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Robbie Mertz helping to set pace

By James Leo, 08/10/20, 9:30AM EDT

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In Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC’s 4-1 win against New York Red Bulls II on Saturday, midfielder Robbie Mertz’s pace was too much for New York to handle.

He recorded two goals and helped generate several other opportunities.

“He did a great job,” head coach Bob Lilley said after the game. “We knew that if we could release [the midfielders], that they could have an impact on the game. I thought Robbie was spot on tonight.”

Mertz didn’t just score Pittsburgh’s first goal--he also helped set it up. After taking a long pass from Jordan Dover in the 2nd minute, he sent the ball into Ropapa Mensah, who had space in the center of the penalty box. Mensah then drew a foul in the penalty area, setting Mertz up to take the penalty kick. The Pittsburgh native converted the penalty, sending a right-footed shot into the bottom-right corner to give the Hounds their first goal on the night.

He then narrowly missed on an opportunity in the 37th minute. Danny Griffin set him up in the center of the penalty area, and a powerful shot from Mertz missed high and wide to the left. 

Mertz’s persistence would pay off in the 61st minute. Mensah started the attack on the left side and hit Ryan James in stride toward the center of the 18-yard box. James then tried a shot, which was blocked, but acted as a pass as it bounced its way to Mertz. Mertz then sent a shot into the bottom-left corner, giving the Hounds a two-goal lead.

“I think we did a better job getting the ball forward in the second half,” Mertz said after the game. “We talk about the game being a 90 minute performance, and even though coach Lilley would tell you we didn’t play great in the first half, it was important for us moving forward.”

Mertz’s performance against New York proved how versatile he has been this season. He has three goals and six key passes thus far, tied for second on the team in both categories.

Mertz and the Hounds will look to wreak more havoc on opposing defenses when they return to play this Saturday to face Indy Eleven at Lucas Oil Stadium. The game is set to kick off at 7 p.m., and will be broadcasted locally on 22 The Point (WPNT).