With minutes of the season ticking away, the Riverhounds salvaged its season finale, by battling back with a spirited second half effort to earn a hard-fought 1-1 draw in the against the Ottawa Fury before a near sellout crowd at Highmark Stadium on Saturday evening.
Corey Hertzog converted a penalty kick in the 77th minute after Kay Banjo drew a foul in the box, ending a 265 minute scoreless drought, and goalkeeper Matt Perrella made __ saves, as the Hounds finished an unprecedented 32-game campaign with an 8-12-12 overall record.
“It think it was really important that we fought hard tonight. I thought it was a great second half. Slow start again, but a great second half,” Dave Brandt, Hounds head coach said after the match.
Riding a three game losing streak heading into the match which they’ve surrendered six first half goals, the Hounds got off to another shaky start.
Gale Agbossoumonde‘s foul outside the box on right side in 9th minute, set up an Ottawa free kick from familiar spot where the Hounds have been surrendering goals — the attacking right corner area.
This time, the damage came from a Carl Haworth ball into the box that bounced a few times as it entered in front of the goal. Ottawa forward Nick DePuy beat a few Hounds defenders to get a solid strike on the bouncing ball from close range.
Thoughout the first half, the Hounds held off nine Fury shots, five of them on target, forcing Perrella into making some tough saves.
The Fury were clearly dominant all over the Hounds on the stat sheet, dominating in just about every area including: Shots (9-3), Shots on Target (5-1), Corners (3-0), possession (55%-45%), and crosses (9-1).
Before the half ended however, the Hounds finally created a scoring chance, with its first on goal in more than two games, in the 41st minute after Banjo connected a nice give-and-go pass with Romeo Parkes, who dribbled into the left side of the goal to unleash a left-footed shot right at Ottawa goalkeeper Callum Irving.
In his eight consecutive start Perrella turned away a few decent Fury chance, including punching two shot heading under the crossbar to keep the one-goal deficit.
As they have for much of the season, the Hounds would regroup, and finally get into attacking mode in the second half, .
Despite a few decent advances forward in the first 30 minutes of the second half, the Hounds finally capitalized in the 76th minute when Fury FC defender Eddie Edward collided with Banjo near the edge of the box.
There was little doubt who would step up to take the penalty.
Hertzog — the Hounds leading scorer for the second consecutive season — stepped up and buried the ensuing penalty.
It was Hertzog’s team leading, and single season career best 14th goal which brought some life back to Highmark Stadium.
The Hounds had a few subsequent, additional goals called back, including a Hertzog bender from 45 yards on the far left side that caught Irving out of position, but the whistle had blown. Hertzog also poked through a shot from a Joe Greenspan header toward goal that came from a Kevin Kerr free kick, but in this instance, Hertzog was offside.
The Fury had a few dangerous corner attempts late, and Kerr delivered a dangerous ball into the box from the right side that Irving came to near post to collect in the 94th minute. Despite five additional minutes of stoppage time to break the deadlock, but neither side was able to break through prior to the final whistle which signaled the end of the season for two teams unable to make the USL Eastern Conference playoffs.
While the Hounds finished with a 8-12-12 mark overall (36 pts) Ottawa closed the year at 8-10-14 (38 pts).
For more including interviews with Brandt, Hertzog and Perrella, be sure to check out my complete, detailed game story on DK Pittsburgh Sports.