Dallman's goal keeps Riverhounds in playoff hunt
As he stood in the thick late-afternoon heat on the Highmark Stadium sideline with the clock ticking toward the 80th minute Sunday, Riverhounds coach Justin Evans debated the merits of subbing out Matt Dallman.
Evans and his staff held off. Dallman rewarded them with arguably the biggest goal of the Hounds' season.
Dallman scored unassisted during the 79th minute, and the Hounds moved into sole possession of ninth place in the USL Pro standings with a 2-1 victory against the Wilmington Hammerheads.
“That's a pretty big goal for us,” Evans said. “Had we gone and just tied this game, that wouldn't have really done too much for us, especially being at home. So to get the game-winner against them, that's pretty big.”
Michael Seth also scored for the Hounds (6-6-7), who moved to within two points of the eighth and final playoff spot. The Hounds broke a ninth-place tie with the Hammerheads — important because Pittsburgh embarks on a four-game road stretch that begins Saturday. Just two of the Hounds' final seven games are at home.
“This is a game we had to win,” Dallman said. “One that's very important for our season. It's a relief to get these three points. It's huge.”
The winning goal came seven minutes after Wilmington's Kyle Greig had tied it. Seth scored the game's first tally off a cross-goal setup by Seth C'deBaca during the 52nd minute.
Seth and C'deBaca were halftime substitutions after a listless first half for the Hounds. In a departure from recent weeks when the Hounds tended to come out strong but get done in by late goals, they were dominated early in terms of ball possession by Wilmington.
The Hammerheads attempted the game's first four shots, and it was 27 minutes in before the Hounds were credited with one.
“We came out pretty flat; there was no flow to the game,” Dallman said. “We're a possession-oriented team, and I don't think we completed more than five or six passes in a row in the first half, so that was kind of frustrating.
“But what's important is we got the three points. It wasn't pretty, but we got the three points so that's all right.”
About six minutes into the second half, Hounds leading scorer Jose Angulo made a strong play to keep a ball alive in the penalty box. He got the ball to C'deBaca on the far post, and he slid it across the net for Seth to tap in.
“There wasn't many coaching points to be made (at halftime); it was just our energy,” Evans said. “We came our very flat, so we had to make three substitutions. They answered the call.”
It wouldn't have been enough for a win, though, until Seth's centering pass was broken up by a Wilmington defender in the middle of prime scoring territory.
Dallman pounced on the loose ball and netted a shot to the far post while he was falling to the ground.
“No one was really going for it,” Dallman said. “Everyone was kind of hesitant.”
“He made a play,” Evans said.
A play that helped save the Hounds' season.