 5 – won 6/8 duels but passing accuracy was 48% while connected on one just one of six crosses.
Junior Etou – 4.5 – won 4/9 duels but not much of factor in creating chances with three passes into final third and 54% overall passing accuracy.
Marc Ybarra – 4.5 – won just 2 of 8 duels, on 62% passing accuracy and one chance created.
Danny Griffin – 4.5 – won just 4 of 9 duels, with only 57% passing accuracy, with three shots but zero chances created.
Kenardo Forbes – 5.5 – while Forbes was tops among the midfielders in passing (39 touches — 71% accuracy) and chances created (3), it was a night even when Lilley wanted more from his most trusted play maker.
Burke Fahling (68′) – N/R – won 5/6 duels in his abbreviated match time.
Edward Kizza – (82′) – N/R – back in the 18, and when he came on late, the Hounds switched to 4-2-3-1
Langston Blackstock – (68′) – N/R – 19 touches (70% passing accuracy), 2/3 duels, three recoveries. Lilley wasn’t happy that he was high fiving fans during one sequence.
Tola Showunmi – 5.5 – was involved a lot of balls coming his way (36 touches), winning 10/15 aerial duels, but had one shot (blocked) and created two chances.
Unused subs: Micael DeShields, Christian Garner