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Oh Drat: A Hounds US Open Cup Instant Reaction

Blink and you missed it: the Pittsburgh Riverhounds are out of the US Open Cup.

The operative term to this match was ‘low intensity’, which is quite surprising considering that A) the Open Cup is a knockout tournament, and very often comes with a great deal of intensity,  and B) with so many MLS teams being restricted from competing, this was a USOC tournament that the Riverhounds actually had a decent chance of winning.

True to his words after Saturday’s match against Miami FC, head coach Bob Lilley rotated his team extensively. Core starters Edward Kizza, Dani Rovira, Robbie Mertz, and Danny Griffin all started this match on the bench.Team talisman Kenardo Forbes wasn’t dressed and in the 18-man roster at all. A person might have thought that the young alternates getting a chance to start might take this opportunity to impress. That person, unfortunately, would be wrong.

The Riverhounds weren’t bad, per se. They just weren’t cohesive or consistent. FC Tulsa looked better in possession – and the stats bear that observation up, as Tulsa beat Pittsburgh 59 to 41 percent in possession and completed 80 percent of their passes to Pittsburgh’s 71 percent. Tulsa consistently worked the ball up the field slowly and methodically from out of the back, while the Hounds preferred big keeper kicks. The Hounds rarely produced quality chances in their final third, while Tulsa have a few decent looks.

For all the blow-by-blow details, read Colton Coreschi’s recap here.

There were flashes for the Hounds players who were getting a rare starting opportunity, like Emmanuel ‘EJ’ Johnson and Senegalese striker and Rider University grad Babacar Diene. Nate Dragisich was bright on the ball and showed some grit going into 50-50s. Winger Aiden O’Toole was mostly ineffective on the night. But overall, things were just a little off, a little slow, a little below-par for the Hounds. That includes the crowd, which was a little quiet and a little sparse at 1,684 despite almost perfect 72 degree weather. Steel Army brought the noise as usual, but overall, it just didn’t all come together for Pittsburgh on the night – not in the stands, not on the pitch.

It’s been a bumpy spring so far. The Hounds are 3-2-3 (WTL) on the year, although they’re unbeaten in their last five and on a three-game win streak. I’m actually OK with it: the Riverhounds the past few years have a habit of both a slow start and early playoff exits. It may be that the flat finishes were the result of burnout: too many minutes for the main guys throughout the season left them spent when it really matter. If that is the case, some deep squad rotation in the Open Cup seems excusable.

That said, it is a let down to be let down again. The Riverhounds search for the franchise’s first-ever bit of hardware goes on, and won’t include the hoisting the 2024 US Open Cup.

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Mark Asher Goodman is a writer for Pittsburgh Soccer Now, covering the Riverhounds, the Pitt Men's and Women's teams, and youth soccer. He also co-hosts a podcast on the Colorado Rapids called 'Holding the High Line with Rabbi and Red.' He has written in the past for the Washington Post, Denver Post, The Athletic, and American Soccer Analysis. When he's not reading, writing, watching, or coaching soccer, he is an actual rabbi. No, really. You can find him on twitter at @soccer_rabbi

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