Riverhounds SC Post Match Coverage on Pittsburgh Soccer Now is presented by The Bulldog Pub
PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC and Sacramento Republic FC came into their match Saturday night as two of the best teams in the USL Championship. Both teams fought over the 90 minutes, but couldn’t find the back of the net, resulting in a 0-0 draw.
The Riverhounds (8-8-2) make it two straight games without a goal and finishing in a draw. This keeps them unbeaten at home this season, with eight wins and three draws across all competitions, and only four goals allowed. This matchup also served as the first between the Riverhounds and Sacramento (9-7-2)
Neither team did much throughout the first 10 minutes, until Sacramento created the first real opportunity. Former Pittsburgh forward, Russell Cicerone, found space in the box of a corner and flicked a header on goal in the 11th minute. Pittsburgh goalkeeper Luis Zamudio stood strong and pushed the shot away from danger.
Riverhounds midfielder Marc Ybarra received a yellow card in the 19th minute for stepping on the foot of Sacramento defender Damià Viader. Sacramento defender Connor Donovan also received a yellow card for catching Riverhounds midfielder Junior Etou with a high foot on the shin in the 34th minute.
Pittsburgh managed to have two great chances over the next two minutes. Midfielder Kenardo Forbes took a corner in the 27th minute that found defender Joe Farrell, who took a glancing header that spun just wide left of the goal.
Forbes again got the ball off a terrible pass from a Sacramento defender. With time and space, Forbes drove through the center of the field and passed it to forward Tola Showunmi, who took a weak-footed right shot that Sacramento goalkeeper Danny Vitiello easily saved.
The Riverhounds had one last chance in the 38th minute to break open the scoring in the first half. Midfielder Junior Etou did a great job to bring down a long pass from Forbes on the left side of the field. Etou then moved towards the end line and put a shot in the box that Vitiello tried to punch away, but it fell to defender DZ Harmon. Harmon chested the ball and then tried the spectacular with a bicycle kick, which went way over the goal.
Pittsburgh head coach Bob Lilley brought on forward Albert Dikwa on after the first half to bolster the attack in place of Showunmi. This was the first game for Dikwa since he injured his collarbone back in the 3-1 loss to FC Cincinnati in the U.S. Open Cup Quarterfinals on June 6.
Dikwa almost scored early in the second half, as he got a low cross from Forbes in the box and sent it just wide in the 50th minute.
Sacramento failed to put pressure on Pittsburgh throughout the second half. Their best chance came when Cicerone got the ball in the box, held it and laid it off for defender Damià Vader, whose shot curled just wide left in the 59th minute.
The Riverhounds kept pushing onward to break the deadlock. DIkwa continued to excel up front, and received a great opportunity in the 65th minute. Midfielder Danny Griffin cleared a ball out and it found its way to Dikwa who rushed onto to goal and ripped a shot, but Vitiello pushed it away and dealt with the pressure.
Midfielder Robbie Mertz, who also spent almost a month out due to a foot injury, came back off the bench in the 71st minute for his first game since June 10 in the 2-0 win vs. Charleston Battery.
He almost scored when Griffin put in a cross in, which he headed down, but it proved easy for Vitiello to grab and hold on to.
The choice to dress Dikwa and Mertz for Lilley meant that he planned to put them on the field at some point. He didn’t necessarily know when he wanted to put them in, but he knew that it was the right time to bring them in when he did.
“I don’t know, going into the game, thinking I wanted to have Dikwa play 45 minutes, but I felt like we were starting to wins some balls higher and we were starting to get some transition moments,” Lilley said.
The last great chance for Pittsburgh came in stoppage time. Substitute defender Luke Biasi took a nice pass from Dikwa and ripped a shot from outside the box, which Vitiello had to parry away for a corner.
This is the first time that the Riverhounds have had back-to-back scoreless draws since the first two games that Lilley took over as head coach in the 2018 season. Those came against the newly founded Nashville SC on the road on March 24 and the now-defunct Penn FC on March 31.
Despite it being two straight scoreless draws, Lilley said that the team played better against Sacramento than they did Louisville. He also pointed out that had the team been just a little more clinical, they would’ve celebrated a great victory instead of lamenting on another disappointing draw.
“We were better this week than last week,” Lilley said. “It’s tough. We needed to be ruthless…we had the ball in good spaces, over and over and over again, we just didn’t execute. But there were more moments that we can point to that we looked dangerous there. There was a little more energy to go forward. There was some improvement there.”
Griffin also noticed that the team played much better than the previous week. He also highlighted the return of Dikwa and Mertz as key points for the improved attack against Sacramento.
“It’s great having them back,” Griffin said. “It’s great to see them back on the field and I’m happy to see them return. They’re key players on and off the field, in terms of what they do on and off the field. So just to see them get those opportunities and we’ll keep clicking with our offense and building with that, but it was good to see some guys in the box creating opportunities. We’ve got to create more in the game to win it, but just having those guys back will help our offense for sure.”
The Riverhounds go out on the road next week to take on rival Louisville City FC, Wednesday, July 12 at 7 p.m.