(Sept. 14, 2022) — Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC had its four-match road winning streak snapped after Birmingham Legion FC rallied in the second half to defeat the Hounds, 2-1, at Protective Stadium in Birmingham, Ala.
Albert Dikwa scored to give the Hounds (15-8-7) a halftime lead, but the Legion (16-8-6) got goals from Enzo Martinez and Sadik Balarabe to complete the comeback and beat the Hounds for the first time in five all-time meetings.
“I’m proud that after they scored, we regrouped and still tried to win it. We pushed hard at the end, and the guys worked hard. … But against a good team on their home pitch, they found a goal,” Hounds coach Bob Lilley said. “The quality of our last two games have been a lot better than a few weeks ago. I see an upswing in our play, and we have three of our last four at home, so we have to go win those.”
The loss leaves the Hounds in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, two points back of Birmingham and Tampa Bay — who meet next Friday — with four games remaining.
Birmingham came out throwing plenty of pressure forward at the Hounds, aiming crosses toward target man Juan Agudelo in the box. Agudelo had a pair of good scoring chances, the first a header that sprayed wide under pressure from Shane Wiedt, and the second a shot pulled across the face of goal after winning the ball at close range.
The Hounds worked their way into the match with Alex Dixon and Dikwa both looking dangerous down the right side. The Hounds had a great chance in the 23rd minute when Dixon slipped the ball through to Dikwa, but Legion goalie Matt Van Oekel made the save coming off his line.
The Legion thought they had pulled ahead in the 37th minute when Agudelo finished in front of goal, only for the offside flag to be raised.
Dikwa got the scoring started a minute later on the other end, receiving a pass from Russell Cicerone on the left side of the box and controlling it deftly in to space to shoot on his second touch. The blast inside the far post gave Dikwa the first 10-goal season of his professional career, and he and Cicerone (12 goals) are just the fifth double-digit scoring tandem in Hounds history.
The Legion again came out strong to open the half, and they got their tying goal in the 50th minute.
Prosper Kasim crossed the ball in from the right side, and Arturo Ordóñez made a lunging kick to keep it from the front of goal. The ball fell straight to Martinez, however, and the veteran midfielder struck a shot into the roof of the Hounds’ net.
Birmingham pulled ahead in the 66th minute when Martinez got into the box along the goal line on the right side. His low pass squeezed through four Hounds defenders to Balarabe, who finished unmarked at the back post.
The Hounds pressed forward for a tying goal, nearly getting it late when Jelani Peters’ attempt to turn a Dikwa header toward goal was blocked just wide of the post by Alex Crognale. But Peters was sent off in stoppage time after receiving a second yellow card, and the Hounds didn’t record a shot with 10 men for the final two minutes.
Hounds Man of the Match
Kenardo Forbes did a little of everything in the middle, as the captain showed his class. He completed 51 of 56 passes on a day when the Hounds were at their best being patient and passing through the Legion lines. Forbes also won 8 of 11 duels, won possession a team-leading eight times and led the team with five crosses.
The Hounds get their longest rest of the regular season — 10 days between matches — before hosting defending champion Orange County SC on Sept. 24 at 7 p.m. at Highmark Stadium. Orange County (7-12-10) enters on the wrong side of the playoff bubble in the West as they prepare to face the Hounds for the first time since 2014, the year before conference play began.
Riverhounds SC lineup (4-2-3-1) — Jahmali Waite; Angelo Kelly (Dani Rovira 69’), Jelani Peters (sent off 90+1’), Arturo Ordóñez, Shane Wiedt (Marc Ybarra 80’); Danny Griffin, Kenardo Forbes; Alex Dixon (Luis Argudo 80’), Robbie Mertz, Russell Cicerone (Edward Kizza 69’); Albert Dikwa
Birmingham Legion FC lineup (4-4-2) — Matt Van Oekel; Miguel Lopez, Phanuel Kavita, Alex Crognale, Jonathan Dean; Zachary Herivaux, Anderson Asiedu, Prosper Kasim (Bruno Lapa 55’), Enzo Martinez; Sadik Balarabe (Jacob Rufe 72’), Juan Agudelo
PIT — Albert Dikwa 38’ (Russell Cicerone)
BHM — Enzo Martinez 50’
BHM — Sadik Balarabe 66’ (Enzo Martinez)
PIT — Jelani Peters 73’ (caution – unsporting behavior)
BHM — Anderson Aside 85’ (caution – unsporting behavior)
PIT — Jelani Peters 90+1’ (caution – unsporting behavior)
PIT — Jelani Peters 90+1’ (sent off – second cautionable offense)