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Pittsburgh Riverhounds

Riverhounds’ stumble at Louisville, 3-1, to extend season opening season losing streak to three matches

USL Championship

FINAL: Louisville City FC 3-1 Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC

Match Recap

Hounds can’t overcome deficit despite tactical adjustments, remain on zero points to begin the season

It was another tough one in Louisville on Saturday afternoon as the Riverhounds found themselves on the back foot early and – despite battling back valiantly – were unable to dig themselves out of the hole, dropping their third straight match to behind the season.

The first half started fitfully for the Hounds, with the Louisville press causing massive issues for the visitor’s back line. With numerous turnovers in the defensive half generating challenging situations for the defense and forcing numerous saves from goalkeeper Eric Dick, The Hounds were fortunate to not concede within the first half hour of the match. It’s a challenge that has plagued the Hounds so far this season, with failing attempts to slowly play out of aggressive presses a common theme through the first three games.

With Ray Serrano, Wilson Harris, and even former Hound Arturo Ordonez pushing for what felt like an inevitable goal, Head Coach Bob Lilley was forced into an early decision – calling on his bench just 27 minutes into the match to replace Dani Rovira with Langston Blackstock on the right wing. With that tactical shift, the Hounds focused on moving the center-point of pressure further away from goal, counter-pressing effectively and pushing the ball forward more rapidly to much more success. The final 15 minutes of the first half saw the Hounds playing on much more level footing, generating several opportunities of their own, including a Babacar Diene effort that forced a necessary save from Louisville keeper Damian Las.

But ultimately, the hosts would find their first goal just moments before the halftime whistle blew. With Ray Serrano attempting to find Wilson Harris making a run behind the defense, the former’s pass deflected off a Hounds defender just perfectly to fall to Harris’ feet. The forward calmly slotted the ball around the reach of Dick in goal and Louisville entered the break with an advantage, likely deserved on the balance of play.

The Hounds came out aggressively, determined to find an equalizer and put and end to their goalless woes in the second half. Just before the hour mark, that is precisely what they did. An effective press generated a midfield turnover that found the feet of Diene on the left wing. Picking his head up, Diene immediately saw and picked out the run of Edward Kizza centrally and placed a perfectly pinpoint cross to Kizza’s feet, who slotted it home for the Hounds first goal of the 2024 season.

Unfortunately, the Hounds momentum was not lasting. Just five minutes later, Serrano made a clever run into the box along the left wing for Louisville and while one-on-one with Illal Osumanu, managed to just get a touch around the Hounds defender, who lunged in and caught Serrano in the box and the ref wasted no time in pointing to the spot. The man who’s turnover had sparked the Hounds equalizer, Sean Totsch, stepped up for Louisville and easily converted his effort into the lower-left side of goal, sending Dick the wrong way and sending the hosts back into the lead.

Despite the Hounds continuing to press aggressively and to good effect – including a seeming Kizza equalizer on a brilliant pass from Jackson Walti in midfield whistled for offsides – the final product simply wasn’t forthcoming, and it was Louisville who would take advantage of the stretched-out Hounds. Serrano found himself unmarked in the box during a Louisville counter in stoppage time, with nearly all the Hounds pushed upfield, and ultimately dribbled around Dick and finished into an empty net to secure the 3-1 victory for the hosts.

For Pittsburgh, the disappointing result keeps them in the basement of the Eastern Conference standings, on zero points through three matches. Aside from Kizza’s equalizing goal, the match also notably saw the Hounds debuts of former USL League One golden boot winner and all-time South Georgia Tormenta FC leading goalscorer Kazaiah Sterling as well as rookie University of Louisville product Bradley Sample. An additional shout-out is reserved for Kenardo Forbes, as the Hounds legend made his 195th club appearance, tying the all-time record and is expected to take sole possession of it come next match.

With a week off before the Hounds return to action at home on April 6 against Eastern Conference favorites Tampa Bay Rowdies, there will surely be questions to ask and solve for Lilley and his staff. Does the tactical shift from today’s loss stick given the better performance following it? Does Danny Griffin shift forwards into more of a true midfield role? Does Blackstock start next time out to try and bolster the attack as he did today? Lilley is known as a tactics tweaker, and he’ll surely have some ideas of what needs to change to get the Hounds moving back up the standings.

Match Events

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, Jackson Walti

Subs: Pat Hogan, Sean Suber, Langston Blackstock, EJ Johnson, Gabriel Perrotta (GK), Bradley Sample, Kazaiah Sterling

Orange County SC starters:ย Damian Las (GK), Kyle Adams (c), Jake Morris, Sean Totsch, Arturo Ordonez, Ray Serrano, Wilson Harris, Adrien Perez, Taylor Davila, Elijah Wynder, Jansen Wilson

Subs: Wes Charpie, Naill McCabe, Danny Faundez (GK), Amadou Dia, Sam Gleadle, Dylan Mares, Evan Davila, Hayden Stamps

Key moments:ย 

0′ โ€“ The players take to the field, Pittsburgh in their road gold and Louisville in home purples, and we are underway at Lynn Family Stadium. No changes for either club’s starting XI.

2′ – An early cross from Jansen Wilson on the right wing to a dangerous area in the six-yard box, but Eric Dick is quick off the line to cut it out before it reaches any runner.

6′ – The counter-press from Louisville forces turnover 20 yards from goal, which is immediately fired towards goal from Ray Serrano – forcing a parrying save from Dick. The subsequent tight-angle shot from the right side hits the side netting for a goalkick.

8′ – Adrien Perez gets a fantastic pullback in from the endline, finding the feet of a late-running Wilson Harris, who just puts his shot wide of goal as Louisville continues to press for an opener.

