PITTSBURGH – Five minutes stood between the Pittsburgh Riverhounds and a one-point gap to fellow strugglers Harrisburg City Islanders at the foot of the United Soccer Leagues Pro Division standings when Jimmy McLaughlin received the ball on the left side for the visitors.
The on-loan Philadelphia Union youngster cut inside as former Hound Neil Shaffer distracted Rob Vincent with an overlapping run. McLaughlin drove between Pittsburgh substitutes Seth C’deBaca and Mike Seth, sidestepped Andrew Marshall’s despairing lunge and cracked an 18-yard shot beyond goalkeeper Michael Lisch.
It was a special Keystone Derby moment that earned Harrisburg a 1-1 tie and extended Pittsburgh’s winless start to the season to 10 games. The Islanders left Highmark Stadium ruing missed opportunities that could have lifted them to ninth – one spot outside the playoff places.
“We should have come away with the victory,” McLaughlin told The Soccer Observer after the final whistle. “We created enough chances to get the result, so it’s difficult to settle for the tie.”
Harrisburg’s leading scorer Morgan Langley twice found space behind Pittsburgh left-back Brian Fekete in the opening 20 minutes to advance into one-on-ones with Lisch. The on-loan Houston Dynamo goalkeeper spread himself at Langley’s feet on both occasions to block the shots.
Fekete’s first professional goal put the Riverhounds ahead on 12 minutes. Mike Green picked up a loose ball after Harrisburg’s defense failed to clear a Danny Earls free kick. Green scuffed his left-foot shot across the face of goal, and Fekete steered the ball into net from six yards out.
Green operated as a full-back under former Hounds head coach Justin Evans. Interim coach Niko Katic employed the 24-year-old in a central attacking midfield role. The Ohio native earned four caps for the United States U-20 team in an advanced position. His speed and energy added a spark to Pittsburgh’s play during the first half. Wide midfielders Earls and Matt Dallman were also given license to roam infield and switch sides to generate offense.
The Islanders should have been level on 29 minutes when Cristhian Hernandez whipped a free kick into the center of Pittsburgh’s goalmouth. Robbie Derschang rose unmarked eight yards from goal, yet somehow glanced his header wide of Lisch’s far post.
Pittsburgh’s best spell arrived early in the second half. Earls floated a deep cross toward Jose Angulo four minutes after the restart that the former Harrisburg striker could not quite steer on target. Islanders goalkeeper Nick Noble smothered a Collins John effort five minutes later after Anthony Obodai’s interception and quick thrust forward created the opening.
Harrisburg was playing its second game in consecutive days and its creativity waned as the second half progressed. Katic aimed to lock down Pittsburgh’s lead by moving to a flat midfield in the latter stages with C’deBaca and Kevin Kerr replacing Dallman and Angulo. His plan appeared to be working until McLaughlin danced along the Riverhounds’ 18-yard line to net the equalizer.
“It was starting to look like we weren’t going to find a way to score,” Harrisburg head coach Bill Becher told The Soccer Observer. “It took a great individual effort by Jimmy to get us back in.”
The visitors could have pinched all three points on 88 minutes after Brazilian Luan Silva dispossessed Earls in midfield and played a one-two with McLaughlin to break free inside Pittsburgh’s penalty area. The on-loan Corinthians midfielder toe-poked the ball beyond Lisch only to see it evading the far post.
“You can go through a series of three, four, five mistakes leading up to every goal,” Hounds defender Marshall told The Soccer Observer. “We all stepped a foot too late on the play.
“Every point is important when you’re at the bottom of the table, so we’ll take the tie and try to move forward.”
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