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Pittsburgh Riverhounds

Hounds overcome slow start, earn first preseason win at Loudoun, 2-1

Robbie Mertz and Babacar Diene netted goals on each side of halftime, and the Pittsburgh Riverhounds came away with victory in their first road preseason match by defeating Loudoun United FC, 2-1, this afternoon at Segra Field in Leesburg, Va.

Kalil ElMedkhar put the hosts in front with his goal in the 22nd minute, but Mertz converted from the penalty spot with two minutes until halftime, and Diene struck for the winner — his first in a Hounds uniform — in the 56th minute.

Loudoun were deservedly ahead in the early stages, as the Hounds (1-0-1 preseason) took time to find their rhythm in their first road outing of 2024.

But the Hounds got the tying goal in the 43rd minute after Langston Blackstock played Junior Etou into the box down the left side, where Etou was brought down for the penalty kick. Mertz scored the spot kick to make it 1-1 at the break.

“We had a slow start. Loudoun was all over us for the first 30 minutes, and we were fortunate to only be down 1-0,” Riverhounds head coach Bob Lilley said.

“But we carved out a few chances late in the first half and got the penalty. … I think we started the second half really well. We started to force some mistakes, and Baba got the goal about 10 or 15 minutes in.”

Diene scored the eventual winner in the 56th minute with a strong run into the box from a wide area on the left. The first-year striker was able to ward off his defender while moving to his right before firing a shot off the underside of the crossbar and into the goal.

Each team had a goal disallowed in the second half, including a late Loudoun equalizer wiped out for offside, but the Hounds were able to hang on to the result against a much-improved opponent.

“I was really happy in the second half with how we played the first 25 minutes, but then we held on at the end. There were a lot of subs in the game at the end, and they had a lot of service into our box,” Lilley said.

Lilley continued: “I think this game challenged us even more than our first game with Indy. Loudoun is a good team, and they always give us problems here. They’ve added some good players — (former Hounds) Robby Dambrot and Christiano (François), Drew Skundrich from Colorado Springs, and Florian Valot from Miami. They’ve got some real good talent. It’s a positive that we went on the road and got a result, but there’s still a lot of work to be done to get to the level we need to be at for 90 minutes.”

The Hounds return to training next week as they prepare for their third preseason match — and their first against a non-USL Championship team — when they will host 2023 College Cup semifinalist West Virginia University at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 18 at Highmark Stadium.

Glory on the Grass

Riverhounds MF Kenardo Forbes

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