PITTSBURGH, PA – The Pittsburgh Riverhounds gave the D.C United everything they could handle, but fell to one of the top teams in Major League Soccer, 3-1, in extra time in the fourth round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, before a lively standing room only crowd at Highmark Stadium on Wednesday night.
The United bookended goals from corner kicks in the early moments from Facundo Coria, at the onset of extra time by Kofi Opare, and a final tally on a header by Nick DeLeon in the 104th minute to defeat a Riverhounds team that pushed the United for 120 minutes.
“I’ve been involved with Open Cup games for what, 17, 18 years, this is what it looks like almost every time,” said Ben Olsen, D.C. United Head Coach.
“Their energy. Their quality. Their commitment. They gave us a heck of a fight tonight,”
Olsen’s team had to fight off a pesky Hounds team — and was fortunate that his team was able to convert on set pieces in key moments.
“I’ve talked a lot with our guys about how are we going to get to the next level. And set pieces would be a big part of it,” said Olsen.
The United opened the scoring early in the first half after each team traded attacking chances.
Luis Silva’s corner kick was redirected by Conor Doyle, causing the Riverhounds defenders to freeze, and Facundo Coria broke through into the goal box to easily pass it into the goal for the 1-0 lead for the visitors.
After a few more rugged minutes where they could not sustain any significant possession, the Riverhounds finally capitalized in the 24th minute, on a long ball sent into the attacking third. As Opare tried to shield Kevin Kerr away from the ball — as they were entering the penalty area — he pushed the energetic Scottish midfielder drawing the whistle and a penalty kick.
“I had some success early getting past the left back. I told our guys, keep sending it to me. I’ll chase it down where ever. I’ll work for it,” said Kerr.
“Fortunately, for us, it paid off, as we got the penalty kick.”
This set the stage for the USL’s leading scorer, Rob Vincent to step up to send his penalty kick past United goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra for the equalizer, sending the crowd of more than 4,000 into a frenzy.
The stands and press box were shaking after Vincent’s third goal in Open Cup play in three games, and his 12th in all competitions in 2015.
The Hounds would keep bringing the pressure for the remainder of the first half. There were shots from Kerr, Mike Green and again Kerr that Dykstra would have to make saves.
At the end of the half, in stoppage time, the United finally had another dangerous chance — on another corner kick — as Jalen Robinson header found the open side of the net.
In a play that was reminiscent of one made by United States Women’s Team defender and Pittsburgh native Meghan Klingenberg a few nights before, Mike Green was right there to save a certain goal — leaping upward to head the ball and clear it away from danger on the very last play of the half.
In the second half, the United made some adjustments — and began creating more quality chances.
“Our commitment was better. We started getting behind them a bit more. That opened more space and we were able to dictate the game more,” said Olsen.
Miguel Aguilar was a key factor. He got behind the Riverhounds defense a few times for some dangerous opportunities, but couldn’t finish.
The home team continued to press forward as well, and had a few golden opportunities of their own. In the 59th minute, Kerr found Vincent near the top of the box, where he’s scored numerous goals this year. Vincent sent a hard-lining strike to the upper right corner, but Dykstra was there to make a dynamic save.
In the late stages of regulation the Riverhounds had to fight off a few dangerous corner kicks and crosses from the United, but managed to extend the game.
Just two minutes into overtime, the United’s Jared Jeffery’s well-placed corner was headed perfectly into the goal by Opare.
Moments later, Aguilar drew a couple of Riverhounds defenders to the left side, and served a nice ball into the center of the box for DeLeon, who finished with the United’s third goal via the air.
“They were so dangerous on set pieces,” said Kerr.
“It does sting a bit, when you dominate for stretches — and still lose the game on set pieces.”
The United starting line-up included: Dykstra (G), Markus Halsti, Opare, Jalen Robinson, Luke Mishu, Aguilar, Jeffrey, Doyle, Silva, Coria and Arrieta. Chris Korb, DeLeon came in for Silva and Coria. Assistant coach Chad Ashton was ejected around the 70th minute — as Olsen did find himself in a dispute with the officials over a call.
The Riverhounds starting eleven penciled in by Mark Steffens included: Brown (G), Anthony Arena, Willie Hunt, Mike Green, Sterling Flunder, Stephen Okai, Danny Earls, Rob Vincent, Kevin Kerr, and Miro Cabrilo. Drew Russell entered for Cabrilo, Boris Zivanovic came in for Okai and Tyler Pasher replaced Flunder.
The loss was the first Open Cup loss at Highmark Stadium in six games since 2013, when scenic stadium on the banks of the Monongahela River opened.
The United will find out their next opponent on Thursday morning when U.S. Soccer conducts its draw for the round of 16.
The Riverhounds will resume USL league play at Highmark Stadium on Saturday, as Montreal Impact 2 will take on the Hounds with an 7 p.m. start.