He may not have been credited with the goal, but Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC would not have completed its unlikely comeback without the foot of Joe Holland.
During a Sept. 15 meeting with Louisville City FC at Highmark Stadium, the Hounds were down two goals with only five minutes left to play. Their fortune started to turn once Holland, a second-half substitute, sprinted toward the goalmouth before booting a dangerous ball that ricocheted off Louisville goalkeeper Gregory Ranjitsingh for an own goal. Pittsburgh later added a Kenardo Forbes penalty kick goal in stoppage time to bring the final to 2-2.
With two games left in the regular season, Holland and other Hounds will look to keep the second-half magic alive, as Pittsburgh (15-4-13) will travel to Atlanta United 2 (6-17-9) for a showdown at 7 p.m. on Wednesday at Coolray Field.
“I think the key thing is energy,” Holland said about coming onto the pitch in the second half. “The USL is very fast paced, and 65th, 70th minute it does start to slow down. If you can come on with energy and bring pace to the game, it is noticeable when you have a sub come on who has a bit more in their legs at that point.”
Recently, the Hounds have shown success late in games, in part due to the strength of their substitutions. Against Penn FC on Sept. 26, Neco Brett assisted Andrew Lubahn, who both came off the bench, on a second-half stoppage time goal.
Strong play like this has propelled Pittsburgh to five goals from the 80th minute onward in its past five matches.
Holland said chemistry is not a factor for substitutes since players have been practicing with each other since the beginning of 2018, so they can rotate into the game and still be on the same page as other teammates despite less time logged.
“The most difficult thing as a sub is getting the awareness of the game,” Holland said. “You’re coming on with 21 other players, trying to gauge the speed of the game and awareness and positions. Trying to get your head on a swivel right away and work out the dynamics.”
This season, Holland has subbed into nine of his 12 games played. The only other Hounds to have as many substitutions as Holland are Kay Banjo and Lubahn, who also each have nine appearances off the bench.
As the Black and Gold wrap up the regular season with three games in nine days, depth will continue to be relied upon. After the team travels to Atlanta this Wednesday, it will face a short turnaround and battle New York Red Bulls II on Sunday in New Jersey.
Although Atlanta has already been eliminated from playoff contention and ranks 14th in the Eastern Conference, it has strung together a two-game unbeaten streak and is fresh off a victory against the fourth-place Charleston Battery.
“[Atlanta] is good,” Holland said. “They are a good team, but if we do our jobs properly, we have such depth in our squad that I trust us coming away with three points.”