Louisville City ends Riverhounds’ season with double OT win in semifinals
The Pittsburgh Riverhounds put together a special season.
On Saturday night, in front of a record-breaking crowd of 6,073 at Highmark Stadium, that magical season came to an end as two-time USL defending champion Louisville City rallied for a 2-1 victory in double overtime in the semifinals.
It was the Riverhounds’ first home loss of the season.
“To lose like this, it won’t do us any justice at the end of the day,” Riverhounds captain Kenardo Forbes said. “It was a good season, but we didn’t achieve the ultimate goal.”
In the final minutes of overtime, a ball came loose in the Riverhounds box, and a Louisville attacker got a foot on it and ripped a shot. Riverhounds goalie Kyle Morton got a hand on it, and the ball popped up into the air.
As the ball floated through the air, Louisville’s Paolo DelPiccolo charged through the box and scored into the back of the net with a header to break a 1-1 tie with about three minutes remaining.
“It was frustrating,” Riverhounds midfielder Thomas Vancaeyezeele said of the winning goal. “You can see the ball going in, and you can’t do anything about it. I mean in my head, I thought maybe we could score in the final few minutes, but I couldn’t get to it. I couldn’t reach it.”
Vancaeyezeele was the one who got everything started in the 12th minute. Moments after Pittsburgh was awarded a corner kick off a Mo Dabo shot, Forbes sent in a beautiful corner kick that Vancaeyezeele put away with a low shot to the right corner.
After winning their quarterfinal over Birmingham Legion FC, 7-0, it was the type of start the Hounds needed.
“We tried to keep the momentum from the last game. We wanted to keep that same energy, but unfortunately it didn’t happen,” Vancaeyezeele said. “It was really frustrating tonight.”
Throughout the remainder of the first half, the Hounds created chances.
Forbes put a shot just over the crossbar, and Neco Brett had a shot pushed wide in extra time. They were pressuring the two-time defending champs but couldn’t quite get through.
In the second half, the Riverhounds’ energy started to fade, and Louisville started to dictate the style and pace. Although the Hounds had a 13-10 shot advantage, Louisville controlled the possession (60.7%-39.3%).
Riverhounds coach Bob Lilley, knowing the style Louisville liked to play, had an idea it would break through.
“We said we have to be able to pressure them and disrupt their rhythm, which I think we did a good job of for most of the game,” Lilley said. “But I think we ran out of gas at the end. I said to do that, we’re going to have to have possession and have spells with the ball and I don’t think we did.”
Ten minutes into the second half, Louisville’s Luke Spencer corralled a pass with his chest at the top of the box and let a shot go that got past Morton to tied the score.
It was the first goal Pittsburgh had allowed at Highmark since Oct. 5.
“Give Louisville credit. They were down 1-0, then they tied it and found a winner,” Lilley said. “They were definitely the better team in the overtime. Maybe not in the beginning of the first overtime, but the middle of the first and the second, they were the better team. I think we were tired at that point because we didn’t have possession, and we did a lot of chasing.”
The Riverhounds accomplished a lot this season. They were undefeated at home and carried the longest unbeaten streak in the USL Championship into Saturday night. They also produced the second-longest shutout streak at 698 minutes.
“Listen we had a great season. The crowd was great tonight. We had all home games left,” Lilley said. “It was a tough way for the season to end, but I’m proud of the year they had.”
Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .