USL PRO Game Report
Thursday, July 17, 2014
PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Riverhounds won for the third time in their last four games as they defeated the Charlotte Eagles 2-0 on Thursday evening at Highmark Stadium on the strength of second-half goals by Kevin Kerr and Jose Angulo.
Joseph Ngwenya assisted on both goals with identical crosses from the right side, as the Riverhounds earned their fourth victory of the year and kept their playoff hopes alive.
"It was the most complete performance of the season. It was great by everyone, our forwards, our defense, everyone was really working together," said Niko Katic, Riverhounds Interim Head Coach.
After a first half which they controlled possession, and after Charlotte's Wells Thompson was sent off in the 42nd minute to reduce his side to 10 men after receiving his second yellow card, the Riverhounds seized the match in the second half.
"First 10 minutes we were rushing, and losing some balls, but after that, when we settled down, we kept the ball moving from side-to-side, it got a lot better. It started to open things up for us," said Katic. "We were patient, and we knew we would score a goal, it was just a matter of time."
The game-winning goal finally came in the 67th minute, as Ngwenya played a ball to Angulo just inside the right side of the box. Angulo played the ball back to Ngwenya who made a nice run to the goal line and placed a cross in the middle of the penalty area for Kerr to head home.
"Joseph is an unreal player. He's going to make a difference whenever he plays," said Katic. "He was a big difference for us tonight."
The Hounds didn't let up, and missed on some great opportunities in the following minutes. Angulo laid a nice pass for Rob Vincent at the top of the penalty area, who let loose a hard, left-footed shot that Charlotte goalkeeper Alec Kann was forced to make a diving save. In the following sequence, Matt Dallman sent a hard, low-lining ball that went through traffic in the box, toward the far post, where Angulo lunged forward, just missing a low header that drew a collective gasp from crowd at Highmark Stadium, nearly missing what could have been a spectacular goal.
Finally, in the 82nd minute, Ngwenya worked a nice give-and-go with Mike Green and found himself in the same spot where he set up the first goal. He again delivered an uncontested cross that Angulo touched into the net. It was Angulo's fifth USL PRO tally of the season, leading the Riverhounds.
The Riverhounds did everything but score in the first half, even setting up six corner kicks. Play became more physical as the match passed the half-hour mark. On a Charlotte corner, Riverhounds goalkeeper Mike Lisch came out to play the ball, and as it was knocked away, a scrum for the ball ensued in the box, with a lot of pushing and shoving between both sides. The Eagles got the worst of the scuffle, as Thompson was cautioned for throwing an elbow.
The Riverhounds kept pressing forward, and on their next corner kick in the 39th minute, Andrew Marshall's shot was headed off the line by Charlotte's Fred Sekyere.
Three minutes later, Dallman gained possession of the ball near midfield, and was leveled hard by Thompson, who lowered his shoulder into Dallman, sending him flying to the ground. Thompson was issued his second yellow card of the match, which forced Charlotte to have to play a man down for the final 48 minutes.
The Riverhounds (4-10-5, 17 points) appear to be playing well, maybe just in time to make a run to earn an elusive playoff spot. Katic and his players are now feeling more optimistic as they head toward the final month of the season.
"This is a great time of the season to peak. We have nine games left in the season and we have to treat every game like a cup final," said Katic. "We have to give our best effort in every single game. It's going to be very challenging, but we're up for it."
The Riverhounds next two matches are on the road, as they head west to take on the Real Salt Lake Reserves on Friday, July 25, then to Sacramento on Sunday, July 27. The Hounds return to Highmark Stadium on Saturday, August 2, at 7 p.m., to take on the LA Galaxy II.
To purchase Riverhounds game tickets, call the Highmark Stadium Box Office at 412-325-7241 or visit www.riverhounds.com.