PITTSBURGH — Flight delays into Pittsburgh’s airport yesterday caused a minor panic that last night’s United Soccer Leagues Pro Division clash between the Pittsburgh Riverhounds and Orlando City could take place without the scheduled officiating crew.
Home fans would probably have chipped in afterward to buy referee Kevin Terry Jr. a one-way ticket from Pittsburgh’s South Side to the South Pole after some bizarre officiating during the Riverhounds’ 1-0 loss to the reigning USL champions.
Kevin Molino’s fifth goal of the season gave The Lions three points from a gritty encounter between two clubs experiencing wildly differing fortunes. Orlando remains undefeated at the top of the USL PRO standings after a sixth straight victory. Pittsburgh stays winless in last place.
“You wouldn’t have heard too many complaints from me if Pittsburgh took a point tonight,” Orlando head coach Adrian Heath told The Soccer Observer after the game.
“They put us under a lot of pressure, and there were a couple of strange decision late on.”
The major flashpoint arrived on 74 minutes. Orlando had been struggling to curb a sustained period of Riverhounds attacks when midfielder Yordany Alvarez collided with Matt Dallman in front of goal. Referee Terry pointed to the spot and booked City goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo for dissent before trotting to the far corner to converse with his assistant. The eventual outcome was a reversal of the penalty call, a drop ball on Orlando’s six-yard line, and a furious Hounds bench storming down the sideline to lambast the official.
“The explanation was that he didn’t see it clearly and the linesman said it wasn’t a foul,” Pittsburgh head coach Justin Evans later told reporters. “And he listened to him.
“I’ve never seen this happen in my life.”
Terry probably got this call right in the end in the end. His process left a lot to be desired.
Pittsburgh started the game brightly with Gallardo clawing Joseph Ngwenya’s header away from his top-right corner and Jose Angulo steering a Danny Earls cross wide. Yet Orlando punished a cheap turnover on 14 minutes to notch the game’s only goal.
On-loan Houston Dynamo goalkeeper Michael Lisch lacked distance and width with his hurried clearance, allowing the visitors to seize possession with Pittsburgh’s defense caught out of shape. Lions striker Dennis Chin chipped the ball into Molino’s path on the right of the penalty box. The Trinidad and Tobago national team player executed a perfect lob over Lisch into the far corner.
Hounds defender Andrew Marshall almost headed an instant equalizer from Dallman’s free kick. His effort sailed inches over Gallardo’s crossbar.
Evans set his team out in a 4-1-4-1 formation with former Ghana national team player Anthony Obodai pulling the strings in front of the back four. Ngwenya occupied one of the two central midfield berths alongside Kevin Kerr, and the veteran Zimbabwean was tasked with pushing up to support Angulo whenever possible.
Orlando made a rare system change after spending last week’s training sessions working on a 4-3-3 ahead of a double-header weekend in Pittsburgh and Rochester. Anthony Pulis acted as the midfield fulcrum with Alvarez and Darwin Ceren at the top of the triangle. Adama Mbengue and Molino supported Chin from the wide attacking positions.
Referee Terry may have haphazardly made the right call later in the game, but he ignored what appeared a more blatant penalty appeal from Pittsburgh on 36 minutes when Angulo beat 18-year-old defender Tyler Turner on the left flank. Turner seemed to haul last year’s USL Most Valuable Player to the ground after losing his footing.
Ceren was fortunate to escape with a yellow card on 59 minutes after an over-the-ball challenge on Obodai that ended the Riverhounds midfielder’s participation in the game.
The Lions missed a couple of opportunities to make the game safe as Pittsburgh took risks later in the second half. Lisch made a vital block on 67 minutes to prevent Molino from stabbing home a second goal, and left-back Luke Boden ruined a beautiful passing sequence two minutes later with a poor cutback.
Chances arrived at both ends in the closing minutes. Rob Vincent fired wide on 88 minutes as the Riverhounds frantically chased the equalizer. Gallardo pushed Alfonso Motagalvan’s header around his post in the fifth minute of stoppage time. Kerr saw his shot blocked in a crowded Orlando six-yard box a minute later.
Orlando broke free with substitute Corey Hertzog running clear on Lisch’s goal from inside his own half before side-footing his shot wide of target.
Marshall had one final opportunity for Pittsburgh after racing onto Jason Johnson’s flick. The big defender could not steer his left-foot volley on frame as City’s Brad Rusin closed in.
April 27, 2014 — Riverhounds Nudge Forward With Shutout Against Charleston
March 27, 2014 — Riverhounds Roster Unaffected By Club’s Bankruptcy Filing
Oct. 30, 2013 — Pittsburgh Eyeing Orlando’s Status Within USL