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Pittsburgh Riverhounds

Takeaways: Powered by strong connections in final third, Albert Dikwa brace, and record crowd, Riverhounds top Tulsa, 3-2

FINAL:  Pittsburgh 3, FC Tulsa 2

Match Stats

The Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC made sure they delivered another win for a regular season record crowd of 6,045, continuing solid execution in the final third in beating FC Tulsa, 3-2, at Highmark Stadium on Saturday night.

Once again, it was Albert Dikwa who delivered a pair of goals to extend his lead in the race for the USL Championship’s golden boot, increasing his league total to 19.  Center back Joe Farrell scored the Hounds second goal, for the second week in a row on a play that began on a set piece.  Tulsa scored late in each half, as Keegan Hughes’ header off a set piece cut the lead to 2-1, then Phil Goodrum converted a penalty kick late in the match in stoppage time to give Tulsa a fighting chance.

“We played pretty well,” Riverhounds Head Coach Bob Lilley said.  “We’re going to have to play the full 90 minutes every match going forward. I thought we did a good job resetting things at the half, and it was a positive result overall.”

With its record 13th home win in league play this season, the Riverhounds SC (63 points) hold onto a three-point lead in the USL Championship’s Eastern Conference and in the race to the overall league points total (Players Shield).  Second place Tampa Bay (60 points) held on for a 1-0 win vs Loudoun United FC, setting up a showdown next week at Al Lang Stadium.

Additionally, the Hounds set new Franchise Record average attendance of 5,012 per game during the regular season.


Super Connections Lead to Albert Dikwa’s Fifth Brace of Season

Goal number 18 for Dikwa came from the Hounds looking like a well-oiled machine in the final third, early in the match.

Pittsburgh toyed with Tulsa, knocking the ball around for about 45 seconds, connecting 10 consecutive passes, ending with a Danny Griffin ball sent wide for Rovira who delivered a pinpoint cross for Dikwa.

“On (that) goal, it was great,” Lilley said after the match, pointing out that his team developed a lot of chemistry and when they’re at their best in the run of play, they can create dynamic, team-oriented goals.

“We work on that a lot,” Dikwa acknowledged.

“Dani always says, if I have the ball, find the space and I’ll get you the ball. We made eye contact, and I knew he would put it in there. And all I had to do is hit the target.”

The Hounds made it look easy, but it was far from it.

“We’re turning (Tulsa) balls over.  We were pressing.  But, it’s something all teams have to work hard at.  Never a given.  Not as simple as riding a bike.  You have to evolve as players, and be able to read situations and react. Scoring goals is hardest thing you can do in this game.”

On that sequence the Hounds were flawless in execution, with every first touch well-taken, while exercising a certain level of patience on the ball.

Lilley has demanded more dynamic play from his team on the ball and they delivered, early in this match one of the most well-orchestrated, team build up sequences in the final third all season.

Rovira delivered a pinpoint final pass into the box for Dikwa, who has been almost automatic this season when provided with sound service.

The Hounds still conceded possession in the match, as Tulsa ended with 60-40 percent advantage, but spent much of the time trying to evade Pittsburgh’s high press, which saw Dikwa and Edward Kizza leading the charge and spending a lot of time very high up the pitch harassing Tulsa’s back line and goalkeeper, Michael Nelson.

Shortly after the first goal,Danny Griffin nearly had the second goal for the Hounds after more good ball possession, but his shot from the top of the box struck the base of the right post before being corralled by Nelson.

Lilley stated that the team reasserted themselves well at the start of the second half, leading to another golden set piece chance for Kenardo Forbes to get yet another assist, for Dikwa to build on his scoring lead, and most importantly, give the Hounds an important cushion.

This time it came on a straightaway free kick in the 63rd minute.

Forbes lined it up, and placed it right where Dikwa wanted it.

“We have a good connection,” Dikwa said.

“He looked at me. I looked at him. There were some hand signals, but he knew where I wanted the ball.”

Bounce Goes Hounds’ Way 

The Hounds scored twice on corner kicks last week, and continued its momentum again on set pieces.

