Pittsburgh Riverhounds continued their struggles in USL PRO competition on Saturday night, losing to the Rochester Rhinos 1-0 at Highmark Stadium.
Late in the first half, in the 41st minute, the Rhinos scored the only goal of the match, thanks to some good fortune.
As a ball was played into the penalty box, two Rhinos players, J.C. Banks and Colin Rolfe converged on the ball about seven yards from the goal line. Rolfe whiffed on the bouncing ball on his first attempt, but as he lined up to take another shot, Riverhounds goalkeeper Mike Lisch came out to make a play on the ball. As the ball sprang loose, Rhinos midfielder Alex Dixon came in from the top of the box, to send the ball into the open net on a one-time shot.
“Arguably, Lisch came out to play the ball, and the guy who doesn’t play the ball, runs right into him,” said Justin Evans, Riverhounds Head Coach.
“The other guy collected it, took the first shot, and was able to score.”
It was a tough night for the Riverhounds, who maintained a lot of possession, but could not mount too many chances against a well-organized Rochester unit to secure their elusive first win of the year in USL PRO League play.
Evans shared his frustration with his team’s inability to generate scoring opportunities.
“When we’re passing through the midfield and our backs, our passes are connecting quickly. We’re sharp and on point there. That little bit, in the attacking third, we’re just not finding that little pass,” said Evans.
“And that’s the toughest thing to do in soccer, find that goal. We obviously have to do a better job. We have to find ways to get in there,” said Evans.
In the early going, it was a sloppy start for both teams. But the Riverhounds found a few nice opportunities.
Riverhounds forward Jose Angulo caused some headaches for Rhinos defenders. First, in the 8th minute, setting up a corner kick after nice possession and combination play down the left side. Then in the 15th minute, surrounded by four Rhinos defenders, on the edge of the penalty box, was able to turn and send a shot that ricocheted off the shoulder of Rhinos defender Tony Walls.
In the 19th minute, going for a 50-50 ball, Riverhounds midfielder Anthony Obodai was flipped over after running into a Rhinos defender. The referee signaled for play to continue, as Rob Vincent made a nice run into space, unleashing a lining shot toward the top corner, forcing Rhinos goalkeeper John McCarthy to make a diving save to his right to punch it away.
Lisch had to make three saves in the first half, while McCarthy’s only save was from Vincent’s blast.
The Rhinos held a 7-5 edge in shots, and Lisch finished the night with five saves.
Riverhounds starting line-up included: Lisch (GK), Sterling Flunder, Mike Green, Danny Earls, Anthony Arena, Rob Vincent, Kevin Kerr, Joseph Ngwenya, Anthony Obodai, Jose Angulo, Matt Dallman.
Evans substituted Collins John for Ngwenya at the beginning of the second half. Seth C’deBaca came in for Dallman, and making his Riverhounds debut, Robert Morris University product, Miro Cardilo entered the match in the 81st minute.
A few late efforts by the Riverhounds were turned away, as Rochester extended their unbeaten streak to seven games.
Ironically, the Riverhounds (0-3-4), who made the playoffs in 2013, have the same exact record at this point in 2014. All Evans can now hope for, is the same type of turnaround this season.
“At this point, I’d rather play terrible, and win the game,” said a disgruntled Evans.
The Riverhounds season will continue with a road trip next weekend to USL PRO opponents, Wilmington (NC) and Charleston (SC) on Friday, May 23 and Saturday, May 24.
The Riverhounds will return home on Wednesday, May 28 to take on Chicago-based, RWD Adria in the third round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Tournament. This will be a rematch of last year’s dramatic second round Open Cup match that was decided by penalties, with the Riverhounds prevailing.
The Riverhounds next USL PRO League game at home, will be against in-state rivals, Harrisburg City Islanders, Sunday, June 1.