The Pittsburgh Riverhounds Professional Team, coming off a tremendous week that included a draw with USL Pro leaders, Orlando City, an international friendly against Wigan Athletic FC, and a win over their next door neighbors in the USL Pro standings, the Wilmington Hammerheads, departed for the Canadian border this morning, with clear marching orders: return with three points and in playoff position.
Through an excellent display of possession and attacking flair, the Hounds showed their class against Orlando City last Wednesday night at Highmark Stadium. Controlling long stretches of the match, the Riverhounds and Lions would never break the goalless deadlock, ending in a hard-fought 0-0 draw which only inched the Hounds up the table, on the heels of both VSI Tampa Bay FC and the Dayton Dutch Lions for the final playoff positions.
Despite feeling disappointed in only taking a single point from a game where the Hounds deserved three, Head Coach Justin Evans led the team into an international friendly matchup with FA Cup Winners, Wigan Athletic FC, on Friday night in downtown Pittsburgh’s new soccer cathedral along the banks of the Monongahela River. The exhibition match proved to be invigorating for players and fans alike, as a capacity crowd took on views of world-class finishes, breathtaking views of the Pittsburgh city skyline, and a tremendous post-game fireworks display from Pyrotecnico.
Carrying motivation but also tired legs into their Sunday matchup with Wilmington, their third game in just five days, the Riverhounds would lean on second half substitutes to deliver the energy and the knockout punch.
In a beautiful showing of composure within the offensive box, Riverhounds star striker, Jose Angulo, would lift a deft touch over the Hammerheads backline, landing on the foot of Seth C’deBaca. C’deBaca, taking advantage of the angle, would slide a low cross to a sliding Mike Seth for their initial lead. After losing the lead in the 72nd minute off a broken play in their own box, the Hounds would respond with a goal from the individual who has setup the most goals in the entire league this season. Matt Dallman, picking up a deflection within the Hammerheads box in the 78th minute, would acrobatically turn and volley cleanly into the back of the net for the game-winning goal. The win would push the Hounds a full three points clear of Wilmington.
Travelling to Toronto FC of Major League Soccer, the Riverhounds will look to enter a match that is certain to be filled with physical challenges. If their previous meeting on Friday, June 7th in Pittsburgh is any indication for what is in store for the Saturday 4:30pm clash, the Clubs will carry some bad blood into BMO Field for a heated and crucial fight.
In their initial matchup, just over 3,100 fans watched the Riverhounds play to a 1-1 tie in their first-ever USL Pro / MLS Reserve interleague dealing. The boys from the ‘burgh would jump on the board early, in just the 9th minute, on a Jose Angulo finish from Jhonny Arteaga. The ex-NY Red Bulls duo seemed to have done enough to secure the three points against the MLS Reserve side, owning possession and outshooting the Canadian opponents 10-5. In the 72nd minute, however, Toronto would unexpectedly bring the game level off the foot of Andrew Wiedman.
After a game-ending tackle along Toronto’s endline at Highmark Stadium, tempers would flare, and players and coaches from both sides would go face-to-face in the center of the field. Following several minutes of pushing and shoving, the teams would finally be separated, setting the stage for their final leg matchup in Toronto this weekend.
The Riverhounds continue life on the road next weekend, travelling to Florida for two key games against VSI Tampa Bay FC and Orlando City. With Tampa Bay currently just ahead of the Riverhounds in the USL Pro Standings, the Friday night contest at Plant City Stadium is poised to be a thrilling fixture.