Defense keys Riverhounds' recent success
By Matt Grubba
Published: Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013, 7:48 p.m.
A trip to Florida means vacation for most people, but the Sunshine State brought the year's best work out of the Riverhounds- defense.
The Riverhounds have allowed just two goals in their past five USL Pro games, including wins at Tampa Bay and Orlando last weekend, and the strong defensive play has lifted the team into a three-way tie for sixth place and the final three playoff spots.
The Hounds (9-6-7) allowed two goals in four of their first five matches during a winless April. But no league opponent has scored twice against the Hounds since the team's last loss, a 2-1 setback against Los Angeles on July 6.
“A lot of it has been confidence, really,” defender Mike Green said. “We knew we were a good team defensively, but we had to piece things together and stay focused for 95 minutes. A lot of people would say 90 minutes, but injury time was when we were giving up a lot of those goals. Now we're closing games out.”
Defender and team captain Rich Costanzo was this week's USL Pro Player of the Week after being on the team of the week one week prior, and Green was on this week's team of the week. Though fellow starting defenders Sterling Flunder and Andrew Marshall haven't garnered individual honors recently, the success of the unit is largely because of the cohesiveness of the back four.
Like an offensive line in football, a defensive grouping in soccer takes time to mesh. By playing every minute of the past six matches together, the Hounds' quartet is showing their familiarity with each other.
“We don't have to say as much now,” Green said. “In the beginning, there were all sorts of questions with who we're playing next to and how they play. Now it's almost nonverbal. We just know.”
“It's been a process, and we knew it was going to be with as many new players as we had,” Hounds coach Justin Evans said. “We knew as a team that we had the right players. It just took us a little while to jell, but now the guys are seeing the fruits of their labor.”
The defense also has been performing well against tough opponents. Two of the team's recent shutouts came against Orlando, which leads USL Pro with 51 goals in 23 games, and the third came on the road against the reserve team of MLS's Toronto FC.
With two games this weekend — Friday at Rochester and Sunday at home against Tampa Bay — the defense can help keep the current win streak going and, more importantly, clinch a playoff spot with two more wins.
“Hopefully, we can keep this momentum going,” Green said. “Since that two-game losing streak (to start July), we've turned it around. We used those losses as learning points, and we want to keep things going well this weekend.”
Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @Grubba_Trib.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Kovacevic: Got proof on Tomlin? Let’s hear it
- Ex-Steeler WR Wallace: It was a ‘challenge’ for Haley to use me
- Ex-Penguins winger Kennedy ‘emotional’ about return
- 3 accomplices to plead guilty to murder, torture of Mt. Pleasant woman
- Sandy Hook 911 calls fuel sensitivity debate
- Film about former Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis in prestigious festival
- Schmotzer resigns high-paid administrative job with Baldwin-Whitehall
- Pirates’ Snider talks about surgery, rebuilding swing
- Penguins notebook: Sill thrives on penalty kill
- Allegheny Township man accused of gashing girlfriend’s face with scissors
- Steelers coach Tomlin fined $100K by NFL