Photo credit: Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
The three-seeded Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (15-5-14, 59 points) fell to six-seeded Bethlehem Steel FC (14-12-8, 50 points) in penalty kicks in the first ever playoff game at Highmark Stadium. The Hounds came into this game after going 0-1-3 to close the season in their last four games. That winless stretch moved them out of the two-seed and into the three-seed.
The Hounds controlled the action for the first twenty minutes as they led 60.7%-39.3% in possession time during that stretch. Despite this, neither team was able to score or generate any quality shot opportunities. The Hounds did generate a corner kick at the 21st-minute, but the resulting header smacked off of the crossbar and the score remained 0-0.
A couple minutes later though, Ben Zemanski found the back of the net on a header for his first goal of the postseason and the Hounds took a 1-0 lead over Bethlehem. Zemanski’s goal came at the 28th-minute and, for those trivial folks, was the first postseason goal at Pittsburgh in USL history.
The Hounds controlled the game for the rest of the first half, as both teams started to get aggressive. Faris Moumbagna pf Bethlehem received a yellow card after taking out a Riverhounds player at midfield. That was the last bit of action in the first half, and the half ended with the Riverhounds in front of the Steel with the score of 1-0.
Pittsburgh led in every major category in the first half. This included possession time (56.4%-43.6%), interceptions (5-3), shots (8-2), shots-on-target (2-1) and, of course, goals (1-0). The Hounds also were able to generate six of their eight shots inside the box. Even if it didn’t reflect entirely on the scoreboard, Pittsburgh controlled the whole first half significantly.
The second half started off poorly for both teams as neither team was able to hold onto the ball. About ten minutes in, Bethlehem Steel FC used their first substitution on the night as they brought in Chris Nanco for Faris Moumbagna. Moumbagna had the yellow card earlier in the match. Not long after that substitution, the Steel brought in Drew Skundrich for Anthony Fontana their second substitution on the night.
At the 67th-minute, a one-on-one situation erupted for Bethlehem. Bethlehem’s shot was stopped by a diving Dan Lynd. That kept the score at 1-0 in favor of the Hounds.
Not long thereafter, three minutes to be exact, Bethlehem managed to tie things up with a Michee Ngalina goal. That score, at the 70th-minute, made things 1-1 and silenced the loud crowd of 5,189.
Ten minutes later, the Riverhounds generated a pair of corner kicks, but failed to score on either one. That was a theme for much of the second half, as the Hounds were able to generate multiple corners, but failed to find the back of the net. After one particular failed attempt, Jordan Dover received a yellow on an intentional hand ball. It was the second yellow card issued in the game and the first on Pittsburgh.
The second half ended with the score knotted up at 1-1. The Riverhounds led in shots (14-6) and in possession time (54.8%-45.2%) in regulation. The Hounds were also able to generate 11 corner kicks and had nine shots in the box, but ultimately they couldn’t pull away from their cross-state rivals.
Right out of the gate, both teams were able to create strong chances and both failed to finish. Bethlehem Steel FC had a shot from inside the box that went barely over the net. As for Pittsburgh goes, they were able to generate a header from Tom Vancaeyezeele that also barely went over the net. The score remained 1-1 midway through the first period of extra time.
At the 104th minute, the Hounds were awarded a free kick after a Steel player wrapped their arm around a Hounds’ players neck. The free kick set up a goal for Hugh Roberts which made the score 2-1. Shortly after that, the first extra time period ended.
Ten minutes later, the Hounds used their final two subs when they brought in Ray Lee and Kay Banjo for Ben Zemanski and Neco Brett. Shortly after that, Hugh Roberts fouled a Bethlehem player just barely outside of the box. This set up a free kick for James Chambers. Chambers scored on the kick and the score was tied up at 2-2.
Things started to get hostile on the field as two yellow cards were issued after that goal. One was issued to Chris Nanco of Bethlehem while the other was issued to Romeo Parkes, both were separate situations. Right before the end of the second extra time period, Joe Holland was sent off with a red card after sliding into the keeper. The Hounds also brought in Kevin Kerr during this time.
Extra time ended with the score knotted at 2-2. The game went into penalty kicks and both teams made their first seven shots. After Bethlehem pulled away 8-7 in penalty kicks, Ray Lee missed the tying shot and that ended the Hounds season.
It was a strong season for the Hounds, arguably the strongest one in history. As for Bethlehem Steel FC, they will travel to Louisville next week for the conference semifinals.