The Pittsburgh Riverhounds spent the first six games of the season floundering in the depths of the Eastern Conference. They spent very little time with the lead and went into a home game against the Harrisburg City Islanders tied at the bottom of the conference.
Pittsburgh Riverhounds Earn Scrappy 1-0 Win Over Rival Harrisburg City
A 1-0 win at Highmark Stadium rocketed the Hounds up to ninth, tied on points with sixth-place New York Red Bulls II. Granted, they’ve played at least one more game than every team below them, but it’s a step in the right direction for a side that missed the playoffs last year.
It only helps that the win was against their bitter Pennsylvania rival. The Riverhounds were playing for something extra — the Keystone Cup — and it helped them gain crucial home points.
“It’s huge,” coach Dave Brandt said of beating the Islanders. “Obviously it’s the first of three games against Harrisburg, and the rivalry is important to everybody, so to start on the right foot I think is huge for us.”
“We really want that cup,” Kevin Kerr said. “We really enjoyed it two years ago when we won it down there, so we want that same feeling this year.”
Pittsburgh struggled to create scoring opportunities throughout the game despite Harrisburg being sent to 10-men in the 52nd-minute. The front four, primarily featuring Kerr and Corey Hertzog up top, were productive in the attacking third, but they were unable to consistently challenge the opposing goalkeeper even with the man advantage. Hertzog was able to connect on a beautiful ball in by Kerr in 75th-minute, though, to give the Hounds the win.
Hertzog, who has proven himself to be one of the best goal-scorers in the USL, and his striking partner Kerr are confident in their team’s attack.
“Every team tries things in the final third. Sometimes it’s an inch off, sometimes it’s an inch on, but I think we could have had three or four goals at halftime,” Hertzog commented.
“I agree, I spoke to the gaffer about it and we could have walked in 3-nil at halftime. We had a few big chances, Corey had a big chance, it didn’t all work out but enough to win the game comfortably,” said the Scotsman Kerr.
It was a scrappy affair more than anything else. The teams didn’t appear to like other very much, with Pittsburgh receiving three yellow cards and Harrisburg seeing five, if you include the two given to Omar Mohamed. Islanders keeper Brandon Miller also received a red card, although he was sent off after the final whistle.
A big blow for Riverhounds occurred in the second half, when starting right back Rich Balchan went down with an injury. Brandt said he’ll have an MRI Monday but that it was a “possible” rupture of his achilles tendon.
It’s hard to take away from a good night for Pittsburgh, though. They got the result they needed against the team they most want to take results from.