Riverhounds' unbeaten streak snapped vs. Louisville
The top team in the USL's Eastern Conference brought the Riverhounds' five-game unbeaten streak to a screeching halt.
Luke Spencer, Kyle Smith and Speedy Williams scored in a 21-minute stretch spanning halftime, and Louisville City FC completed a season sweep of the Riverhounds with a 3-0 win Saturday night at Highmark Stadium.
It was the first loss for the Riverhounds (8-9-10) since July 29 in Tampa Bay, and it left the club one point out of the final playoff spot with just five games to play. However, none of their remaining opponents is the quality of Louisville (15-5-5), which won for the fifth time in its past six games.
“It's going to be one of those things we have to rebound from. We have no choice,” Riverhounds coach Dave Brandt said. “Louisville City has presented a challenge for us all year. They're the only team in the Eastern Conference we haven't taken points off of. I think some of it has to do with them, and some of it had to do with us tonight.”
Spencer put Louisville ahead in the 33rd minute by barreling down the middle of the field for his ninth goal of the season. Mark-Anthony Kaye controlled the ball on the right wing and hit a low, diagonal pass that split a handful of Riverhounds defenders. Spencer ran straight down the middle into space between center back Tobi Adewole and right back Ritchie Duffie, and he had time for two touches on the ball before scoring from 10 yards.
Smith added the second goal with a heads-up play just 10 minutes later.
A turnover in the Riverhounds' midfield sent Louisville on the counter, but Adewole stopped the initial threat by sliding across to take the ball off Spencer's foot. The loose ball rolled to the wing, where Smith was first to react in front of left back Taylor Washington. He dribbled into the right side of the box and scored from an angle before any Riverhounds defenders could close down the space.
Louisville added its third goal from the penalty spot after Jamal Jack was ruled to have knocked over Spencer from behind early in the second half. Williams, a Jamaican midfielder who played at Robert Morris from 2011-14, converted the kick for his first goal of the season.
The Riverhounds largely were outplayed, especially after Louisville's two late-first-half goals. They finished with only 44 percent of possession, and Louisville had a 15-6 edge in shots and six corner kicks to the Riverhounds' one.
“Teams that play a 3-4-3 have presented a problem for us all year. Honestly, it's a combination of me not getting it right as it needed to be tactically, and I do think we were inexplicably not sharp,” Brandt said.
“Louisville City's a good team, but that doesn't mean that needed to happen tonight. ... We have to (move on), because if we're not tough enough to be resilient, we don't deserve to be in the playoffs, anyway. We have to lick our wounds, stand up on Monday and get ready for Rochester.”
Frustrations were evident as the match progressed, and after the game, no players were available to talk to the media.
Brandt remains focused on his goal of getting the Riverhounds back to the playoffs, and a late-game move underlined that forward thinking. With four minutes remaining, starting goalkeeper Matt Perrella was replaced by Alex Kapp, who is on loan from MLS' Minnesota United. It was Kapp's debut with the club, and it comes just before the USL's roster freeze Friday, which makes him eligible for the postseason roster.
“If Alex didn't get in, there wouldn't have been a chance for him to play in the playoffs. That was a calculated move we went back and forth on, and we decided to put him in to keep our options open,” Brandt said.
Matt Grubba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @Grubba_Trib.