The Richmond Kickers handed the Pittsburgh Riverhounds their first defeat of the season, 3-1, late Saturday afternoon at City Stadium.
The Kickers set the tone early, controlling possession and taking advantage of a Riverhounds lapse.
Kickers Forward Michael Seaton scored off a deflection that nicked off the feet of a few Riverhounds defenders in the 18th minute to give Richmond the 1-0 lead.
“We came out flat. Neither team really did much early on, but they took advantage of a poor touch, and capitalized. It looked like Andrew (Marshall) and Anthony (Arena) both deflected it trying to make a play,” said Riverhounds Head Coach Justin Evans.
With the Kickers controlling the majority of possession in the first half Riverhounds had limited chances. One of those was off the foot of midfielder Rob Vincent in the 15th minute. After a nice combination of passes, Vincent was able to line up and blast a ball from 30 yards, to the right side of the goal, but GK Ryan Taylor got to the ball for the save.
In the 30th minute, Riverhounds goalkeeper Greg Blum had to come up big, making an acrobatic, diving save on a shot that was heading into the upper right corner of the goal. Blum finished with 5 saves
Richmond added to the lead in the 55th minute, when for a second, it appeared a few players may have been anticipating a handball call at midfield as it appeared the ball was touched by a Richmond player. For a split second, there was some confusion, but play continued with no stoppage of play. Kicker’s midfielder Samuel Asante took advantage, found a lot of space in the attacking third, and sent a ball to Kyle Porter to the right, who beat Riverhounds goalkeeper Greg Blum.
“From our perspective, it was a handball. The referee even acknowledged it later, but didn’t have clarification from the linesman,” said Evans.
“That’s sometimes how the game goes. Sometimes you’re going to get calls go your way. Sometimes not. We’ve got to make our own luck.”
Trailing 2-0, and seeing that his team was outworked in the first half, Evans turned to his bench for a spark, and to a trio of players making their debut with the team. Bryan Ownby, newly acquired on loan from the Houston Dynamo a few days ago who played previously for the Kickers, started the 2nd half. Joseph Ngwenya and Collins John came in later to boost the Riverhounds attack, which gained momentum as the contest drew to a close.
In the 81st minute, after a nice service from Matt Dallman, Ngwenya beat his defender to the left side of the goal, and laid a ball to the center of the box for John, who easily beat Richmond goalkeeper Ryan Taylor to cut the lead in half.
In the final minutes, the Riverhounds kept bringing pressure, and made things tense for the Kickers in their home opener. Ngwenya found Dallman in the 85th minute open from outside the box, but Dallman’s shot cleared left of the goal.
In stoppage time, Dallman also missed another golden opportunity to tie the match, as he had a great shot from point blank range that was stopped by Taylor. On the ensuing possession, Christiano Francoisfound Porter on the left side to beat Blum for the 3-1 lead, to seal the Kickers first win of the young season.
Richmond outshot Pittsburgh 10-9, but the Riverhounds, with the late pressure, had a 6-4 advantage in the 2nd half.
“We lost the battle tonight, but we’ve got to keep on playing hard in every minute of every game. We have to play for 90 minutes every time out,” said Evans.
The Riverhounds (0-1-1) will look forward to their home debut next Saturday night, at Highmark Stadium at 7:00 p.m. vs Wilmington Hammerheads. They will return to Virginia in just two weeks for a rematch with the Kickers, once again at City Stadium, on April 19.