PGHvORL Game Summary
It was a tough night all around for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, as they lost 2-1 to Orlando City B at Highmark Stadium, conceding two goals to Tyler Turner after team captain Kevin Kerr was sent off after receiving a red card in 35th minute.
“There’s no doubt, that changed the outcome of the game,” said Mark Steffens, Riverhounds Head Coach.
“The level of officiating right now, doesn’t match the level of play we have in our league now.”
Moments after Kerr’s sliding tackle that kept him on the ground in pain, Turner shook it off — and then split the Hounds back line for a goal in the 39th minute to give the Lions the 1-0 lead and force Pittsburgh to have to play from behind yet again this season.
In three games this season, the Riverhounds have yet to lead.
Playing down a man, the Hounds brought some pressure at the end of the first half, and in stages in the second half, but were not able to get too many shots on goal.
The Lions converted again midway through the second half, as forward Hadji Barry made a run to the edge of the right end line, and cut back a low ball to the top of the six yard box that Turner put into the back of the net.
Steffens began to bring subs from his bench after the 70th minute to try to energize an 10-man unit, but the attack mostly stalled until the match reached stoppage time.
In the game’s 92nd minute, Romeo Parkes got behind an Orlando defender in the box and was pulled from behind to draw a penalty. Parkes calmly drilled his shot into the left side of the goal to pull the Hounds to within a goal.
It was too little, too late, as the Hounds last push, that included a long throw in the dying seconds was cleared away, preserving Orlando City B’s (1-3-1, 4 points) first win of the season.
The loss keeps the Riverhounds (0-2-1, 1 point) near the bottom of the USL’s Eastern Conference standings.
“I’m not worried about the long-term,” said Steffens, a USL Hall of Fame Coach.
“We’ve got 27 games to go, and I am sure that we can ring off a bunch of victories that can get us back to where we need to be.”
1.) SLIDE TACKLE THAT CHANGED THE GAME
In a first half, official Sorin Stoica was controlling play with numerous stoppages. His overzealous whistle-blowing culminated in the 35th minute — and in the eyes of Steffens and his team — changed the complexion of the contest.
First, as Orlando City attempted its third corner of the half, a pair of players made contact in the box. Stoica blew the whistle to stop the corner, as a Riverhounds forward Corey Hertzog was knocked down by an elbow from defender Kyle McFadden.
Stoica didn’t issue a caution to McFadden, and let Hertzog get up and stay in the game. The corner kick would be cleared away by the Hounds, but as Turner attempted to make a play on the loose ball, Kerr came sliding in for a tackle.
Kerr didn’t appear to make hard contact with Turner, but instead scraped by his side.
Turner laid on the ground for a few minutes in apparent pain, as players from both sides came to the area, with some pushing and shoving.
Although no announcement was made, Kerr was sent off by Stoica. With a lot of players in the area crowding the viewpoint on the far side of the field near the locker rooms, Kerr left the field somewhat obscurely.
Word of Kerr’s dismissal didn’t get to the press box and announcement to the fans until halftime.
It seemed very strange all the way around.
And a real tough break for the Hounds to lose its captain after 35 minutes.
2.) DAUNTING DEFICITS
It’s hard to believe that after being one of the highest scoring teams in USL a year ago, the Hounds have scored only three goals in their first three games. It’s also hard to fathom that they’ve yet to lead in more than 270 minutes of action this season .
“We have to come out and play with a great sense of urgency throughout the match,” said Parkes.
“It’s not easy to come from behind, and we keep making it harder for ourselves. We need to play better from the beginning.”
Part of the problem early in games with this team is that they are struggling to get on the same page, particularly in how they are communicating defensively and how they want to play and respond to opponents tactics. This is common with teams that have a lot of players that have not played together a lot.
After Friday’s game, Steffens and center back Sergio Campbell both acknowledged that while they wanted to play the ball out of the back quicker, they were struggling to do so — even as Gilstrap was pleading with the defenders to do.
After the Kerr ejection, the back line was caught on its heels, and Turner took full advantage — making a run to get behind a pair of defenders and with a clear shot that beat Gilstrap.
3.) NO RHYME, NO RHYTHM, FEW GOALS
Despite the questionable officiating, and early season back line communication flaws, the biggest concern might be for the Riverhounds is that they are not connecting passes and building a consistent attack.
There are signs of solid individual play (Parkes is dangerous, Marshall Hollingsworth is all over the field making plays), the attacking unit as a whole is out of sync.
The most dangerous opportunities in the past two games have come when backs or holding midfielders have sent balls in the air to Parkes. Outside of that, only a few nice build-ups have come through short passing on the ground and into the final third. A lot of passes are just not finding feet and numerous balls are being given away in the middle of the field.
When I asked Steffens after the game about his assessment on how the team is possessing the ball, he wasn’t happy.
“Not good. Not good at all” said Steffens.
“We can do better, and need to sustain more possession for longer stretches.”
Playing down a man, they did a better job in the second half using the width of the field and they seemed a bit more patient as Orlando City dropped off from high pressure they play with for much of the first half. Still, very few crosses or passes made their way into the box enough to keep Ridgers busy. Mike Green’s shot from distance was the closest they came to dangerous shot attempt.
The Hounds have talented players –but they are still trying to find the right chemistry. Having played without two players who were expected to lead the attack in Kerr, and Lebo Moloto for much of the past two games, the Hounds appear a stagnant unit.
Steffens indicated that he will appeal Kerr’s suspension.
If Kerr can play in the next two games against really good competition on the road (at Louisville City Wednesday, and then at Charleston Saturday), that could help. Moloto’s absence has been tough pill to swallow too — as he was the middle man in the attack last year who really made connected the dots.
For Steffens, and his team that’s still trying get on same page, they don’t want to wait too long to get going.
Hunter Gilstrap – Jordan Murrell, Willie Hunt (Alex Harlley 77′), Sergio Campbell, Drew Russell – Stephen Okai (Mike Green 60′), Conor Branson (Zak Boggs 89′), Romeo Parkes, Kevin Kerr (Red Card 36′) – Marshall Hollingsworth (James Bissue 81′) – Corey Hertzog (Isaiah Schafer 75′)
Subs not used: Mauricio Vargas, Karsten Smith
Orlando City B –
Mark Ridgers – Tyler Turner, Michael Ambrose, Kyle Callan-McFadden, Devron Garcia – Richmond Laryea (Alejandro Garcia), Johnny Mendoza (Keegan Smith), Harrison Heath (Andrew Ribeiro), Antonio Rocha – Hadji Barry, Bryan Rochez (Michael Cox)
Subs not used: Jake Fenlason, Craig Nitti, Marius Obekop
ORL – Tyler Turner 39′ (Johnny Mendoza)
ORL – Tyler Turner 67′ (Hadji Barry)
PGH – Romeo Parkes 90+’ (Penalty Kick)
ORL – Harrison Heath (yellow card) 7′
PGH – Kevin Kerr (red card) 36′