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Unlucky Riverhounds hit post twice, fall to Hartford, 2-0

FINAL: Hartford Athletic 2-0 Pittsburgh Riverhounds

Box Score / USL Championship Match Center 

Clinical Hartford Athletic punishes Hounds with two first half goals and hold on for three points

Sometimes you just have that kind of night, and the Riverhounds certainly got the full unlucky experience in Hartford on Saturday – hitting the post twice and being punished on clinical counters as they fell 2-0 on the road to Hartford Athletic in goalkeeper Jacob Randolph’s season debut.

Unfortunately for the Hounds and Randolph, Hartford would find a goal in the very early moments of the first half. In the sixth minute, a long, long ball from the Hartford defense sailed over the entire Hounds midfield and defense and into the path of the on-rushing Michee Ngalina. The 23-year-old had an easy time getting into the box, leaving him one-on-one with the debut keeper, and he coolly slotted it home for the 1-0 advantage.

Randolph would redeem himself just a few minutes later, as another run in behind from Ngalina left him with a chance on goal. This time, Randolph was quick off his line, shutting down the shooting angle and forcing the ensuing shot wide. Still, despite a majority of possession, the Hounds remained under the bulk of early possession.

Ngalina would take his own revenge and find his brace not five minutes later. This time, a measured Hartford attack found the feet of Deshane Beckford on the left-wing, who was able to win his duel with Langston Blackstock towards the byline. His cross was a laser across the face of goal, getting by Randolph at his near post and finding Ngalina at the far post for an easy tap-in and his second of the night.

The Hounds would get their best chance to equalize just beyond the half hour mark. A cross from the left wing towards the top of Hartford’s box was touched, but not controlled, by Robbie Mertz. The ball was left unexpectedly alone and the first man to it was Kazaiah Sterling. He fired a shot towards the bottom-left that beat everyone except the inside of the left upright and somehow ricocheted across the goal line and didn’t wind up in the back of the net.

A pair of yellow cards issued to Junior Etou and Thomas Vancaeyezeele rounded out the first half of action, and we entered the break with the Hounds down 2-0.

With a midweek match ahead, and potentially more than a little dissatisfaction from Bob Lilley at the team’s performance, the Hounds made three halftime substitutions as the second half got underway, bringing on Kenardo Forbes, Emmanuel Johnson, and Bradley Sample to replace Robbie Mertz, Edward Kizza, and Jackson Walti.

Even so, it’d be Hartford generating the first chance of the half just minutes in. Another long-ball was brought down brilliantly by Ngalina against multiple Hounds defenders. He was able to lay the ball off for Beckford, who’s run to the right side of goal resulted in a cross-body shot towards the lower-left which Randolph had to rapidly change direction and dive to save.

The Hounds would get another chance, and another moment of misfortune, just beyond the hour mark. A cross from the right wing towards the penalty spot was deflected by the Hartford defense and fell into empty space on the right side of the box. Johnson was on hand and able to get to the ball and rip a rocket of a shot, but it clanged off the right post and straight back out with the Hounds unable to buy a goal on the night.

The Hounds would have a flurry of late chances as they desperately sought to come back. The first would come as Kenardo Forbes found Sterling in the box, who managed to put a left-footed shot on frame but right at the keeper. Later, in stoppage time, the Hounds would have a pair of free kicks just outside the box. The first was taken by Danny Griffin and was low and on-target, but held. The second taken by Forbes was a rocket that was parried and ultimately deflected to safety, with neither able to find the back of the net.

A few late yellows and subs later, the final whistle blew and ended the Hounds’ misfortunate night with the final score Hartford 2, Post 2, Hounds 0. The Hounds return to action in a short-rest match on Wednesday at home vs. Louisville.

