Pittsburgh Riverhounds 4 Wilmington Hammerheads 1
The Pittsburgh Riverhounds probably wish they could see more of the Wilmington Hammerheads this season.
The Riverhounds (5-15-4, 19 points) trounced the Hammerheads (6-11-7, 25 points) by a 4-1 margin for the second time this season to complete a two-game sweep on Wednesday at Highmark Stadium.
Corey Hertzog bookended a pair of goals to his team leading total of 11 tallies, along with goals by Willie Hunt and Nick Thompson to give the Hounds another win over a struggling Wilmington team that extended its winless streak to eight games.
“After coming off a disappointing loss in Rochester, that’s what we wanted to see,” said Dave Brandt, Riverhounds Head Coach.
“For a couple of weeks now it’s been an on one, off one, which is better than just being off, off, off. There were good spells of possession in Rochester. The score line is the only thing that matters. At the same time, we could’ve, should’ve been up 2-0 at Rochester. We didn’t, and goals change games. We need to be careful and consistent. I think the team has played well.”
The Hounds didn’t waste much time and their chances – jumping out into the lead in the 5th minute on a fantastic finish by Hertzog after a nice give-and-go above the box with Cristian Martinez.
Hertzog blasted a shot from 20 yards into the right side of goal that Wilmington goalkeeper Eric Ati had little chance to stop.
After the teams played pretty evenly for much of the rest of the half, the Hounds delivered a two-punch knockout before the end of the half.
In the 41st minute, Hunt scored his first goal of the season cutting through the gap to find a Danny Earls service in the middle of the box.
“I saw they were in a zone — and I found my way into the middle and Danny delivered a great ball in,” said Hunt, who last scored in the Hounds 4-2 playoff loss to NY Red Bulls II in 2015.
“That’s one of my strengths of my game. Getting in the air — I have a lot of confidence that I can get to it. I’ve been close a few times this year. It was good to get one.”
Thompson then powered his way into the scoresheet — as it appeared that he got some separation from Wilmington’s Bruno Perone as the two appeared to bump into each other — and received a ball in space from Lebo Moloto.
As he made his way into the box, Ati cut off his shot angle, but Thompson still delivered a shot that deflected off Perone that went left past the keeper.
In the 69th minute, Wilmington made things a little bit interesting — as they cut the Hounds lead to 3-1, as Ashani Fairclough’s header beat Hounds keeper Zack Steffen on a nice service by Kyle Parker.
The Hounds sealed the win in the final moments in stoppage time after wild sequence that saw two penalty kick attempts within seconds of each other.
After Moloto was fouled in the box, Kevin Kerr stepped up to take the penalty, but his shot hit the bar. On the ensuring scrum and as the Hounds attempted to get another shot on goal, a Wilmington defender was called for a handball in the box.
Given a second chance to put the finishing touches on another 4-1 win over Wilmington, Hertzog didn’t disappoint the home crowd — sliding a shot into the right side as Ati dove in the opposite direction.
The loss hampers the Hammerheads playoff hopes, as they continue to trail the eight and final playoff spot by seven points.
For the Riverhounds, it was their third home win in the past four games — and lifts them out of the distinction of being in last place in the USL’s Eastern Conference,as they move past FC Montreal.
KEYSTONE DERBY CUP FINAL UP NEXT
“It’s massive,” said Hunt, on the Riverhounds next game on Saturday.
The Hounds will travel to Harrisburg Saturday (7 p.m. Kickoff) to take on the City Islanders FC in the third and final match between the in-state rivals this season as part of the Keystone Derby Cup. The teams played twice in July at Highmark Stadium, with Harrisburg holding the edge after the teams played to a 0-0 draw on July 4, but the City Islanders took the second game, 2-1, on July 18.
“I had an opportunity to be a part of winning the Cup, and clinching a playoff spot at Harrisburg last year, and this would mean a lot to go there and get a win on Saturday.”
Thompson echoed Hunt’s sentiments, but added another caveat.
“We want to win the Keystone Derby — and that’s important but also having an opportunity to win two games in a row for the first time this year will be something to really build on,” said Thompson.
With the Keystone Derby next on the schedule, Brandt said that his sole focus was beating Wilmington.
“I don’t live for tomorrow,” said Brandt, who had one of his key players, Earls sitting on four yellow cards (a fifth yellow would result in a one-game suspension).
“When we went up 3-0, yeah I thought about taking him out — but then things can still get dicey — and when it was 3-1, I wasn’t going to take him out at that point.”
I will have coverage of the Keystone Derby from Harrisburg — and will be posting my preview edition of Breaking Down the Hounds late Friday or early Saturday.