Playing with a sense of urgency, the Pittsburgh Riverhounds kept their USL PRO league playoff hopes alive, by defeating FC Dallas Reserves, 3-1, on Sunday afternoon at Highmark Stadium.
Goals by Rob Vincent, Kevin Kerr and Mike Green lifted the Riverhounds to their 8th win of the season, their seventh win in their past 10 matches, and most importantly to within one point of the final playoff spot.
“It’s a huge win. A test of our character,” said Green.
“Last week, was a hard one for us losing at Arizona. But today, we came to play, and we showed what we can do.”
As the second half began, the Riverhounds were holding on to a precarious 2-1 lead, after conceding a late goal in a first half, despite controlling possession throughout.
The Hounds quickly regained momentum and took command of the match in the 54th minute, on free kick opportunity from 35 yards.
Matt Dallman delivered a ball to the far post area, and Green made a perfectly timed run into the box, heading the ball past FC Dallas’ goalkeeper Richard Sanchez for the two-goal cushion.
“There was huge gap between me, and the defender, so I was backing away, I wanted to keep opening up that gap. As soon as it opened, Dallman played a great ball and I was able to get it in,” said Green.
The Riverhounds took the lead in the 20th minute, when Jason Johnson played a ball back to Vincent, who lined up a blast from just inside the 18 yard box, that found the back of the net.
Continuing to dominate possession for much of the first half, the Hounds converted again in the 33rd minute.
Dallman’s lining cross from the right side forced FC Dallas Reserves goalkeeper Richard Sanchez to come off the line to punch the ball away, but Kerr was right there for the finish to give the Hounds a 2-0 edge.
Dallman’s two assists brought his total to six for the season, as he’s now the team leader.
Riverhounds goalkeeper Mike Lisch would be tested in the moments that followed.
He came up with a big save to thwart a Ryan Hollingshead header from a dangerous, long cross in the 38th minute.
Lisch wasn’t so fortunate in the 42nd minute.
On a pretty routine high cross headed toward the right corner of the goal, Lisch came out to grab the ball, but it inexplicably slipped through his hands, bouncing to the goal line, where FC Dallas’ Cobi Span headed the ball through to cut the Riverhounds lead to 2-1.
In a sudden momentum shift, Dallas FC continued to mount pressure with two more quality shots that Lisch turned away. The Hounds outshot FC Dallas 7-5 in the first half.
“We’re not good enough to take our foot off the gas, and get too comfortable,” said Niko Katic, Riverhounds Interim Head Coach.
“We dominated the first forty minutes of the first half, and then the last five minutes was a bit of a shocker. We can’t do that. We’ve got to take care of business.”
Riverhounds starting eleven included: Mike Lisch (GK), Anthony Arena, Andrew Ribeiro, Sterling Flunder, Matt Dallman, Rob Vincent, Danny Earls, Kevin Kerr, Mike Green, Joseph Ngwenya, Jason Johnson.
Earls, who’s led the Riverhounds in minutes played in 2014, left in the 63rd minute for Alfonso Montagalvan.
Jhonny Arteaga replaced Johnson in the 76th minute, and Jose Angulo made his first appearance since injuring his ankle on July 27, in 85th minute, coming on for Green.
Lisch finished the match with five saves. The Hounds held the edge in shots (11-9).
With the win, the Riverhounds (8-12-5, 29 points) are right in the pack of teams fighting for the final USL PRO playoff spot, trailing Charlotte, Wilmington and Arizona (30 points), and tied with Oklahoma City.
“Every game we play, we tell the guys, lets just have a chance to get to that last game against Arizona (Sept. 6 at Highmark Stadium). And that’s all we ask,” said Katic.
“We have to keep playing one game at a time, we are hoping we have a chance in that last week.”
With three games remaining, the Riverhounds must now go on the road next weekend, with back-to-back games at Charlotte and Charleston on Friday, August 29 and 30, that will determine their fate.
They will return to finish the season against the Arizona United SC on Saturday, September 6, with a 7 p.m. kickoff. Tickets are still available at ticketmaster.com. The game will be streamed live in it’s entirety on YouTube.