Riverhounds And Rhinos Share Spoils On Subpar Surface

Written by Ian Thomson
The turf field at Chartiers Valley High School made life difficult for both teams in Sunday's 1-1 tie (Photo: Ian Thomson)

BRIDGEVILLE, Pa. – Pittsburgh Riverhounds and Rochester Rhinos fought out an attritional 1-1 tie Sunday that saw the hosts’ winless streak in the United Soccer Leagues Pro Division extend to nine games and the visiting Rhinos slip further behind pacesetters Orlando City.

High humidity, temperatures in the mid-80s and a rock solid artificial field at Chartiers Valley High School combined to produce an uninspired game with few shots, few saves and few passages of skilful play.

Rochester’s increased urgency after conceding an early goal earned them a single point to take home from their weekend road-trip to Pennsylvania after Friday night’s 2-1 loss at Harrisburg City Islanders.

Line-Ups

Pittsburgh's 4-3-3 saw Rich Costanzo linking the midfield with the forward line

Riverhounds Head Coach Justin Evans pushed wide players Darren Amoo and Stefan Lundberg high on the wings in support of central striker Agustino Nunez, with Rich Costanzo looking to link the attack from the hole between the midfield and forward lines.

Rochester counterpart Jesse Myers also opted for two central midfielders behind an attacking quartet. Graciano Brito led the front four with Danny Earls, Tam McManus and Quavas Kirk free to interchange.

Movement Of Midfield Playmakers Makes Early Impact

Rochester’s Tyler Rosenlund evaded the Riverhounds’ marking with a couple of late forward runs in the opening stages. McManus dropped off the front to create space for the once-capped Canadian international’s penetrating run on five minutes. The former Toronto F.C. man linked well with Earls down the left four minutes later.  Neither attack led to a goalscoring opportunity for the visitors.

Rochester matched their opponents with two center-midfielders and four players in advanced positions

The Rhinos came close on 13 minutes when Argentine right-back Lucas Fernandez fizzed a shot just wide of Pittsburgh goalkeeper Hunter Gilstrap’s left post after Kirk had caused aerial problems from a long throw.

Nunez opened the scoring for Pittsburgh against his former club on 16 minutes to conclude the best move of the first half. Costanzo, another former Rhino, drifted to the right wing to exchange passes with Lundberg before the latter swung a deep cross beyond the back post. Nunez sneaked in behind Fernandez to power his downward header inside German goalkeeper Kristian Nicht’s right corner.

Myers had to change Rochester’s line-up on 24 minutes when McManus limped off with an injury. J.C. Banks replaced the experienced Scottish forward.

Rosenlund continued his impressive display with a 30-yard drive that narrowly missed the target. Rochester put the ball in Gilstrap’s net two minutes later, but former Los Angeles Galaxy defender Troy Roberts had wandered into an offside position to meet Michael Tanke’s deep free kick.

Banks had a glorious chance to draw the Rhinos level on 39 minutes. Pittsburgh’s defense expected an offside call against Kirk from a long punt forward, but instead Banks emerged from a deeper starting position to carry the ball in on Gilstrap’s goal. The substitute scuffed his left-foot shot horribly wide of target, not helped by a ball that wouldn’t settle on the troublesome field, as Riverhounds’ captain Louie Rolko chased back.

Kirk Draws Visitors Level As Long Balls Trouble Riverhounds

Myers pushed the threatening Rosenlund further forward after the interval and replaced Earls with Chilean midfielder Gustavo Zamudio.

Evans freshened his forward line by bringing on Ricky Smith for Amoo on the left flank. Goalscorer Nunez took a knock on 54 minutes and was replaced by Mike Seth. The Pittsburgh native received a yellow card five minutes later for an ugly high kick on Zamudio that matched the uncoordinated nature of the game.

Rochester were beginning to unsettle Pittsburgh’s defense with simple long balls that were catching Rolko and center-back partner Niko Katic out of sync. They found their equalizer on the hour when Tanke’s pass set Banks clear on Gilstrap’s goal. The former Chicago Fire PDL player slotted his low shot into the goalkeeper’s bottom-left corner.

Gilstrap sprinted sharply from his box on 66 minutes to avert further danger as Brito chased Zamudio’s chip over the defense.

Late Substitutions Don’t Change Game’s Staccato Pattern

Both coaches made further substitutions in the final 25 minutes to freshen their sides. This only served to make the game more disjointed.

Costanzo forced Nicht into a good save low to his left on 74 minutes after Zamudio’s loose touch on the edge of Rochester’s penalty area. Substitute Seth C’deBaca fired over the German’s crossbar two minutes later after Smith nodded Costanzo’s delivery back across goal.

Zamudio missed the frame from 20 yards with two minutes remaining after Katic and full-back Sterling Flunder failed to deal with another long ball from Rochester.

Pittsburgh missed a better chance to grab the three points a minute later when Smith’s curled cross to the back post found Costanzo in space. The University of Maryland graduate cut inside with his first touch before swiping his right-foot effort high against the football goalposts towering over the soccer nets.

Conclusion

There wasn’t much to take out of this game. Neither side was able to retain possession long enough on a difficult surface to take control of the midfield. That led to both teams trying to put the opposition under immediate pressure with crosses and long balls into the box.

Neither team created enough clear chances to say they deserved to win.