16′ – A corner for Louisville City after another rapid counter-attack. Ray Serrano takes, but Dick is able to punch it away. The return ball in reaches the head of Sean Totsch, who heads it across goal to former Hound Arturo Ordonez, who puts his own header just wide of net.

19′ – Elijah Wynder puts another Louisville shot on target, saved by Eric Dick. The pressure continues to mount as the momentum of the match feels like it’s just a matter of when, not if, this hounded Hounds defense slips up.

21′ – A Riverhounds shot on-target finally comes as Dani Rovira overlaps on the right wing and is played through following a midfield turnover from Louisville. His shot is from a tight angle, however, and is easy pickings for Damian Las in goal.

27′ – A shockingly early substitution for the Hounds, as Langston Blackstock enters the match to replace Dani Rovira. Telling of what Bob Lilley must be thinking of this performance to make a change within the first half hour. Things must improve for the Hounds to turn this around.

37′ – More bodies flying forward for the Hounds as they attempt to break this tough Louisville press. Biasi’s cross attempt ultimately blocked, but more time in the attacking third for the Hounds following the tactical shift.

38′ – Kenardo Forbes appears to be struggling with a right leg issue, but is able to walk off after treatment and ultimately re-enter the game.

39′ – The first real chance of the game for the Hounds! Babacar Diene finds the end of a deflected Blackstock cross from the right wing and fires it at goal, parried away by Las and cleared by the Louisville defense. Much better from the Hounds since their half-hour substitution.

44′ – A long ball over the top from Louisville leaves Illal Osumanu outnumbered, but he does a fantastic job to shield away the nearest attacker as Dick charges forward to close down the potential chance.

45′ – As Dick closes down another Louisville chance, we’re given 5 minutes of stoppage time to end the half.

45+5′ – Goal, Louisville City FC – A terribly unfortunate deflection on an attempted Ray Serrano pass falls right in front of an on-rushing Wilson Harris in the box, leaving him one-on-one with Eric Dick, who he smoothly curves his shot around to give Louisville the lead just before the halftime whistle.

Halftime – Despite a stronger final 15 minutes in the first half after Bob Lilley’s tactical substitution, the Hounds concede moments before the whistle blows. A 1-0 Louisville lead is likely fair on the balance of play, but the Hounds have to feel hard-done by an incredibly lucky deflection for the hosts.

46′ – The second half gets underway, Louisville up 1-0 after a goal just before the halftime whistle.

48′ – A yellow card issued to Robbie Mertz after a tough challenge.

53′ – Adrien Perez charges at the defense on the right wing, forcing the Hounds defenders back before cutting inside and unleashing a left-footed shot, fortunately directed straight at Dick for the save.

54′ – A yellow card is issued to Louisville’s Sean Totsch for a bad challenge after a heavy touch

58′ – Langston Blackstock wins a duel along the right wing and gets to the endline. He lofts a cross in to the back post that finds the head of Robbie Mertz, who’s effort goes directly into Las’ arms.

59′ –ย Goal, Pittsburgh Riverhounds!ย After a sloppy touch from Totsch is taken away and ultimately finds Diene running ahead on the left wing, Diene fires an immediate cross into the box directly into the path of Edward Kizza, who slots it home for the first goal of the year for the Hounds! We are level at 1-1!

62′ – Blackstock frees himself a bit of space on the right side of the box and fires in a left-footed attempt, but it’s an easy save for Las in goal. Riverhounds building more into this match.

64′ –ย Penalty awarded to Louisville. Osumanu is beaten by Serrano on the left wing and brings down the Louisville attacker in the box with a bad lunge.

65′ –ย Goal, Louisville City FC. Sean Totsch steps up to take the penalty and makes no mistake. Eric Dick guesses the wrong way and Totsch rolls it in to the left side of the net. Louisville regains the lead 2-1.

69′ – After a long ball over the top, Serrano navigates himself a few inches of space in a two-on-one and fires a shot at goal, easily handled by Eric Dick.

70′ – An extremely accurate ball from Jackson Walti in midfield finds Edward Kizza in the box who finishes the chance off – but the flag comes up on an extremely narrow offsides call. Very nearly an equalizer for the Hounds again.

72′ – Three substitutes and two debuts for the Hounds. On come Bradley Sample, Kazaiah Sterling, and Sean Suber. Off go Babacar Diene, Kenardo Forbes, and Junior Etou.

75′ – A trio of substitutes for Louisville as well. On are Evan Davila, Naill McCabe, and Amadou Dia. Off are Adrien Perez, Taylor Devila, and Jake Morris.

78′ – Kizza gets through into the box again, but can’t find the handle on the clever one-touch from Sterling and is ultimately flagged for offsides anyway.

87′ – Subs for both teams. For Louisville, it’s Harris off, Gleadle on. For Pittsburgh, EJ Johnson on, Jackson Walti off.

88′ – Elijah Wynder picks up a Louisville yellow card for a tactical foul on Johnson.

89′ – Final Louisville substitution of the night. Off comes Wilson, on comes Charpie.

90′ – There will be five minutes of added time.

90+3′ – A Blackstock cross into the box from the left wing sort of fools everyone and very nearly bounces past Damian Las in goal, who has to dive to stop that after he was expecting a redirection.

90+6′ –ย Goal, Louisville City. Ray Serrano is left all alone on the counter with the Hounds seeking an equalizer, and the cross finds his feet. He dribbles Eric Dick out of the picture, and slots it home to make it 3-1.

Final: Louisville City 3-1 Pittsburgh Riverhounds.

Glory on the Grass

Riverhounds MF Kenardo Forbes

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