Riverhounds flirt with upset, settle for tie
As the Riverhounds fixed their problem of giving up goals, scoring one of their own became the bigger challenge.
The 'Hounds played 90 minutes of scoreless soccer with USL Pro leader Orlando City but a missed penalty kick and two shots off the post cost the home team a chance at all three points in a 0-0 draw Wednesday at Highmark Stadium.
The tie leaves the Riverhounds (5-6-7) five points out of playoff position, though getting something from the first of two meetings with Orlando (11-2-6) still was a positive.
“Orlando is probably at another level than most teams in this league, but I think it showed that when we stay together, we can play with teams like that,” Riverhounds defender Andrew Marshall said. “If you'd told me earlier that we would go 0-0 with Orlando, I'd probably be happy with that. But at this point of the season, we need to start racking up points.”
“We'll be OK, but now we've got to beat Wilmington (Sunday),” Riverhounds coach Justin Evans said. “We're right there even with them, so we have to put that one away and get those (three) points.”
The 'Hounds had three great scoring chances in the first half that missed by inches.
Darren Amoo was on target in the 24th minute with a powerful left-footed shot 30 yards from goal, but Orlando goalkeeper Jon Kempin dived to get his fingertips on the shot and redirect it into the left upright.
Less than two minutes later, Jose Angulo got behind the Orlando defense on a breakaway into the box. But his chip shot over Kempin's outstretched arms was too strong, and it bounced off the crossbar and was cleared out of danger.
The most painful miss for the Hounds came at the penalty spot in the 37th minute, when Matt Dallman was pulled down in the corner of the box by Orlando's Luke Boden. Angulo stepped up to take the kick, but Kempin made the save on his low shot to the right.
“The ball just wasn't going in for us. You've just got to keep your head up and keep going,” Angulo said. “We were positive the whole time, and we went in the locker room saying we were going to keep up the same intensity.”
The shutout for the 'Hounds and goalkeeper Hunter Gilstrap, who had seven saves, was the team's first in seven matches dating to a 3-0 win over Rochester on June 1. The 'Hounds outshot Orlando, 13-12, and turned away 12 corner kicks in their defensive half.
“The last four or five games, we weren't happy with how we played defensively. We gave up three goals in two of the last four games, and that's unacceptable across the board,” Marshall said. “I think we got back to basics today, working hard and communicating as a team.”
Adama Mbengue had Orlando's best first-half chance, but his open shot from 15 yards away rolled right of the goal. Gilstrap made his best save in the final minute by tipping a close-range header from C.J. Sapong over the goal.