Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC

Victory at Tampa Bay Clinches Players' Shield

October 7, 2023 - United Soccer League Championship (USL)
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC News Release

Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC claimed the USL Championship Players' Shield - awarded to the team with the best regular-season record - by knocking off the Tampa Bay Rowdies, 2-0, tonight at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Albert Dikwa scored his league-leading 20th goal in the opening minute, and center back Arturo Ordóñez added a second-half goal in front of a five-save shutout by Jahmali Waite for the Hounds (19-5-6), who matched the team record for wins in a regular-season by knocking off the second-place Rowdies (18-9-6).

It is the first official trophy won by the Hounds and the first time the team has finished atop the Championship or its direct predecessor, the A-League. It is also only the third division/conference title in team history, joining the 2019 team that topped the Eastern Conference and the 2004 team that won the Atlantic Division of the third-tier USL Pro Soccer League.

Along with the Shield, the Hounds will have home field throughout the USL Championship Playoffs, which begin Saturday, Oct. 21.

First half

The Hounds kicked off and went forward straight from the opening whistle.

Kenardo Forbes received the ball in the middle of the field from the right side, and the captain swung a pass the other way to Junior Etou. The left back struck an early cross to the far post, where Dikwa sprinted in unmarked to touch the ball into the net after only 29 seconds, making it the second-fastest goal in team history.

Dikwa's 20th goal puts him three goals clear of the field in the race for the Golden Boot with one week to play after tonight's Western Conference games conclude.

The Hounds continued to be organized and opportunistic on the counter, despite ceding 71 percent of possession to the Rowdies. Dikwa nearly had two other goals - a shot in the 16th minute that dragged just wide of the post, and a clever chip that beat Rowdies goalie Connor Sparrow but was nullified by the offside flag.

The Rowdies came alive late in the half with two very good chances. Cal Jennings, one of the players just behind Dikwa in the Golden Boot race with 17 goals, missed just high with a strong header in the 32nd minute. The Rowdies also couldn't find the frame in a stoppage-time scramble in the box created from a free kick.

Second half

Waite came up huge in the second half, starting with the best of his five saves to deny a shot through traffic by Charlie Dennis. The Jamaican international saw the shot late but was able to get low and push it wide of the post.

The Hounds got their second goal starting with a corner that was cleared by Tampa Bay. But as the Rowdies tried to counter, Luke Biasi slid in the center circle to turn play the other direction.

The ball came to Forbes, who fed Tola Showunmi down the left side, and with his first touches of the ball off the bench, Showunmi found Ordóñez making a near-post run for the finish. The 62nd-minute goal was the fifth of the year for Ordóñez, the most ever in a single-season by a Hounds center back.

With the two-goal lead, the Hounds were able to absorb pressure and limit chances.

Leo Fernandes, the 2022 Championship MVP, forced a leaping save by Waite with a header in the 84th minute. But the Hounds' goalkeeper was excellent against shots and crosses to record his 10th clean sheet of the season, the third-best total in club history.

Heineken Man of the Match

Jahmali Waite hit a season high with five saves and blanked the Rowdies, who will finish as the Eastern Conference runner-up, for the second time this year. Most impressive was his work in the air, as he was sure-handed facing seven corners and 19 crosses by the Rowdies on a warm, wet Florida night.

What's next?

With the Players' Shield wrapped up, the Hounds still have to hit the road for their final regular-season match against a team they could face in the opening round of the playoffs, Detroit City FC (11-14-7). That match will be a 4 p.m. kickoff on Saturday, Oct. 14 at Keyworth Stadium in Hamtramck, Mich., and Detroit will need at least a draw to reach the postseason.

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United Soccer League Championship Stories from October 7, 2023

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