PITTSBURGH (April 2, 2016) – The Pittsburgh Riverhounds put up a great fight against the defending champion Rochester Rhinos in their United Soccer League season opener Saturday night only to fall to Christian Volesky’s early goal.
Volesky raced behind the Hounds’ defense on seven minutes before lobbing Hunter Gilstrap to secure three points for the visitors.
The Hounds responded with lengthy spells of possession and a succession of second-half chances without managing to find a way past Rhinos goalkeeper Adam Grinwis.
Marcos Ugarte created Rochester’s winner with a pass down the left side that found Volesky streaking toward the Hounds’ penalty area. The Rhinos’ top scorer from last season left Gilstrap helpless with a delicate chip into the net.
Stephen Okai fired a loose ball on target on 23 minutes only for Rhinos’ right-back Dominic Samuel to make a vital block.
Hounds captain Kevin Kerr almost drew his side level on 38 minutes when he connected sweetly with Drew Russell’s cross. Kerr’s volley sailed narrowly over Adam Grinwis’ goal frame.
Blustery winds aided the Hounds in the closing minutes of the first half. Rochester struggled to clear the ball amid sustained pressure and Grinwis was forced to thwart Russell with a sliding save.
Corey Hertzog entered the game at halftime for Lebo Moloto. The former Penn State forward had a couple of early half-chances from a Russell cross and Marshall Hollingsworth’s pass.
Russell’s rampaging continued with another delivery on 55 minutes that Kerr nodded wide of the far post. Hertzog was denied again on 63 minutes when Grinwis palmed away his header off Kerr’s dangerous inswinging free kick.
Hounds head coach Mark Steffens brought Romeo Parkes and Alex Harlley into action in the closing stages to pep up his attack. Rochester’s typically strong and organized defense held firm.
The Hounds return to action next Saturday, April 9, at 7 p.m. when the Harrisburg City Islanders visit Highmark Stadium for the first of this year’s PA Keystone Derby Cup clashes presented by the Pennsylvania Lottery and K&L Gates.
Riverhounds – Hunter Gilstrap – Jordan Murrell (Alex Harlley 74’), Willie Hunt, Sergio Campbell, Drew Russell – Marshall Hollingsworth, Stephen Okai, Mike Green (Conor Branson 89’), Kevin Kerr – Lebo Moloto (Corey Hertzog 46’) – Zak Boggs (Romeo Parkes 64’)
Subs not used: Mauricio Vargas, Karsten Smith, Isaiah Schafer
Rochester Rhinos – Adam Grinwis – Donnie Smith, Vasilis Apostolopoulos, Joseph Farrell, Dominic Samuel – Marcos Ugarte (Jordan Becker 90+’), Sean Totsch, Mike Garzi, Sean Reilly – Kenardo Forbes (Asani Samuels 82’) – Christian Volesky
Subs not used: Tomas Gomez, Andre Fortune
Referee: Leland Grant – Assistants: Sean Regan, Nathaniel Buck – Fourth Official: Charles Murphy
ROC – Christian Volesky 7’ (Marcos Ugarte)
ROC – Vasilis Apostolopoulos 62’ (caution)
ROC – Marcos Ugarte 64’ (caution)
ROC – Sean Totsch 85’ (caution)
Cleveland Brothers “Blue Collar Player of the Game” – Kevin Kerr
Post-Game Quote Sheet
I’m really disappointed. We put a very good second half together and created a lot of opportunities. Their goalkeeper came up huge for them. We made one bad mistake in the first half and it cost us a goal. That cost us the game.
There’s a lot of positives we can take from the second half. In the first half we played into their hands a little bit too much and it cost us. There were some good things, but we’ve got a lot of things to work on for sure.
We’re not good enough in the air to be lofting long balls forward and we did that in the first half. We said at halftime we needed to get the ball on the ground. Second half we did that and we played good soccer. We created four or five excellent scoring opportunities. They weren’t nearly as dangerous as we were.
There’s a lot of new faces on the team. It’s going to take some time to develop chemistry. If we play like we did in the second half we’ll win our share of games.
Second half was great. That’s more like the team we want to be. But the first half we came out a little too slow. There were a few nerves among the younger lads making their pro debuts today. Hopefully now that’s behind them and they can build off that second half and move forward.
You work hard in preseason and the only thing on your mind is the first game. To come in with all that energy and expectation and then fall behind after seven minutes, it takes the wind out of you a little bit.
They’re a really tough team to play against. They’re big strong boys. They work hard. They win their tackles and they win a lot of second balls. To get a good result against Rochester you have to get the first goal. That’s a team that can defend. They showed that last year. We knew it was going to be tough from 1-0 down. We did have a response, but we were unfortunate in the end.
It started a little slow for me. There were definitely a lot of nerves out there. I was playing with a new group of guys. New system. Jordan (Murrell) created some good opportunities for me. My services and my first touch weren’t crisp in the first half. I needed to settle down a bit. But overall I’m excited. It’s a long season and we’ve got a lot of time to improve.
Left-back was where I felt more comfortable. I had a little bit more awareness back there. I needed to settle down a little bit and relax and I was able to do that better at left-back than on the wing.
I don’t know exactly the number of new guys this year, but we’re all still getting to know each other. It’s going to take a while to get to know each other not only as soccer players but as men. We need to learn to trust each other and learn each other’s styles of communication. It’s a new group, but I’m very confident we’ll get it together.