The Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (9-2-7, 34 Points) lost to the Charleston Battery (9-3-8, 35 Points) by the score of 1-0. The two teams entered the game separated by just two points in the Eastern Conference with the Rivehounds in second place with 34 points and the Battery with 32 points meaning the win swaps the spots for the teams in the standings. Both teams entered trailing FC Cincinnati who had 38 points.
For the first ten minutes of the game, the Riverhounds controlled the ball. That was until the Charleston Battery got the ball deep into the Riverhounds side of the field. The Battery was unable to score tough as the strong Riverhounds defense got in the way of the cross and the resulting corner. That defense has been key for the Riverhounds all year as they came into today with only seven goals against, the lowest mark in the USL, and a clean sheet streak that dates back to a 2-1 Hounds’ victory in Richmond against the Kickers back on June 2nd.
After that, though the game went back to being dominated by the Riverhounds, and especially Neco Brett. The Riverhounds gave the Robert Morris University graduate multiple chances. Unfortunately for the Riverhounds, Brett would be unable to capitalize on those chances. Furthermore, Christiano Francios came within inches of a goal twice as his first shot ended up smacking off the crossbar, followed by a shot at the 27-minute mark that ended up hitting the right post.
The Riverhounds were able to create a lot of strong chances in the first, most notably the ones stated above, but were unable to score. The score was 0-0 as the teams entered the second half. However, the well-rounded play from the Riverhounds gave them the momentum heading into halftime. The halftime stats saw the Riverhounds lead in most offensive categories. This included possession time (57% to 43%) and shots (7-2, 2-1 on target).
“We won most of the head challenges,” said coach Lilley. “We did a really good job passing out of the back… The energy was good. The intent was good. Some of the executions were good.”
The Riverhounds came out of the gate strong and were able to create a chance deep inside the box. It ended up being stopped, but the Hounds did get a penalty kick after a Charleston Battery player got called for a handball in the box. Up in the press box, it was difficult to tell who exactly was called for the handball and the Battery attempted to argue the call. Nonetheless, the Hounds were granted a penalty kick at the 53-minute mark, and they turned to Neco Brett. On the penalty kick, Joe Kuzminsky made an incredible kick save off of Brett which kept the score at 0-0.
From then on, the Riverhounds were able to create some chances, but nothing strong enough to grab the lead. They did come close again after a great ball played to Neco Brett set him up with a breakaway in the Battery’s box. A great save by Kuzminsky prevented the goal and kept the score at 0-0 at the 79-minute mark. This shot was the ninth by the Riverhounds inside the box and the 11th of the game.
The Riverhounds subbed out two of their forwards in Kevin Kerr and Neco Brett in favor for Romeo Parkes and Kay Banjo at the 83-minute mark. It was Charleston forward Ataulla Guerra that would be the first to score though. Guerra was able to nab a diving header at the 88-minute mark. The goal was assisted by Angelo Kelly and proved to be the deciding factor in the match.
The final score was 1-0. It’s a tough loss for the Riverhounds, who now sit in third place in the Eastern Conference behind the Charleston Battery and FC Cincinnati. The Riverhounds controlled much of the game, outshooting the Battery 11-5 which included 9 shots in the box. Unfortunately for the Hounds, the only category that matters is goals and they couldn’t win that one.
“I’m happy with the chances that we created. That’s soccer,” said coach Lilley. “Keeper made a few good saves. The post got us a couple of times. We earned a penalty and we got behind them repeatedly. If we play like that then we’re going to win a lot of games.”
After FC Cincinnati’s win over the New York Red Bulls II, the Riverhounds now sit seven points back of first place and one point out of second. The Riverhounds look to get better luck in their next game at North Carolina FC (6-8-5, 23 points) on July 28th at 7 pm. Their next home game will be against the Richmond Kickers (5-10-3, 18 points) on August 4th at 7 pm.