Things didn’t go quite the way the Pittsburgh Riverhounds would have liked in their third preseason match on Sunday against the University of Michigan Wolverines, losing 2-1.
For one Michigan player, with local ties, it was a homecoming to remember.
In the second minute of the match, after taking advantage of a poor pass by Hounds defender Isaiah Schafer, Michigan forward Francis Atuahene found former Pittsburgh Riverhounds Academy player and Upper St. Clair’s Robbie Wertz on a quick transition — beating Hunter Gilstrap for the early 1-0 lead.
It was Mertz’s first goal as a Wolverine. Mertz played in 16 matches as a true freshman in reserve roles, mostly at midfield. In fact, he picked up his first career assist in the 3-0 win over Duquesne (Oct. 13).
After the game, I had an opportunity to catch up with a very happy Robbie Mertz.
Lebo Moloto came close in the 34th minute to getting one back for the Hounds after Stephen Okai and Jordan Murrell pushed forward. Kevin Kerr teed up Moloto inside the penalty area. His drive took a deflection off a Michigan boot before thumping the crossbar.
Murrell continued to raid down the left side and his looping cross helped to put the Hounds on the board two minutes later. Jamaican forward Parkes guided his header back across goal beyond goalkeeper Braden Horton.
Steffens began the second half with 11 players that did not start the game.
While there was no official announcement from Columbus or the Riverhounds, the group starting in the 2nd half included a pair of players from the Columbus Crew, Ben Swanson and Marshall Hollingsworth.
The 18-year old Swanson is a highly touted player in the U.S. system, and was signed in 2014 as a homegrown player for the Crew. Swanson represented United States’ youth teams on several occasions, including wearing the captain’s armband for the U-18 team in a friendly against Canada in April Hollingsworth, 22-year old from Wheaton College in Illinois, was the Crew’s second round draft pick in 2016.
As a result, instead of a unit that mounted a fierce scoring rally, it was a rather sloppy and disoriented half of play that saw the Hounds own most of the possession, but squander a few chances and unable to really threaten the Wolverines.
Zak Boggs came close to restoring parity on 67 minutes with an outside of the foot volley that Horton tipped onto his crossbar.
Drew Russell had a few decent shots on goal in the second half, and Ryan Dodson was thwarted in the closing minutes by Horton’s point blank save.
The Hounds were reduced to 10 men for the last 15 minutes after unsigned Canadian 17-year old Duwayne Ewart lost his composure, getting booked for a red card for a late challenge.
RIVERHOUNDS STARTING XI / SECOND HALF LINE-UP
Gilstrap, Sergio Campbell, Willie Hunt, Murrell, Schafer, Okai, Mike Green, Kerr, Alex Harrley, Moloto and Parks.
The Hounds rolled out a similar lineup that started last week’s scrimmage vs Ohio State, with Harrley and Schafer, who missed the previous game,being inserted into the group for the first time. The three goalkeepers, Gilstrap, Mauricio Vargas and Brenden Alfrey alternated each 30 minutes.
The second half group looked like this:
Ewart, Russell, Dodson, Caleb Posterwait, Conor Branson, Karsten Smith, Hollingsworth, Nick Kolarac, and James Bissue came on for the final 25 minutes or so.
FAN FEST / NEW KITS
Sunday’s contest was preceded by Highmark Stadium’s first Fan Fest event featuring live music from Title Town, food trucks and other activities.
After the match, the Hounds revealed new kits.
The home look will include a horizontal black stripe across a pan all-Gold jersey along with gold shorts/socks. The second jersey is a faded blue and black design.