Pittsburgh Riverhounds captain Danny Earls received his team’s first red card of the season Saturday night as the Charlotte Independence came from behind to beat the Hounds by 2-1.

Lebo Moloto provided a late spark to an otherwise forgettable first half at Winthrop University’s Eagle Field when his stoppage time volley put the Hounds ahead. Carlos Alvarez brought the hosts level seven minutes after the interval before Earls handled Tomasz Zahorski’s goal-bound shot on 65 minutes.


Colombian playmaker Jorge Herrera stroked his penalty kick past Hounds debutant goalkeeper Matt Lampson to end Pittsburgh’s 6-game unbeaten run in all competitions.

The loss keeps the Hounds on 16 points in the USL’s Eastern Conference with a 4-4-4 record. Charlotte edges closer to the playoff zone with its third win of the year (3-4-3, 12 points).

On-loan Columbus Crew man Lampson joined the Hounds in Charlotte Friday night as additional cover while Ryan Thompson represents Jamaica at the Copa America tournament in Chile. There was another surprise in Mark Steffens’ lineup with regular center back Fejiro Okiomah spearheading the Hounds’ attack. It was Okiomah’s first start since suffering a right hamstring strain against the New York Red Bulls II on May 9.

Charlotte included former Riverhounds loanee Michael Lisch in goal along with former Pittsburgh midfielder Andrew Ribeiro. The duo made a combined 24 appearances for the Hounds last year.

There was little to excite the crowd during a largely uninspired opening 45 minutes. Moloto engineered an early chance for Stephen Okai that was deflected wide while Zahorski nodded Herrera’s inswinging corner kick narrowly off target.

Anthony Arena and Willie Hunt made some vital interceptions from wicked crosses in the opening 20 minutes as the Independence pressed for the opener. The Hounds responded with Tyler Pasher whipping an excellent cross into the center of Charlotte’s 6-yard box that was an inch too high for the unmarked Okiomah to steer on target.

An additional minute at the end of the first half allowed the Hounds to break the deadlock through their sharpest attack of the game. Moloto knocked the ball to Rob Vincent before bursting into the penalty box to eventually receive a layoff from Okiomah.

The South African playmaker took on the shot first time on the volley and dispatched a clean finish low inside Lisch’s far post.

Steffens made his first switch of the night on 52 minutes when Miro Cabrilo replaced Okiomah. Charlotte pulled level within seconds when on-loan Colorado Rapids midfielder Alvarez took advantage of a break off Pasher to curl a 20-yard shot beyond Lampson’s despairing dive.

The game turned decisively on 65 minutes when the Hounds failed to clear a cross from the right and Zahorski eventually turned to shoot toward an open bottom corner. Earls dived to his right to palm the ball away and was duly dismissed by referee Guido Gonzales Jr. for a deliberate handball.

Herrera coolly slotted his penalty kick to Lampson’s left side as the goalkeeper fell to his right.

The Hounds pushed forward in the final 10 minutes and created a few opportunities despite the numerical disadvantage. Vincent and Cabrilo failed to fire off clean strikes on half-chances before Lisch beat Kevin Kerr’s drive behind for a corner kick.

Substitute Boris Zivanovic climbed highest on the resultant inswinging ball only for his glancing header to evade the far post.

Steffens’ side returns to Highmark Stadium Wednesday for the eagerly anticipated Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup fourth round meeting with Major League Soccer’s D.C. United. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.

All seated tickets for Wednesday’s game have been sold. Limited tickets remain for the Club Level and standing-only sections. Call the Highmark Stadium box office on (412) 325-7241 to book your place in the Club Level, or visit Ticketmaster.com to purchase standing tickets.

The Hounds stay home next Saturday, June 20, for a first clash against USL newcomer F.C. Montreal. Kickoff is also at 7 p.m. Visit Riverhounds.com for information or call the Highmark Stadium box office on (412) 325-7241 to speak to a representative.

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