Michael Grau talks about the Riverhounds moving up in the standings after a big win over the weekend with Trib Beat Writer Matt Grubba and Riverhounds player Sterling Flunder.
The Pittsburgh Riverhounds closed to within one point of fourth place in the USL Eastern Conference standings Saturday night with a 3-1 win over Toronto F.C. II at the Ontario Soccer Centre.
Reigning USL Player of the Week Rob Vincent got the ball rolling for the Hounds with an early blast to bring his tally for the year to a league-leading 17 goals. Lebo Moloto doubled the Hounds’ advantage going into the interval. Canadian forward Miro Cabrilo secured the points with a late third goal before Raheem Edwards netted a consolation for Toronto in stoppage time.
Pittsburgh’s win followed defeats earlier in the evening for the Richmond Kickers and New York Red Bulls II, two teams now sitting one point above the Hounds (9-8-4, 31 points) in the East’s playoff zone.
Hounds head coach Mark Steffens made a couple of changes from last week’s 3-0 win over the Wilmington Hammerheads. Mexican Under-20 national team goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez entered into the starting lineup after arriving on loan from F.C. Dallas this week. Anthony Arena returned to the center of defense after serving a one-game suspension for yellow card accumulation. Calle Brown and Sterling Flunder dropped to the substitutes’ bench.
Vincent’s opener arrived on 11 minutes when he received a short pass from Moloto on the left side of Toronto’s penalty area. The English midfielder smashed a 25-yard drive high into Quillan Roberts’ net.
Toronto came close to leveling the score on a couple of occasions midway through the first half. Gonzalez denied Edwin Rivas with a fingertip save before Molham Babouli sent a close-range header wide when a goal seemed inevitable.
The hosts were left to rue that miss on 30 minutes when Moloto doubled the Hounds’ lead. Kevin Kerr seized upon a loose ball near the edge of Toronto’s penalty box after Skylar Thomas had slid in to break up a through ball. Kerr slipped an instant feed toward Moloto for him to bend a precise first-time finish around Roberts’ despairing dive.
Toronto enjoyed a greater share of possession after the break as the Hounds kept their opponents at arms’ length. Substitute Cabrilo made the points safe on 79 minutes when Moloto controlled a loose ball in the penalty area before squaring it across the 6-yard line for the Hamilton, Ontario native to convert.
Hounds captain Danny Earls appeared to have ensured a shutout win when he headed Wesley Charpie’s shot off the goal line in the first additional minute. Edwards ended those hopes with seconds remaining when he chested down Babouli’s long cross before thumping an excellent left-foot shot into Gonzalez’ far corner from 25 yards out.
The Hounds return to Highmark Stadium on Aug. 15 when they host the Charlotte Independence in a key game for the team’s playoff ambitions. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. The first 3,500 fans will receive a free black and gold Hounds towel courtesy of Highmark.