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Pittsburgh Riverhounds

Riverhounds lose to Indy Eleven 2-1 at home

Everything was nearly perfect Saturday evening for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. The weather was flawless – 72 and sunny without a hint of humidity. A packed crowd of 5,002 supporters jammed the stadium and clogged the lines at the concession stand. A stray note from Zac Brown Band and Kenny Chesney floated across the confluence of the three rivers from inside Acrisure Stadium every so often. There were more tika bar boats than noisy diesel locomotives. School was nearly out for summer. The beer was flowing, and there seemed to be a 1-to-1 ratio of parking spots taken up by tailgaters vs parking spots occupied by automobiles.

The Riverhounds, however, were less-than-perfect. In defense they made some mental mistakes that let to two goals. In attack, they progressed upfield well and dangerously time and time again, but just didn’t have the right idea in th final third.

Ultimately, it all meant that the Riverhounds were unable to get the win. Head coach Bob Lilley’s consistently excellent team over the past five seasons seems to have hit a wall all of a sudden, as the team sits on just 13 points through 12 games, leaving them in 10th place in the 12 team USL Eastern Conference. Worse still, the Hounds are winless in their last four USL league matches, as recent defeats to Indy and Memphis follow two lackluster draws against North Carolina and Tulsa.

Coach Lilley, true to form, did not mince words.

“Winning teams find ways to get the job done. We’re taking shortcuts. And making excuses.”

The problems started fairly early for Pittsburgh.

In the 22nd and 23rd minute, Indy Eleven found their way to the Hounds end of the field and collected three consecutive corner kick opportunities. The second corner resulted in a possibly unnecessary clearance for the Hounds. The third corner was taken quickly; the Hounds center back core of Illal Osumanu, Patrick Hogan, and Sean Suber seemed slow to react, and Indy CB Josh O’Brien pounded a free header home into the net on a clearly delivered front-post ball from Aiden Stanley. The Hounds were chasing the game early.

Chasing, however, was all that happened first half. Pittsburgh moved deftly through midfield and up the wings on well-worked 20 yard ground passes, but consistently found themselves denied for a turnover as they reached the final third. Pittsburgh would tally just two shots on goal in the first half; one off the underside of the woodwork that bounced out at 10′, and another that was headed into the keepers hands by Dani Rovira at 3′. But from the Indy goal onward, all of Pittsburghs shots were either blocked or were off target.

Any halftime adjustments made by Bob Lilley were rendered moot immediately, as Indianapolis scored a second goal at 46′. Former Tampa Bay Rowdie Sebastian Guenzatti received a clean pass while facing forward on a fast break from Brandon Williams and slotted it home from the left side of the box into the far post, hard and low, and the Hounds were down by two.

The black and yellow brightened up for the next thirty minutes, generating more chances and better chances, and eventually cashing one in to bring the score to 2-1. With Robbie Mertz in possession on a bold dribble into the final third, he dropped it across to winger Langston Blackstock. Blackstock, at the top-center of the box, then played the ball to an open Danny Griffin, who was surging up the right side of the pitch. Danny cleverly shifted the ball off his right and onto to his left foot, gaining separation on his defender. Griffin then let loose a low, hard shot to the far post that rattled in with gusto, and in the 58th minute, Hounds were momentarily back in it.

The Hounds would continue to press for a goal for the final 30 minutes, recording 14 shots in the second half, and a total of 25 on the night, to Indy’s 6 shots. But they weren’t the right shots, as strikers Kazaih Sterling and Edward Kizza, followed by their replacements Junior Etou and Babacar Diene could not break through for a goal, and good chances for Patrick Hogan and Langston Blackstock also fell short.

Lilley certainly considered the missed chances to be a major culprit – “We have to lead the league in missed chances in the 6 yard box” he said. But Lilley has consistently defined himself as a defensively minded coach, and his thoughts on the game ultimately reflected that.

“We have not managed games. We have not covered for each other. Thats a fact. We need to get better. We need to suffer for the guy next to us. We pinned them back in the second half, and we earned their respect. But we didn’t respect them.”

“We need to be resilient” Lilley told the reporter pool. With their upcoming game against second-place Charleston Battery on the road, followed by another away game against Hartford Athletic, the Hounds resiliency is going to be challenged. And they have put themselves in a position where, with about a third of the season already gone, they will need to make the kind of adjustments that resilient teams sooner rather than later.

Live minute-by-minute report

FT Indy Eleven 2, Pittsburgh Riverhounds 1.  That’s game. Hounds drop  two in a row, now winless in 5 matches [all competitions].

90+2 Diene gets a card. Dunno why.

90′ Pablo Lindzoain, Riverhounds academy product and Fox Chapel High School Junior, goes into the match for his professional debut. Illal Osumanu comes off.

87′ Hounds cross, Hunter Sulte picks it off mid flight.

83′ Jon Busch, Assistant Coach, says something from the technical area that referee Lorenzo Hernandez does not appreciate, and he gets a yellow. I don’t remember personally seeing an assistant coach for the Hounds get a card before – I’m sure it has happened. Matt Grubba both agreed we do not recall Dan Visser ever getting a card.

77′ Subs for Pittsburgh. Hounds swap out both strikers. Emmanuel Johnson and Babacar Diene on, Kizza and Sterling off. EJ immediately gets a cross and volley opportunity, which he puts over the bar.

