In a battle of two teams trying to work their way out of the bottom of the USL PRO League standings, the Pittsburgh Riverhounds fell to the Dayton Dutch Lions 1-0, on a rainy Saturday evening at Highmark Stadium.
Eli Garner’s goal in the 18th minute would be enough to hand the Riverhounds their ninth league loss of the year.
It was a disappointing result for the Riverhounds, on a night when they managed to control possession and create numerous scoring chances.
“I thought it was very good, we had a lot of chances to score, and we put so much work into it. We kept battling and couldn’t get one to go in,” said Riverhounds head coach Niko Katic.
Dayton used a quick restart to their advantage to score the game’s lone goal.
After gaining advantage, Dayton’s Guilherme Felix put the ball down quickly, delivered a long ball toward the top of the penalty area. As Riverhounds goalkeeper Hunter Gilstrap came out to play the ball, Dayton’s Eli Garner beat him to the ball, took one touch to the right and comfortably passed the ball into the open goal to give the Dutch Lions the early 1-0 lead.
“It was one mistake, we didn’t step to the ball quick enough to not let them play it, but that’s what happens in professional soccer sometimes,” said Katic.
As the second half began, the game was delayed for approximately 50 minutes as severe weather came through the City of Pittsburgh.
Once the threat of lightning was gone, play resumed a little after 9 o’clock under a continuing hard downpour.
Both teams struggled to string together too many quality chances initially, but the Riverhounds could not finish on some opportunities in the attacking third into the late stages, with the best chance coming when a Danny Earls cross connected with Jose Angulo, who headed the ball over bar in the 90th minute.
But that was the theme for much of the night for the home side.
In the 4th minute, Earls, moving to his left, with some space, delivered a strike from 25 yds, that hit the left post.
In the very next sequence, Joseph Ngwenya attempted a shot while falling over that Dayton’s goalkeeper Matt Williams turned away with a diving save.
After a nice build up of possession in the 31st minute, a wild sequence ensued.
After receiving a ball on the left side, just outside the box, Earls chipped ball toward the far post. Joseph Ngwenya’s header was punched to the right by a diving Dayton goalkeeper Matt Williams. As Angulo came flying through to try to head the ball back into the net, he missed the ball and with a lot of momentum going forward, fell hard into the back of the net, bending the front of the goal backwards.
Play had to be stopped for a few minutes while Highmark Stadium staff nudged the goal back into place.
The RIverhounds continued to add pressure.
In the 40th minute, while falling backward near the top of the penalty area, Angulo was able to push through a pass between two defenders to the left to Ngwenya, who made a cut-back, and drilled a right footed shot at close range, right at Williams who made the stop.
Dayton had another dangerous opportunity in the 42nd minute. On a corner kick sent to the far post, Garner tried to one time it past Gilstrap who initially knocked the ball away. As the ball ascended back to Garner, he tried to drive it through again and it was saved by a lunging Anthony Obodai who headed the ball out of the goal to avert danger.
And then the second half brought the delay, and sloppy play affected by rain, and another home defeat for the Riverhounds.
The Riverhounds held the edge in shots (13-7) and corner kicks (8-6), in a match that had 31 fouls (Riverhounds had 15).
Riverhounds Interim Head Coach Niko Katic mixed up his starting eleven, going with the line-up that included: Gilstrap (GK), Anthony Obodai, Andrew Marshall, Sterling Flunder, Alfonso Motagalvan, Rob Vincent, Earls, Kevin Kerr, Mike Green, Jose Angulo. Seth C’deBaca and Matt Dallman entered the match in the 66′ for Motogalvan and Green. Miro Cabrillo and Mike Seth also came on in the late stages for Kerr and Ngwenya.
With the win, Dayton (4-10-2) pushed six points past the Riverhounds (1-9-5) in the USL PRO table.
“We keep changing things, keep trying to find the best line-up. We’ll get there, maybe on Tuesday night in Dayton,” said Katic.
It was the first game of a home-and-home series between the two teams, as they will have a return match in Dayton on Tuesday, July 1st.
“As a coach, we can only take it one game at a time. One training session at a time and keep getting better. Hopefully it will pay off,” said Katic.