The USL PRO season began on Saturday night at the Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds as they battled the defending league champions, Orlando City SC to a 1-1 draw.
In the 49th minute, Jose Angulo and Matt Dallman picked up where they left off last year as the USL PRO’s leading scoring tandem. After a scoreless first half, on a ball played from Dallman, Angulo beat a couple of Orlando defenders, then maneuvered past Orlando keeper, Miguel Gallardo for an easy left footed tap in finish to quiet the home crowd.
“Another big goal from Jose. He got a foot on it, and it came from Matt. He was able to do what he does best,” said Riverhounds head coach Justin Evans.
“Giving us the lead, against the defending champs, in this environment. That was big. Gave us a lift.”
In the 57th minute, the Lions responded.
Riverhounds starting goalkeeper Hunter Gilstrap punched a dangerous header from Corey Hertzog over the bar to set up a corner kick. On the ensuing corner, Gilstrap came out to play the ball, and went down hard after a collision. With Gilstrap unable to get back up, Hertzog took full advantage, blasting a ball past the line of Riverhounds defenders and just under the crossbar for the equalizer.
Gilstrap, who appeared to injure his head, would lie on the ground for a few minutes. He had to be helped off the field and was replaced by back-up Greg Blum.
Evans couldn’t understand why the play wasn’t stopped.
“It’s my understanding, that when there’s a dangerous head injury, the referee is supposed to stop play,” said Evans.
The goal would count. Orlando would keep coming at Blum, but he came up big numerous times in the final stages of the match.
“That’s not an easy situation for a goalkeeper to come into. They were coming at us with a lot of good crosses, but he did a great job.”
The Riverhounds held on — and escaped Orlando with a point.
Orlando City outshot Pittsburgh 17-8.
Orlando City started out the first half dominating possession. But the Riverhounds stayed back, keeping the Lions attackers in front of them for the most part of the first half, limiting chances to a few crosses and shots from distance.
The first look at the 2014 Riverhounds included a starting eleven that paired a number of new faces along with key returning players. Angulo and Jason Johnson, on loan from the Houston Dynamo at forward, Anthony Obodai and Rob Vincent in central midfield, Matt Dallman and Danny Earls on the outside, with captain Andrew Marshall and Anthony Arena, also on loan from the Dynamo in the central defense while Sterling Flunder and Brian Fekete at fullback.
Using fresh legs to fend off the Lions late pressure, Riverhounds head coach Justin Evans, went to his bench, utilizing Mike Green, Alfonso Motagalvan and the third Dynamo player on loan, Bryan Salazar in the closing minutes.
“We had to use a lot of players. Some guys were cramping up late,” said Evans.
“It was a total team effort, and a tremendous job tonight to get a point from a very tough team.”
The Riverhounds will now take on the Richmond Kickers next Saturday in Richmond, before returning to Pittsburgh for their home opener on Saturday, April 12 against the Wilmington Hammerheads. To purchase tickets, visit riverhounds.com or call the Box Office at (412) 325-7241.