Rob Vincent’s stoppage time goal propelled the Pittsburgh Riverhounds to a 1-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the Third Round of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup at Highmark Stadium on Wednesday night.
With the win, the Riverhounds advance to the fourth round of the Open Cup and will stay home to face Major League Soccer’s DC United on June 17.
In a pretty evenly played match that became more physical in the latter stages, Vincent — the Riverhounds’ leading scorer with eight goals, and two now in the Open Cup — found some space just outside the box after receiving a ball from Tyler Pasher.
With room to spare from about 25 yards, Vincent drilled a shot that gave the Riverhounds the lead just as the announcement came over that there would be three minutes of stoppage time added to the match.
“Every time Robbie gets the ball in attacking half, I say, ‘Shoot Robbie, shoot,’” said Riverhounds coach Mark Steffens.
It was an intense match, as both teams exchanged possessions and found various counter-chances. The Riverhounds were able to keep the ball for longer stretches and attempted 17 shots, forcing Rowdies goalkeeper Matt Pickens to make four saves, and the home side set up 11 corner kicks to just four for the Rowdies.
Concerned about the potential of the matching going into extra time, Steffens hoped for a goal in regulation as his team was playing its fourth game in the past 11 days, while the Rowdies hadn’t played since May 16.
“I knew we needed something magical, and we got it,” Steffens said.
In the opening stages, the Rowdies came out, as Steffens described, “with a lot of intensity,” setting up a corner kick in the first minute. They continued to advance the ball in the first 20 minutes numerous times with overlapping runs, crosses, but only tested Riverhounds first-year goalkeeper Ryan Hulings a few times.
In the 18th minute, Hulings had to make a nice save, going to his right to thwart an attempt by Martin Munez that was heading just inside the post.
Pittsburgh’s best chances of the first half came in a few sequences beginning in the 38th minute, on the second of three consecutive corners, when Kevin Kerr headed a high service from Vincent that sailed past a few heads and went past the left post.
Moments later, Kerr’s one-timer hit the right post, and the teams went into halftime scoreless.
Lebo Moloto was creating problems for the Rowdies back line at times and made runs into the box, but he was unable to set up any quality finishes.
Still, momentum swung toward the home side early in the second half.
“It seemed like as we were able to develop some rhythm and get going, they seemed to lose their intensity,” Steffens said of the Rowdies. “I thought we played very well and had momentum going into the second half.”
In the 51st minute, Vincent had let loose a blast, again from the top of the circle, that forced Pickens to make a diving save.
In one strange sequence in the 69th minute, Moloto battled Rowdies central defender Stefan Antonijevic for a ball by the right endline in the box.
Antonijevic fell, and with the ball lodged between his legs, Moloto fiercely tried to nudge it away from him.
For a split second, everyone seemed to look to referee Chuck Murphy to make a decision.
And then he did.
Murphy awarded the Hounds with an indirect kick for Antonijevic’s dangerous play. From the far right side just inside the penalty area, the kick was played back to Stephen Okai near the top of the box, but he sent his shot over the bar.
The Rowdies looked late for an opportunistic counter, but were not able to sustain any dangerous chances, with Darwin Espinal runs into the box stymied by a wall of black shirts defending the Riverhounds goal.
The Riverhounds outshot the Rowdies 17-11. Hulings made two saves while Pickens made four. Both teams had eight fouls.
The Rowdies drew the only two bookings of the match, as Ben Sweat knocked over Mike Green in the 15th minute and Robert Hernandez pushed Pasher in the 82nd minute as the Riverhounds defender was shielding a ball heading over the endline.
After Vincent’s goal, the Rowdies had three minutes of stoppage time to get the equalizer, but the Riverhounds got through it unscathed.
With the win, the Riverhounds remain unbeaten in five Open Cup matches played at Highmark Stadium since it opened in 2013. The Rowdies bow out of the competition in the third round for the second consecutive season.
REPLAY: Tampa Bay Rowdies at Pittsburgh Riverhounds