Hounds Clinch Playoff Berth with 5-0 Win against Hartford
PITTSBURGH - Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (9-3-1) defeated Hartford Athletic (6-3-1), 5-0, tonight at Highmark Stadium. The win clinches playoff berth for the Hounds, their third straight under head coach Bob Lilley.
This is the first time in club history the Hounds have made the playoffs in three consecutive seasons.
Ryan James started the scoring in the 13th minute, and Ropapa Mensah added another tally in the 27th minute to give the Hounds an early two-goal lead. Anthony Velarde converted a penalty kick in the 42nd minute, giving the Hounds a 3-0 lead heading into the half. James scored his second goal in the 47th minute, and Mensah netted his second goal in the 61st minute.
Goalkeeper Danny Vitiello earned his third straight clean sheet, bringing his total to four shutouts on the season.
The Hounds started the first half strong after earning a corner kick in the 12th minute. Velarde sent the corner to Mensah on the right side of the six-yard box, but it was deflected out to James. The defender then sent a rocket into the bottom-left corner to give the Hounds an early 1-0 lead.
In the 27th minute, Ray Lee sent a long pass into the left side of the penalty area. After a collision between Hartford's Arthur Rogers and Parfait Mandanda, Mensah tracked it down and sent the ball into the back of the net, giving the Hounds a two-goal lead.
The Hounds had another chance in the 40th minute, when they were awarded a penalty kick after a collision in the penalty area. Velarde sent the ensuing penalty kick past Mandanda into the bottom-right corner, extending Pittsburgh's lead to 3-0.
The Hounds prevented any quality chances from Hartford to take shape and didn't allow a single shot in the first half.
The opportunities continued to pile up for the Hounds to start the second half. James capitalized on a failed clear attempt by Hartford in the 47th minute and sent a shot into the bottom-right corner to notch his second goal of the match.
The Hounds were back on the attack in the 61st minute, after Robbie Mertz sent a pass to Mensah in the center of the penalty area. Mensah then chipped a shot over Mandanda to give the Hounds a five-goal lead.
Defense continued to be a strong point for the Hounds. They only allowed only one shot in the match and had 10 shots of their own.
Hound of the Match, presented by EPIC
Ryan James scored two goals against Hartford for the second time this season and added a game-high four tackles.
Beyond the Box Score, presented by Beyond Self Storage
The Hounds lead the USL Championship with seven clean sheets. They have also recorded four straight clean sheets.
Riverhounds SC will play its last road match of the season against Loudoun United FC (1-7-2) at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 19 at Segra Field. The match will be televised on 22 The Point.
Riverhounds SC - Danny Vitiello; Ray Lee, Patrick Bunk-Andersen, Thomas Vancaeyezeele, Skylar Thomas (Mark Lindstrom 64'), Jordan Dover; Ryan James (Lukas Fernandes 86'), Danny Griffin, Robbie Mertz (Dani Rovira 78'); Anthony Velarde (Albert Dikwa 64'), Ropapa Mensah (Mark Forrest 86')
Subs not used: Tomas Gomez, Hunter Ashworth
Hartford Athletic - Parfait Mandanda; Gabriel Torres, Matheus Silva, Kevin Politz (Alex Dixon 45'+1), Sam Strong (Nicky Downs 45'), Alejandro Lara; Tyreke Johnson (Idan Cohen 64'), Arthur Rogers, Justin Haak, Danny Barrera (Aiden Mesias 64'); Ever GuzmÃ¡n (Markus Naglestad 75')
Subs not used: Michael Novotny, Mads Jorgensen
PIT - Ryan James 13'
PIT - Ropapa Mensah 27'
PIT - Anthony Velarde 42' (penalty)
PIT - Ryan James 47'
PIT - Ropapa Mensah 61' (Robbie Mertz)
HFD - Sam Strong 39' (caution)
HFD - Gabriel Torres 81' (caution)
HFD - Markus Naglestad 82' (caution)
HFD - Justin Haak 83' (caution)
Head coach Bob Lilley
On the win...
"I think we did well with our possessions and making the most out of them. I also thought we did well defensively, and I think our play offensively helped that. We pushed the pace on offense and didn't give them a lot of good chances defensively."
On clinching playoff berth...
"I'm happy we won and that we clinched a playoff spot. But we aren't done yet. Hartford is a team we're going to see again in a few weeks, and maybe even in the playoffs. We still want to finish off the regular season strong and earn home playoff matches."
On the playoffs...
"I think this year's team has a chance to go far. We've gotten better and better as the season has gone along and we've learned a lot of hard lessons along the way. I feel like we've improved a lot in managing games."
Defender Ryan James
On playing several positions...
"Well, I'm glad coach Lilley didn't put me in goal or up top, but I've liked the challenge of playing several different positions. I like being versatile and doing whatever is best for the team."
On the focus for the rest of the season...
"We only have three games left, and our next focus is Loudoun. We're taking one game at a time, because these games are still very important. We want to earn the maximum points in each match."
On the win...
"I think this was a good win for us, especially because we clinched a playoff spot. I thought we played pretty well defensively and limited their chances overall."
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