Described as one of the best wins of all-time at Highmark Stadium, the game being dubbed “Miracle on the Mon” will forever be in the memory and hearts of the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC team and fan base alike.
Images of Kevin Kerr ripping his jersey off post game-winning goal and running straight into the fans. The team following suit with wide smiles, some ending up in the stands and embracing each other in celebration.
These are the memories that caused the press box to shake with a force only to be described as pure excitement. This was the moment the miracle happened.
In the final minutes of the game on March 30, 2015, the Hounds finalized a second-half comeback against then-rivals, the Harrisburg City Islanders.
With a 3-0 deficit going into the half, the possibility for a comeback, let alone a win, was slim and the Hounds fought back, beginning with a goal in the 47th minute by Rob Vincent.
At the 51st-minute mark, Amara Soumah put another in for the Hounds, now just one away from tying their in-state rival.
After this goal, the pace, energy and fan interest changed, the Hounds now set to mount a comeback story for the ages, being dubbed “Miracle on the Mon.”
“It felt like it was going to come down to the end,” Hounds announcer Matt Gajtka said. “Sometimes games take on characters of their own and this one certainly had the feel of unpredictable.”
Gajtka watched the remainder of the game unfold, prepared for anything in a back and forth goal-scoring battle between the two teams.
Gajtka noted the Hounds that year were a fun team to watch, a team that could score a lot of goals and have the potential for a playoff run.
When Vincent tied the game 5-5 in second-half stoppage time, Gajtka said he felt that was a win, using all of his energy to make the call, sending the crowd into a frenzy.
Then a few minutes later, with “nothing left in the tank,” Kerr put in an assist off of Lebo Moloto to create the miracle the game was named for.
As Kerr ran across the field ripping his jersey off in excitement, Gajtka said he felt the press box begin to shake as fans danced and jumped in celebration.
“I was thinking, is this stadium going to survive?” Gajtka said. “People were up on their feet, hands in the air or hands on heads in disbelief in an equal amount of shock and celebration.”
For the players, this game was even more of an accomplishment, but it did not come easily.
Stephen Okai played for the Hounds for three seasons and has since joined the Hounds as an Academy coach.
Okai mentioned having beat Harrisburg, 5-2, earlier in the season gave him a mindset he now tells his players to avoid.
“You know when you play in your career and you play against a team you never lost to, sometimes you become complacent or you underestimate them,” Okai said. “They came with a very strong strategy in the game.”
Okai said it was an interesting feeling to win a game in this way, citing the battle in the second half as a wakeup call for the team that year, which quickly learned to approach each game like it was its last.
“You would love to be in the locker room when you win a game like that,” Okai said. “It meant a lot to us.”
As a coach for young soccer hopefuls, Okai tries to instill in players the idea of hard work and perseverance he experienced in the game. Okai tells his players to work 100 percent every game because if they give any less they will have to overwork themselves to come back, much like he did in the second half.
“There is a saying that people have not been old before, but they have been young before, and I have been young before and now I’m old so I have seen a lot in life,” Okai said. “There are so many things I went through when I was playing, mistakes made, I always make sure my players don’t do the things I did.”
Mike Green was with the Hounds from 2012-2017 and he mentioned the rivalry with Harrisburg was something that always created an electric atmosphere on the field.
“Anytime we played them it was intense, it didn’t matter if we were slated to be better,” Green said. “The fans were on top of everything and Harrisburg fans came into town.”
Green said one thing he will take from this game is the idea of dealing with adversity and learning from mistakes that get you penalized on the pitch.
Adrenaline in the 90th minute, Green said, was what gave them the motivation to seal the deal and get a win at Highmark.
“Not only with the Riverhounds, but Pittsburgh in general, it’s a blue-collar city,” Green said. “So, it’s always bringing hard work, talent is good to have, but if you’re not bringing hard work, it won’t always work out.”