PITTSBURGH (April 7, 2018) – Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (1-0-2) captured its first victory of the season off a four-goal explosion in the second half, including three from forward Neco Brett, to defeat Toronto FC II, 4-0, at Highmark Stadium.
Blanking their opposition for a third consecutive match, the Hounds finally broke their own goalless streak with Brett finding the frame in the 52nd minute off a spectacular feed from rookie midfielder Thomas Vancaeyezeele.
Vancaeyezeele looped a beautiful ball over the Toronto backline to catch Brett on his run toward the goal. The Jamaican one-touched forward, fighting off pressure from his left to poke the ball past goalkeeper Angelo Cavalluzzo.
With the specter of a 232-minute goalless streak off their back, the Hounds struck only minutes later as midfielder Ben Zemanski worked a deft through-ball to Brett just inside the box. Finding himself with both space and time, Brett coolly flicked the ball past a diving Cavalluzzo.
Brett’s third and final goal would come in the 83rd minute, as he proved opportunistic cashing in on a rebound off a shot off the post from Andrew Lubahn.
The hat trick, coming in the span of 31 minutes – the shortest span in club history, eclipsing José Angulo’s 39-minute effort – marked the fourth ever by a Hounds player in the current era of the USL (since 2011) and the first since Rob Vincent against Wilmington on Aug. 1, 2015.
Brett was not done contributing on the score sheet, as he assisted on Christiano François’ tally in the 88th minute. Capturing his first goal as a Hound, the speedy midfielder received a deep through-ball from Brett in the right side of the box. François’ finish was swift and violent, as he rocketed a shot far post past Cavalluzzo for the fourth and final goal of the match.
Remaining unbeaten to start the 2018 season, the Hounds continued both the club’s longest unbeaten and shutout streak to open the season in the current era of the USL.
Also of note, several Hounds had firsts in addition to Brett and François. Goalkeeper Kyle Morton made his first career professional start, making one save for the clean sheet, while the assists for Vancaeyezeele and Zemanski – in his first start of the season – were the former’s first point as a pro and the latter’s first point in Black and Gold.
Riverhounds SC continues play next weekend, hosting Ottawa Fury FC (0-1-0) at 7 p.m. on Saturday, April 14 at Highmark Stadium. The first 2,000 fans will receive a co-branded Hounds-Schalke koozie. Tickets to the match can be purchased at Riverhounds.com.
Riverhounds SC – Kyle Morton – Ray Lee, Tobi Adewole, Todd Pratzner, Jordan Dover (Hugh Roberts 74’) – Ben Zemanski (Kay Banjo 74’), Mouhamed Dabo – Kevin Kerr (Andrew Lubahn 80’), Thomas Vancaeyezeele, Christiano François – Neco Brett
Subs not used: Dan Lynd, Kenardo Forbes, Bakie Goodman, Joe Holland
Toronto FC II – Angelo Cavalluzo – Aikim Andrews, Kyle Bjornethun, Lars Eckenrode, Robert Boskovic – Malik Johnson (Jordan Faria 75’), Matthew Srbely (Aidan Daniels 45’), Luca Uccello, Gideon Waja – Daniel Da Silva (Ayo Akinola 59’), Ryan Telfer
Subs not used: Gianluca Catalano, Tim Kübel, Noble Okello, Rocco Romeo
PGH – Neco Brett 52’ (Thomas Vancaeyezeele)
PGH – Neco Brett 59’ (Ben Zemanski)
PGH – Neco Brett 83’
PGH – Christiano François 88’ (Neco Brett)
TOR – Aikim Andrews 47’ (caution)
PGH – Mouhamed Dabo 81’ (caution)
PGH – Thomas Vancaeyezeele 86’ (caution)
Head Coach Bob Lilley
On the team’s offensive success in the second half…
“We were a lot more proactive sending numbers into the box. Goals are scored getting behind defenses, so it was better. But I thought we had a decent first half too.”
On Neco Brett’s hat trick performance…
“[Brett] gets an A+ for scoring three goals, but there are other areas that could have been better. I think it was a good team performance. It’s never easy to get that first goal. There was a lot of pressure building up, and I think they handled it.”
On the overall team performance…
“Today was a team performance. I’m just happy for the guys. I know they were frustrated going the first couple of games without scoring. It’s good to get this one behind us.”
Forward Neco Brett
On his three-goal performance…
“It’s all about seizing moments. Coach and I have been talking about that since preseason, and I got my chance today. I just capitalized.”
On the difference between the first and second halves…
“Second half, I got more chances. I got the ball up top. We were less selfish. We were moving the ball, and that’s what pays off.”
On how this game ranks among his all-time favorites…
“I think this is my favorite. This is my first time scoring a hat trick in the professional world. It’s going to be a memory for life.”