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Riverhounds not deterred by rain delay, easily win 2-0 over Hartford

Pittsburgh Riverhounds defender Dani Rovira

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC had to wait three hours in a rain delay before they had the opportunity to demolish Hartford Athletic 2-0 at Highmark Stadium Saturday night.

The win is the third straight for the Riverhounds (13-8-4), who end their four-game home stand with three wins out of four. The victory against Hartford (4-4-15) also keeps the Riverhounds at the top of the Eastern Conference and the USL Championship with 47 points.

Hartford had a great chance in the fourth minute, as forward Antoine Hoppenot got in front of goal, but put his shot just wide right.

The Riverhounds controlled the rest of the first half and didn’t allow Hartford much opportunity to score at all.

Pittsburgh midfielder Robbie Mertz put a fast pass into the box, that Hartford should have dealt with. Hartford defender Triston Hodge had a terrible first touch, which allowed for Pittsburgh defender Dani Rovira to get onto it. Rovira then placed an easy pass for forward Albert Dikwa who slotted it into the net for the lead in the 16th minute.

For Dikwa, that is his 12th goal of the season, third most in the USL Championship, and makes it his second straight game with a goal, as he scored the solo goal against Tampa Bay last time out. Rovria also celebrated his 100th match with the team, making his second assists of the season.

The Riverhounds received another great opportunity when Hartford Athletic defender Modesto Mendez committed a foul that led to a penalty. Riverhounds forward Juan Carlos (J.C.) Obregón Jr. stepped up to the spot and smashed the penalty kick to double the lead to 2-0 in the 42nd minute, just before halftime.

Obregón played for Hartford Athletic for two seasons from 2021-22, making 53 appearances and scoring 15 goals. The penalty for Obregón is his second goal since coming to Pittsburgh and his first against Hartford.

“I mean, it was bittersweet to score against my former club,” Obregón said. “But, you know, Happy to be able to get on the scoresheet. That’s my mentality going into every game. Get on the scoresheet, help the team win. So yeah, happy I got on the scoresheet and happy we got the three points.”

Obregón went off after halftime, with Pittsburgh forward Edward Kizza coming on in his place. He said post match that he physically “feels fine” and the substitution Lilley made was technical not because of injury.

Kizza had two great chances to put the match away for good, but didn’t convert either time. He received a cross and blasted a shot on goal, but Hartford goalkeeper Joe Rice pushed it away for a corner in the 56th minute. Kizza also received a perfect pass from midfielder Junior Etou, but his shot weakly hit the post and amounted to nothing in the 66th minute.

Hartford spent most of the game fouling the Riverhounds and making nasty challenges. They ended up with six yellow cards, four in the first half, two in the second half, compared to just one yellow card for the Riverhounds all game.

Pittsburgh did a solid job against Hartford, but it wasn’t really a surprise. Hartford played poorly, lacked a proper shape and didn’t create many chances in the match, whatsoever.

Riverhounds head coach Bob Lilley said that his team did not worry about the rain delay at all. In fact, he liked the fact that the game went through a delay instead of having the game go through a delay midway. Still, even with the win after the long rain delay, Lilley didn’t like how his team played and won’t accept it going forward.

“I don’t think we were great tonight,” Lilley said. “…I think our execution, there was a lot of space out there in transition that we wasted a lot of moments in that game that need to be executed better. Defensively, I think we were inconsistent. The game was way too open. Hartford has pace, our backs held up, but if we’re organized better in the back and in the midfield, they’re not running through our lines. For me, that game should’ve been a lot easier than we made it, but I suppose it’s an awkward game when you have that delay and the bottom line is we got the three points. We just have to put this one behind us…”

Lilley celebrated his 100th win as head coach of the Riverhounds with the victory over Hartford. Since joining in 2018, Lilley has a record of 100-40-53 (W-D-L) and has made the USL Championship Playoffs in every season as head coach for the club.

Obregón also said that the three hour rain delay put some pause in the Riverhounds’ plans for the game. Instead of the normal warm up and readying themselves one they got to the stadium, they had to just wait around and keep themselves busy prior to a much later warm up after 9 p.m.

“Those are kind of like weird moments,” Obregón said on the rain delay. “It’s kind of tough because when you walk into the stadium and you’re pretty amped up, ready for the game, in game mode. But at that time, you don’t want to stay too rev’d up, because you lose energy. So you have to stay even-keeled, save your energy for the beginning of the game. So that’s what we tried to do. We were just hanging out, playing games, juggling the ball around, some people were watching Netflix, trying to have a good time.”

Pittsburgh will travel to California mid-week to take on Orange County SC on Wednesday, Aug. 16 at 10 p.m. Orange County have won their past four games and didn’t play this weekend, meaning they’ll be fresh and ready to take on Pittsburgh.

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Glory on the Grass

Riverhounds MF Kenardo Forbes

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