The Pittsburgh Riverhounds fell to their first loss of the USL season on a controversial second half goal at Highmark Stadium Saturday as Alex Dixon’s volley sealed a 2-1 win for the Rochester Rhinos.


Pittsburgh’s defense hesitated on 51 minutes when referee Vito Testa Jr. sprinted to break up a scuffle between Rob Vincent and Rhinos playmaker Jonny Mendoza. Rochester left-back Onua Obasi ignored the sideshow to gallop down the left wing before finding Dixon with his cutback. The former Houston Dynamo man neatly tucked his finish inside Ryan Thompson’s far post.

The goal derailed a Hounds side that had fought back to level terms four minutes after the interval via substitute Max Touloute’s first goal for the club after Tony Walls gave the Rhinos a first-half lead.

“We didn’t play well in the first half and deserved to be down,” said Riverhounds head coach Mark Steffens. “We came out pressing but had no rhythm and played into their hands.”

The Hounds remain on three points in the USL’s Eastern Conference with a 1-1-0 record. Rochester advances to four points on 1-0-1.

Rochester prevented a repeat of Pittsburgh’s fast start against the Harrisburg City Islanders last week by matching the Hounds’ high pressure in the opening 10 minutes. That led to frequent turnovers in midfield as both teams stayed committed to building out of the back line.

The visitors threatened first with Mendoza, Dixon and Kenardo Forbes causing problems with their speed and ingenuity in the final third. Mendoza and Dixon combined down the left wing on 14 minutes before the former’s shot was blocked by the Hounds defense.

Walls opened the scoring on 28 minutes with a free kick from 20 yards out. Hounds goalkeeper Thompson had scurried to the edge of his area to nudge the ball away from Dixon and Christian Volesky before Stephen Okai collided with the latter to concede the foul.

Former Chicago Fire midfielder Walls arched his right-foot shot over the Hounds wall and into Thompson’s right corner.

Forbes continued to torment the Hounds’ defense during the first period. The Jamaican sent in a couple of dangerous crosses that narrowly evaded Volesky and forced Pittsburgh’s back line into hasty clearances.

Steffens spruced up the Hounds’ offense at the break with Touloute, Vini Dantas and Willie Hunt replacing Okai, Miro Cabrilo and Sterling Flunder. The change quickly paid dividends when Touloute finished a sweeping move.

Captain Danny Earls split his former team’s defense with a clipped pass into space after Dantas laid the ball back into midfield. Touloute raced clear before lobbing an excellent finish over onrushing Rhinos goalkeeper Brandon Miller.

Pittsburgh committed increasing numbers into Rochester’s final third as the game wore on. Thompson even left his penalty box to join the attack in the closing minutes as the Hounds tried in vain to rescue a point.

The Riverhounds go on the road next week for the first time this season to provide the opposition for the first home game in St. Louis F.C. franchise history at St. Louis Soccer Park in Fenton, Mo. Kickoff is at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday night.

A live broadcast of the game will be shown in the sports bar at Highmark Stadium. Fans are invited to attend from 7 p.m. to enjoy our food and drink options. Entrance is free.

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