Connect with us

Pittsburgh Riverhounds

Much sharper in the final third, Riverhounds defeat defending champs, Phoenix, 3-1, for first win of season

Photo courtesy Phoenix Rising FC

The Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC finally found their scoring rhythm in earning their first win of the season, by defeating the defending USL Champions, Phoenix Rising FC, 3-1, at Rising Stadium in Phoenix, Arizona late Saturday.

The Hounds saw goals from three forwards, with Kazaiah Sterling giving the Hounds the lead in the first half, then Edward Kizza and Babacar Diene answered with second half tallies which pushed Pittsburgh past Phoenix, despite being on the short end of possession (60/40) and shots (19-10) totals.  Kizza and Junior Etou also added assists, as the Hounds tripled their goal output from the first five matches.

Phoenix was on the front foot for large stretches, but the Hounds were more efficient — for the first time all season where it mattered most — in the final third.  Pittsburgh made the most of 10 shot attempts, with five on frame and three in the back of the net, while Phoenix landed four shots on frame.

Though they were under heavy pressure for the first 25 minutes, the Hounds took the lead when Kazaiah Sterling scored his first goal with Pittsburgh in the 26th minute, after receiving a clever backheel pass from Kizza.

Only moments after taking their first lead of the season, the Hounds gave one back.  Phoenix’s Rémi Cabral hit a left footed shot from the center of the box to the bottom left corner, following an assist from Pape Boye.

Early in the second half, with the teams deadlocked at 1-1, Sterling nearly got the lead back, after Pape Boye was called for a handball in the box while extending his elbow to make himself bigger to deny Junior Etou’s shot attempt.  This resulted in a penalty call in favor of Pittsburgh.  However, the former Tottenham Hotspur tried to get cute with his PK attempt, with a long run-up, then delayed shot which sailed over the right corner.

Pittsburgh continued to press forward into spaces when the opportunities presented — with the next solid chance coming in the 62nd minute, as Kizza put the Hounds in front with a quick reaction to ball played over his way on the far post side, thanks to sharp, low pass across the box from Junior Etou.

The Hounds grew more confident as the match evolved, keeping Phoenix attack in check, while still pushing for a goal that would put the match away.

That goal would come in the 89th minute, when sub Babacar Diene capitalized on another build-up that started on the left side, once again from Etou, who sent a ball into the box that forced an attempted clearance, but Diene was the man on the spot, and converted on a close range chance.

For Pittsburgh (1-3-2, 5 points) it was their first win in Pacific or Mountain time zone since 2021, as they were on a streak of 10 straight Western trip matches without a win.

The Hounds return home next Saturday, when they face the only team in USL Championship, that picked up all three points at home on Saturday, Detroit City FC, in what will be a rematch of the USL Championship Eastern Conference Quarterfinal playoff, where the Hounds were eliminated, 1-0, from the 2023 USL Cup Playoff tournament.


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).

Glory on the Grass

PSN’s Featured Community Partner: Open Field International

Riverhounds MF Kenardo Forbes

Subscribe to PGH Soccer Now

Enter your email address to subscribe to PGH Soccer Now and receive notifications of new posts by email.

More in Pittsburgh Riverhounds