With a 1-0 lead, Pittsburgh earned its second corner of this match in the 29th minute, and instead of scoring cleanly from Kenardo Forbes’ service, this time, they reacted quickly and made Tulsa pay for not clearing the ball away completely.

Junior Etou was able to get a header redirected back toward the goal area, where Farrell found himself in position to simply guide the ball past Nelson for the two-goal lead.

Tulsa Found Moments Late in Both Halves  

Farrell said this week that not only is it important for the Hounds to execute on set piece chances, but also to defend well on them too.

In this case, the Hounds committed a foul on Tulsa’s leading scorer, Philip Goodrum, on the left flank, about 30 yards from goal, setting up a free kick opportunity late in the first half for the visitors.

This was all Tulsa needed, as Milo Yosef’s free kick was placed right where it needed to be, threading a needle between two Hounds defenders, as Keegan Hughes rose up to deliver a stinging header that cut the lead in half.

Lilley wasn’t pleased with the Hounds inability to close out each half.

In stoppage time, the Hounds got careless in defending again, as a foul from Nate Dossantos on Moses Dyer led to a Goodrum penalty kick conversion that made the match, 3-2, in the very late stages.

“They were getting balls through us. And that shouldn’t happen,” Lilley stated.

“It’s frustrating that we’re giving up some soft goals.  I still don’t think we’re defending at best level. (We) don’t need to lunge in after every ball. Fortunately we had two goal lead.

Lilley added that once the match was 3-1, his club started to get stretch a bit more, and their shape in the middle of the pitch was compromised a few times.

“We’re beating ourselves in those moments,” Lilley added.

With the next match at Tampa Bay, with the Eastern Conference and Players Shield races at stake, Lilley knows that his club cannot afford to have too many more late defensive lapses.

“All week we’re going to talk about going to Tampa Bay and winning,” Lilley stated.

“If you don’t it opens the door for Tampa. For Charleston.  And for Sacramento too. There’s different scenarios.  We’ll have to be brave. It’s may come down to who wants it more.  We need to assert ourselves.   We’ll have to take matters in our own hands.”

Riverhounds Regular Season and Single Game Attendance Records Broken 

It was made official on Saturday, the Hounds played before its 13th sellout (out of 17) of the regular season in league play, breaking both the record single game attendance record and the season average attendance record by drawing 5,012 fans per game this season.

“We are here to win for them. They came out for us all season,” Dikwa said.

“And we are grateful for their support. They really do make a difference.”

POST MATCH INTERVIEWS (Bob Lilley & Albert Dikwa)

Hounds Starting XI

26 Waite GK
4 Rovira DF
8 Etou DF
6 Dossantos DF
15 Farrell DF
5 Ordoñez DF
23 Ybarra MF
2 Griffin MF
11 Forbes (C) MF
19 Kizza FW
9 Albert Dikwa FW

Tulsa Starting XI

24 Nelson GK
4 Bonet DF
12 Tetteh DF
15 Hughes DF
20 Yosef MF
21 Seagrist MF
8 Fernandez MF
48 Bird (C) MF
18 Worth MF
7 Epps FW
10 Goodrum FW

John Krysinsky has covered soccer and other sports for many years for various publications and media outlets. He is also author of 'Miracle on the Mon' -- a book about the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, which chronicles the club, particularly the early years of Highmark Stadium with the narrative leading up to and centered around a remarkable match that helped provide a spark for the franchise. John has covered sports for Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, DK Pittsburgh Sports, Pittsburgh Sports Report, has served as color commentator on Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC broadcasts, and worked with OPTA Stats and broadcast teams for US Open Cup and International Champions Cup matches held in the US. Krysinsky also served as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach at his alma mater, Point Park University, where he led the Pioneers to the first-ever winning seasons and playoff berths (1996-98); head coach of North Catholic boys (2007-08), associate head coach of Shady Side Academy boys (2009-2014).

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Glory on the Grass

Riverhounds MF Kenardo Forbes

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