Riverhounds move a step closer to elimination in loss
New York Red Bulls II ended the Riverhounds' last playoff appearance in 2015, and now they might have put an end to any Riverhounds playoff hopes in 2017.
A first-half own goal off a corner kick gave the Red Bulls II the lead, and Florian Valot scored late in stoppage time to send the Riverhounds to a 2-0 defeat Saturday afternoon at the Montclair State Soccer Park in Montclair, N.J.
The loss means the Riverhounds (8-11-11) could be eliminated from the USL Eastern Conference playoff race this weekend. Bethlehem gave up a late goal Saturday night to draw 1-1 against Tampa Bay and keep the Riverhounds in the hunt, but a win by Orlando at Richmond on Sunday would knock out the Riverhounds before they host Rochester at 7 p.m. next Saturday.
The Red Bulls II (12-12-5) leaped into seventh place with the victory, a game in which they dominated the first half with 72 percent of possession, but it took an unlucky bounce for the Riverhounds to fall behind.
Valot sent a corner kick from the right side toward the near post in the 25th minute, and a crowd of players rose to meet the ball. Abuchi Obinwa, on loan with the Riverhounds from MLS' Columbus Crew, was the one to get to the ball, but it skimmed off his head and past Riverhounds goalie Matt Perrella.
The Riverhounds regrouped after halftime and seemed to have more urgency after the break, but a heartbreaking missed chance in the 84th minute served to sum up their season.
Kevin Kerr sent a corner kick toward the back post, where Chevy Walsh rose and put a header on goal. Corey Hertzog, the Riverhounds' leading scorer, was waiting just feet from the goal and attempted to usher the ball over the line as it came toward him, but his close-range effort struck the underside of the crossbar. Walsh's second effort from a tough angle went wide, leaving multiple Riverhounds with their heads in their hands in disbelief.
The improbable miss was the Riverhounds' last great chance, and Valot tapped a cross from Dilly Duka — who moments earlier had missed a point-blank chance — into an empty net to seal the win for the Red Bulls II.
Perrella was the team's best player throughout the game, making five saves and keeping the team in range to tie until the waning seconds.