72′ Subs for Pittsburgh. Junior Etou and Bradley Sample go on, Rovira and Blackstock off

68′ Subs for Indy. Lawrence Wootton and Elliott Collier on, Cam Lindley and Jack Blake off.

64′ Kenny Forbes receives it 25 yards out and central, tries his luck, right into Indy Keeper Hunter Sulte’s big mits. Sulte is from Anchorage Alaska. The only other notable Alaskan soccer player is Seattle Sounders Obed Vargas, who has a total  of 3,379 career minutes in MLS.

61′ Subs for Indy. Callum Chapman-Page and Tyler Gibson on, Sebastian Guenzatti and Josh O’Brien off.

60′ Kenny Forbes races down the left side, and just as he’s ready to accelerate into the box, Ben Mines sticks out an arm and hooks him to the ground. Yellow to the Indy mid.

58′ GOAL RIVERHOUNDS. Robbie Mertz on the dribble, drops it to Langston Blackstock. Blackstock at the top-center of the box plays it right side to Danny Griffin. Danny shifts it to his left foot and slices a low, hard shot to the far post and in! Hounds are back in this one.

56′ Hounds take a short corner, play it to the back post, it rattles forward, theres a shot and a block, and another, and a clearance.

46′ GOAL, INDY. 2-0. Sebastian Guenzatti gets a pass on a fast break from Brandon Williams and the Hounds are down by safety. The halftime talk is instantly irrelevant. What are the Hounds going to do as a reply?

HT – It’s the half, and I can’t say the Hounds look particularly sharp. Possession is good, but they’re just a bit slow in decisionmaking and getting Indy out of position to create danger. I’m underwhelmed.

Stats: Hounds 10 shots, 2 on target, 78% passing (154/197). Indy 2 shots, 1 on target, 60% passing (52/87).

45′ Four minutes of stoppage announced. In other news, with my reporters food voucher I bought two things of french fries, then struggled to carry it along with the ketchup and mayo to the press box. Right as I walked into the box, I spilled one of the fry cups all over the floor. I’m not sure you really needed to know that, but now you do.

41′ Danny Griffin kicks it into the wall. More precisely, right into former NYRB academy player Ben Mines’ face. Mines needs a minute to get up.

40′ Indy’s Josh O’Brien fouls hard in from of the 18 yard box almost dead center. Hounds free kick!

34′ Hounds ball movement is good; they’re finding good 20 yard passes and getting into the final third. Then it kinda goes flump.

30′ Shot for Hounds from Blackstock from left side of the box 25 yards out drifts wide and high.

29′ Hounds have a corner but Pat Hogan’s header is waaay high.

23′ GOAL, Indy Eleven. Josh O’Brien from a corner from Aiden Stanley. Hounds down 1-0 to start. It was the third consecutive corner. I can’t imagine head coach Bob Lilley is gonna like that.

10′ Hounds break into the box, get a nice one-two, and create a golden chance for Danny Griffin. No dice.

6′ I had the Hounds formation wrong. It’s a 5-3-2 (or a 3-5-2) with Rovira and Blackstock as wide mids, Sterling and Kizza up top at striker. Forbes is kind of roaming wherever he likes; Robbie Mertz is right in that regular attacking mid number 10 spot he loves.

Kickoff.

Pre-game: Stands are full, parking lot sold out. Kenny Chesney concert at Acrisure. Pride march winding down. Busy night dahntahn here in Steel City.

 

Pre-game: Liking this tweet from Indy Eleven’s social team:

PG: Lineups have dropped. Hounds were out 20 minutes before Indy, so hey at least the good guys won that.

Game Notes to Start

The Pittsburgh Riverhounds faceoff against Indy Eleven at 7:00 pm at Highmark Stadium. The 3-4-4 Hounds are looking to rebound after four matches without a win, including their 1-0 defeat at home against Tulsa FC that sent them out of US Open Cup in mid-May. Meanwhile 6-2-4 Indy Eleven sit third in the USL Eastern Conference table, having won or drawn their last nine matches. That includes a 3-0 win on May 22 over Detroit City FC in the Lamar Hunt Open Cup that has Indiana’s finest advancing to the Elite Eight of the tournament again mighty MLS side Atlanta United. The Riverhounds will want a win at home tonight in front of their raucous home fans in order to begin the climb out of the bottom half of the table and into their rightful (?) place in the playoff-bound side of the standings.

The second biggest question is whether the Hounds can get a win, The second biggest question, though, is this: can Riverhounds veteran Kenardo Forbes bag himself a goal on King Kenny commemorative bobblehead night?*

* [The third biggest question is whether fans will get into the stadium early enough to snag a tiny Kenny.]

Starting Lineups

Riverhounds SC Starting XI –

Eric Dick; Dani Rovira, Illal Osumanu, Patrick Hogan, Sean Suber, Langston Blackstock; Kenardo Forbes, Robbie Mertz, Danny Griffin; Kazaiah Sterling, Edward Kizza

Indy Eleven Starting XI –

Game Info

Riverhounds (3-4-4) vs. Indy Eleven (6-4-2)
Date: Saturday, June 1
Time: 7 p.m.
Location: Highmark Stadium
Tickets: Ticketmaster
Odds: Hounds +105 / Draw +230 / Indy +230 (FanDuel)
TV: KDKA+
Streaming: ESPN+
Live statistics: USL Championship Match Center
Live updates: @RiverhoundsSC on Twitter
Match hashtags: #PITvIND and #HOUNDTAHN

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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Riverhounds MF Kenardo Forbes

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