The Pittsburgh Riverhounds took one of Major League Soccer’s top teams to the edge before a lively standing-room-only crowd Wednesday at Highmark Stadium, but fell to DC United, 3-1, in extra time in the Fourth Round of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
United needed two goals in extra time to advance past the United Soccer League’s Riverhounds.
“I’ve been involved with Open Cup games for what, 17, 18 years, this is what it looks like almost every time,” DC United head coach Ben Olsen said. “Their energy. Their quality. Their commitment. They gave us a heck of a fight tonight.”
Olsen’s team was fortunate that they were able to convert on set pieces in key moments.
“I’ve talked a lot with our guys about how are we going to get to the next level. And set pieces would be a big part of it,” Olsen said.
United opened the scoring early in the first half after each team traded attacking chances.
Luis Silva’s corner kick was redirected by Conor Doyle, freezing the Riverhounds defenders, and Facundo Coria broke into the box to easily pass the ball into the goal to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.
After a few more rugged minutes where the Riverhounds could not sustain any significant possession, Pittsburgh finally capitalized on a long ball sent into the attacking third. Opare was whistled for pushing Riverhounds midfielder Kevin Kerr in the box, giving the home side a penalty kick.
“I had some success early getting past the left back,” Kerr said. “I told our guys, keep sending it to me. I’ll chase it down where ever. I’ll work for it. Fortunately, for us, it paid off, as we got the penalty kick.”
That set the stage for Rob Vincent, the USL’s leading scorer, to net the equalizer, sending the crowd of more than 4,000 into a frenzy. It was Vincent’s third goal in as many Open Cup games this year, and his 12th in all competitions in 2015.
The Hounds kept attacking for the remainder of the first half, forcing several saves from Dykstra. Mike Green was at the center of many of those attacks, but his biggest contribution may have come on the defensive end.
Green headed the ball off the line just before halftime, denying Jalen Robinson in a play reminiscent of one made a few nights before against Sweden by US Meghan Klingenberg, a Pittsburg native, in the Women’s World Cup.
In the second half, DC made some adjustments — and began creating more quality chances, led by Miguel Aguilar. He got behind the Riverhounds defense a few times for some dangerous opportunities, but couldn’t finish.
“Our commitment was better,” Olsen said. “We started getting behind them a bit more. That opened more space and we were able to dictate the game more.”
Pittsburgh continued to press as well, but was unable to add to its goal tally.
The Riverhounds had to fight off a few dangerous corner kicks and crosses from United in the late stages of regulation, but managed to extend the game.
Just two minutes into overtime, Kofi Opare headed Jared Jeffery’s well-placed corner into the goal to give United a 2-1 lead.
Moments later, Aguilar drew a couple of Riverhounds defenders to the left side and served a nice ball into the center of the box for DeLeon, who finished with the United’s third goal via the air.
“They were so dangerous on set pieces,” Kerr said. “It does sting a bit, when you dominate for stretches, and still lose the game on set pieces.”
The loss was Pittsburgh’s first Open Cup loss at Highmark Stadium in six games since 2013, when scenic stadium opened on the banks of the Monongahela River.
FULL MATCH REPLAY: DC UNITED AT PITTSBURGH RIVERHOUNDS
REF: AR: AR: 4th:
Pittsburgh Soccer Report’s John Krysinsky has covered soccer and other sports for many years, writing feature stories and providing game day coverage for various publications and media outlets including Pittsburgh Sports Report, Kids Sports Magazine, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Riverhounds.com, USLPRO, DKSportsPittsburgh and more.