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Pittsburgh Riverhounds

Punished for failing to convert on chances, Riverhounds drop home opener to Orange County, 2-0

Photo courtesy Ed Thompson
USL Championship

FINAL: Orange County SC 2, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC 0

Match Summary

The Pittsburgh Riverhounds were punished for their failure to convert a host of chances as they fell 2-0 to Orange County SC in their home opener. 

It was a far from ideal start from the Riverhounds, especially after the pomp and circumstance surrounding the pregame ceremony and Players’ Shield presentation, Ryan Doghman’s cross from the left flank zipping between the Hounds’ back line and goalkeeper Eric Dick, with Brian Illoski sliding in at the back post to give the visitors the lead inside the opening five minutes. 

They responded well to the setback, dominating possession and chances in the immediate aftermath, but just couldn’t quite get the final ball to work, with their closest effort coming off a Robbie Mertz cross that was just too high for Babacar Diene to reach. 

The play died down for the most part for the next 20 minutes or so, but sparked back into life in the final ten minutes of the frame. It started when Junior Etou went down inside the box under a challenge but was denied a penalty, Robbie Mertz went in high on OC goalkeeper Colin Shuter just outside the area as he was trying to head the ball away and was lucky to escape without a card, Diene’s powerful header forced a smart save from Shuter to push the ball away for a corner, all within the space of five minutes before Mertz again came close as his effort from just inside the box rattled the crossbar with a volley to end the half in exhilarating fashion. 

The second half didn’t see any changes to the lineups, nor did it see a change to the run of play, with the Hounds maintaining their control of possession and creating a few chances, but still failing to break down the OC back line with any sort of conviction. 

The Hounds did get into the Orange County box on a few occasions, an acrobatic effort from Robbie Mertz was the most spectacular effort, even if it didn’t manage to get on target or even reac the end line, whilst Langston Balckstock’s header in the 75th minute would ultimately be their last chance to salvage something from the game. 

That’s because Orange County went right up the other end and after Christian Sorto’s cross went over the head of Pat Hogan and onto the foot of Cameron Dunbar, the Orange County forward took a few touches to take it back past Hogan before slotting past Dick to hit the Hounds against the run of play. 

Blackstock did have a chance to crawl something back in stoppage time, but his effort at the back post was well kept out by Shuter with a quick reflex to ensure that Orange County had their shutout and the Riverhounds came away from their home opener empty-handed.

Pittsburgh Riverhounds head coach Bob Lilley postgame: 

“It was nice to create some of the chances and some of the looks that we did. It was maybe a game of missed chances but also a couple of critical errors on the defensive side, especially the first goal. I still thought even at 2-0 we were creating enough and if we could get one in early enough we could still get a draw out of it.”

“It was nice to see us pass the ball a lot better than week one. We played with confidence, the players wanted the ball, nobody was hiding. We just have to build on it, I thought we were miles ahead better than last week, we possessed the ball better than we did last year. I think we’ll continue to get better. The good thing is we got chances, I’m confident that creating those kinds of chances will get goals.”

“Three goals we’ve given up, in my mind were preventable and we want to be stingy all the time to get shutouts, especially in the early stages. We’ve just got to keep digging and getting better.”

Pittsburgh Riverhounds starters: Eric Dick (GK), Danny Griffin (c), Dani Rovira, Junior Etou, Kenardo Forbes, Luke Biasi, Robbie Mertz, Edward Kizza, Babacar Diene, Illal Osumanu

Subs: Pat Hogan, Sean Suber, Langston Blackstock, EJ Johnson, Gabriel Perrotta (GK), Nate Dragisich, Pierre Cayet

Orange County SC starters: Colin Shutler (GK), Owen Lambe, Ryan Doghman, Andrew Fox, Ashton Miles, Seth Caspile (c), Kevin Partida, Sofiane Djeffal, Brian Iloski, Ethan Zubak, Bryce Jamison

Subs: Thomas Amang, Benjamin Barjolo, Ashish Chattha, Cameron Dunbar, Duran Ferree (GK), Markus Nakkim, Christian Sorto

Key moments: 

0 – The players are out and now we have a special presentation on the scoreboard to commemorate the Hounds’ 25th season, narrated by Pittsburgh legend Bob Pompeani, followed up by a presentation of the 2023 Players’ Shield.

1 – And we are underway… Riverhounds lining up in the same 5-3-2 as last weekend with midfielder Danny Griffin continuing to play deep and in the middle of the back line.

2 – Riverhounds suffer the first scare of the night, a free kick whipped into the box from out wide and after a bit of pinball, goalkeeper Eric Dick gets to the ball first to avert the danger.

3 – GOAL… Brian Illoski slides in at the back post after Ryan Doghman’s cross from the left flank zips between the Hounds back line and goalkeeper Dick.

6 – Robbie Mertz’ cross from the left flank is just too high for Babacar Diene as he tries to go for the header.

13 – The Riverhounds still trying to break down Orange County with balls through the air, this time Dani Rovira tries to lift it in from the right flank but the danger is easily dealt with by the visitors.

16 – The Riverhounds have answered well from their early setback, with the majority of the play happening in the OC half of the field and dominating possession as they try to get back level.

22 – So for those of you who come to games in the future, there’s a new feature from sponsors Surfside who are sponsoring the balls that head into the Monongahela with their ‘Splash Counter’… the announcement of which was the highlight of the night in the pressbox so far.

24 – Ashton Miles picks up the first yellow card of the night.

25 – The players take a quick water break, which as Hounds Director of Communications Matt Grubba points out serves a dual purpose as now that the sun has set, Muslim players observing Ramadan can now break their fast.

34 – The game has just quietened down a bit with not much action at either goalmouth, but the Hounds still edging the play.

37 – Riverhounds players protest for a penalty as Junior Etou goes down under a challenge. Nothing given

38 – Robbie Mertz is arguably lucky to be on the field as he goes high on OC goalkeeper Colin Shuter who was heading the ball outside his area. You’ve seen reds given for that before and Mertz can consider himself very lucky indeed.

42 – Babacar Diene forces a great save from Shuter as he rises above two Orange County defenders and aims his powerful header at the far post, but Shuter is able to push the ball aside for a corner.

45 – We move into five minutes of stoppage time at the end of the first half.

45+3 – Robbie Mertz hits the crossbar with a volley from just inside the area.

45+5 – And that’s halftime with the Hounds still trailing 1-0.

46 – The players are back out, and we are underway in the second half with the Hounds playing towards the hospitality boxes. No changes for either side.

49 – Ethan Zubak is played through but gets knocked over by Luke Biasi and is down receiving treatment. No foul though as it was just a coming together.

54 – Robbie Mertz tries an overhead kick after Dani Rovira’s cross but he gets it horribly wrong as it doesn’t even reach the endline let alone get on target.

60 – Orange County make the first changes of the game as Ryan Doghman goes into the book for a challenge on Robbie Mertz.

68 – Approaching the final 20 minutes, you have to wonder when Bob Lilley is going to start making changes.

69 – Robbie Mertz latches onto a lovely through ball from Babacar Diene, but his chipped effort over the goalkeeper is cleared behind for a corner before it could get on target.

70 – Here comes the changes. Diene, Rovira and Etou off, Hogan, Johnson and Blackstock on.

71 – Pat Hogan’s first touch of the game is the head of Sofiane Djeffal as he kicks the Orange County man in the head as he went to head the ball away from a cross which earns him a yellow card in the process.

75 – Langston Blackstock’s header from Robbie Mertz’ corner flashes just over the crossbar with the closest effort the Hounds have had in the second half.

76 – GOAL… an absolute dagger from Orange County as Christian Sorto’s cross goes over the head of Pat Hogan and onto the foot of Cameron Dunbar, who takes a few touches to take it back past Hogan before slotting past Dick to hit the Hounds very much against the run of play.

89 – Attendance tonight of 5,125, which falls just shy of the all-time home opener record of 5,182 set back in 2019.

90 – More changes for the Hounds. Walti and Osumani off, Suber and Dragisich on.

90+ 1 – Langston Blackstock has a chance at the back post, but his effort is well-saved by Shutler at his near post to force a corner.

90+5 – And that’s the final whistle as the Riverhounds follow up their loss in the season opener with another in their home opener. We’ll have reaction from Bob Lilley after this, so stay tuned.

Glory on the Grass

Riverhounds MF Kenardo Forbes

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