For the second game in four days, the Pittsburgh Riverhounds’ Key Banjo struck early.
And this time, his deft scoring touch helped the Hounds earn a road draw, 1-1 at the Charlotte Independence at Eagle Field at Winthrop University on Saturday evening.
Banjo opened the game’s scoring in the opening moments, finding space on the flank, he broke into the right side of the box, where delivered a perfectly placed right-footed shot from a difficult angle into the left corner of the goal.
For Banjo, it was his second goal in his second career pro start. Both goals also came in the opening minutes of each match.
Only four minutes later, Hounds goalkeeper Trey Mitchell came way down the end line -to the left of the goal but just inside the box — sliding out to take ball away from a Charlotte midfielder David Spies. Mitchell made enough contact for the official to call a penalty kick.
It was no problem for veteran Jorge Herrera, who followed with a penalty kick conversion to post his 41st career tally and first of the season.
Mitchell made up for his foul with some solid work for the rest of the evening including this dazzling, full-extension save that kept the score level.
While the Hounds appeared to be content to sit back in a defensive shape, especially for long stretches of the second half, Charlotte dominated possession. The game’s post-match statistics had the Independence owning 71 percent of the ball.
Making first starts for the Riverhounds on Saturday were Ben Fitzpatrick (also his pro debut), and veteran Danny Earls, who was previously suspended for eight games after an incident in Harrisburg last season.
Ironically, the hard-nosed Earls didn’t waste anytime earning his first booking of the season, 18 minutes into the match. Earls would be substituted at the half, as Victor Souto played the second half in a central midfield role.
The Hounds waited for counter-attacking opportunities, and found one at the very end of the game, in stoppage time, forward Corey Hertzog was able to run down a high-booming clearance after Charlotte free kick into the box. As Hertzog dribbled into the box, he had only one defender in front of him, and Hounds midfielder Marshall Hollingsworth was open — wide open — streaking toward the goal area unmarked. If Hertzog is able to slide a pass through to Hollingsworth, it would have been a golden opportunity. Instead, Hertzog appeared to relax a bit too long, and lost control of the ball by the end line.
The point also is Pittsburgh’s first against Charlotte after falling in back-to-back shutout losses during the 2016 season. The Riverhounds are now 1-2-2 (5 points) and Charlotte moves to 0-1-2 (2 points) as the Independence continue to look for their first win of 2017.
The Hounds will play their third road game of the season next, facing the Richmond Kickers (1-3-0) at 5 p.m.on Saturday, April 22.
Riverhounds – Trey Mitchell – Taylor Washington (Jack Thompson 90’), Joe Greenspan, Jamal Jack, Rich Balchan – Ben Fitzpatrick, Danny Earls (Victor Souto 46’), Mike Green, Kevin Kerr – Kay Banjo (Marshall Hollingsworth 70’), Corey Hertzog
Subs not used: Keasel Broome, Kenroy Howell, Abuchi Obinwa, Nick Thompson
Charlotte Independence – Cody Mizell – Luke Waechter, Bilal Duckett, Joel Johnson, Dennis Castillo – David Spies (David Estrada 67’), Jun Marques Davidson, Lewis Hilton, Alex Martinez – Jorge Herrera (Casey Townsend 55’), Yan Ekra (Enzo Martinez 79’)
Subs not used: Callum Ross, Henry Kalungi, Kainoa Likewise, Zev Taublieb
PGH – Kay Banjo (Joe Greenspan) – 2’
CLT – Jorge Herrera (penalty) – 6’
PGH – Danny Earls (Caution) – 19’
PGH – Joe Greenspan (Caution) – 78
On Monday, I’ll have more on the past week that was for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, in the latest edition of “WHAT WE LEARNED”.