Match Events

Pittsburgh Riverhounds Starting XI: Danny Griffin (c), Pat Hogan, Sean Suber, Langston Blackstock, Junior Etou, Robbie Mertz, Edward Kizza, Illal Osumanu, Jacob Randolph (GK), Jackson Walti, Kazaiah Sterling

Riverhounds Subs: Eric Dick, Dani Rovira, EJ Johnson, Kenardo Forbes, Bradley Sample, Babacar Diene, Pierre Cayet

Hartford Athletic Starting XI: Younes Boudadi, Jordan Scarlett, Triston Hodge, Beverly Makangila, Marcus Epps, Jay Chapman, Michee Ngalina, Joe Farrell, Thomas Vancaeyezeele, Deshane Beckford, Renan Ribeiro (GK)

Hartford Subs: Greg Monroe, Joey Akpunonu, Danny Barrera, Rece Buckmaster, Dantouma Toure, Ian Shaul, Justin DiCarlo, Marlon Hairston

Key moments: 

0′ – The players take to the field. Hounds in their road yellows, Hartford in the home greens. And we are underway in Connecticut!

6′ – Goal, Hartford. A long ball from way back in the Hartford defense takes the top off the Hounds defense and midfield, finding a well-timed run from Michee Ngalina, who takes it himself and slots it past Randolph – who had a tough job in his first call to action in the 2024 season. 1-0 lead for the hosts.

12′ – A big save in Randolph steps up from his line to cut off Ngalina’s angle and force the shot wide.

17′ – Goal, Hartford. Ngalina makes it two for the hosts. This time it’s Beckford from the left-wing who wins his duel against Langston Blackstock before rocketing a cross towards the back post for a tap-in and Ngalina’s brace.

The Hounds in a very early two-goal hole.

32′ – A huge chance as Kazaiah Sterling finds the loose ball left by Robbie Mertz at the top of the box and fires a low shot off the inside of the left upright, but it somehow runs along the goal line and doesn’t cross it. Very unlucky for the Hounds.

39′ – A yellow card for Junior Etou, who’s lagging leg catches the Hartford defender moving back towards his own half.

45+2′ – A yellow card issued for the late tackle from Vancaeyezeele on Langston Blackstock along the right wing.

Halftime: Hartford 2-0 Pittsburgh

46′ – We are back for the second half with a trio of subs for the Hounds: In comes Kenardo Forbes, EJ Johnson, and Bradley Sample, out go Robbie Mertz, Edward Kizza, and Jackson Walti. Rotation is expected given the three-match week for the Hounds.

52′ – Another long ball is controlled by Ngalina against two Hounds defenders. He manages to lay it off to Beckford who fires against his body towards the left side of goal and is saved by Randolph with a dive.

62′ – A deflected cross from the right wing is run onto by Johnson in the box, and he fires an absolute rocket of a shot off the right upright. Hounds can’t buy a goal tonight despite several good chances and takes.

63′ – A yellow card issued to Illal Osumanu for a counter-attack stopping jersey tug, second Hound booked tonight.

65′ – And now a yellow to Hartford’s Hodge for his own counter-stopping tackle.

65′ – A Hartford sub, with Beckford off and Barrera on.

70′ – Fourth sub for the Hounds, as Pierre Cayet subs on for Etou.

72′ – A sub for Hartford as well, with Asiedu coming on for Vancaeyezeele.

79′ – A shot on-target for the Hounds, as Forbes finds Sterling in the box and he gets a left-footed effort directed towards goal, but saved.

82′ – Final Hounds sub of the night as Osumanu comes off, Dani Rovira enters.

89′ – Another chance for the Hounds, this time from a free kick just outside the area left of goal. Danny Griffin ends up taking it with a low, hard effort, but it’s saved well by Hartford’s keeper to keep things at 2-0.

90+2′ – Yet another great opportunity on a very close free kick, this time from Forbes who fires one at goal and which is barely parried away by the Hartford keeper. The ensuing rebound deflects clear of danger.

90+4′ – A late yellow on Pat Hogan for a counter-stopping foul after he misplayed a long ball into the Hounds half and left himself exposed.

90+5′ – Ngalina comes off, Shaul subs on for Hartford.

Fulltime: Hartford 2-0 Pittsburgh

Glory on the Grass

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Riverhounds MF Kenardo Forbes

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