Pittsburgh Riverhounds edged FC Montreal 1-0 on Saturday night to post their first league shutout of the season at Highmark Stadium as Kevin Kerr capitalized on a rebound from a Rob Vincent shot for the lone goal.
It was probably fitting that on a night where the Pittsburgh Riverhounds had difficulty finishing, that Kerr would finally break through for the goal that would provide the difference.
“He’s definitely one of those guys who has been a difference maker for us” said Josh Rife, Riverhounds assistant coach.
“A tireless worker, the eternal optimist who’s always looking to get one. Was so glad to see he was able to capitalize on the moment.”
Kerr’s tally came in the 76th minute after he led an attack that had been constantly knocking on the door all night long, but had no results to show for it.
It started after new substitution Boris Zivanovic served a dangerous cross from the right side that was headed away by FC Montreal, but came to Vincent.
Vincent, the USL’s top goal scorer, maneuvered past a few defenders to create a shot attempt that was blocked and it deflected to the right side where Kerr seized the chance to send a left-footed shot that hugged the inside right post to give the Hounds the lead.
It was Kerr’s sixth goal of the season, good for second on the team behind Vincent
With team captain Danny Earls sitting out due to red card at Charlotte a week ago, Vincent slid back into a more defensive midfield role for long stretches of the evening, providing Kerr with countless opportunities to pepper FC Montreal goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau with shot after shot.
In all — Kerr had eight of the Riverhounds shots — with three on goal.
“At halftime we were disappointed. I had shots. Chances to get some assists too,” said Kerr.
“I’ll worry only when chances stop coming. We kept coming tonight.”
The Riverhounds throughly dominated the first half, but remained without a goal.
Their best chance came in the 29th minute when Vincent and Mike Green worked a nice passing combination in tight space — played a 1-2 — and Vincent unleashed a bullet at Cropeau who dove to his right to deny the English midfielder with his 10th USL goal of the season.
In preserving the shutout in an impressive performance that held FC Montreal without a shot on goal, the Riverhounds started the same back line and goalkeeper as they did previously against the D.C. United in their Lamar Hunt Open Cup match on Wednesday night. They included Anthony Arena, Fejiro Okiomah, Willie Hunt and the longest tenured Hound, Sterling Flunder. Calle Brown started in goal for the second game as well.
“It was a long time coming,” said Rife.
“Felt good to have a shutout. Especially after the past few games, as we’ve been playing well as a group,” said Arena, who wore the captain’s armband in Earls’ absence.
In addition the back four and goalkeeper, Riverhounds Head Coach Mark Steffens penciled in a starting line-up that included a few new additions in light of Earls’ absence and an injury to starting midfielder Lebo Moloto.
The midfield and forwards included Kerr, Vincent, Max Touloute, Stephen Okai, Drew Russell and Green. Boris Zivanovic entered for Flunder, Vini Dantas came in for Russell, Miro Cabrilo replaced Okai and Tyler Pasher for Touloute.
With the win, the Riverhounds (5-4-4, 19 points) remain above the playoff line in the very competitive USL’s Eastern Conference standings. FC Montreal (1-9-3, six points) remains at the bottom of the table.
“Hopefully it’s something we can build on. It was definitely three big points for us,” said Rife.
Next Saturday, June 27, they will travel to Shalen Stadium in Western New York to take on the USL’s top team — the Rochester Rhinos in a showdown of the USL’s top ranked defensive team against its highest scoring team.