Players from the Pittsburgh Riverhounds and the Erie Commodores (blue) battle for the ball in the Second Round of the 2018 US Open Cup. Photo: Jennifer White | Acacia Studios
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC returned to winning ways in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup after a few years of futility.
The USL club knocked off the Erie Commodores of the NPSL in round two of the tournament at Gannon University Field in Erie, Pa. Wednesday night. It comes after the side suffered upsets by amateur clubs at the same point of the competition the past two seasons.
Pittsburgh didn’t take long to get out front. In the fourth minute, Kevin Kerr whipped in a well-placed corner that Thomas Vancaeyezeele headed past Commodores goalkeeper Nicolau Neto. The connection between the two midfielders put the road side up, 1-0.
That advantage doubled in the 30th minute. This time, Kerr turned from provider to goalscorer. After Erie took down Noah Franke in the box, the referee pointed to the spot. That’s when the Riverhounds number 10 stepped up and buried the ball past Neto to make it 2-0 Pittsburgh.
For most of the first half, Erie found themselves on the back foot trying to withstand an onslaught from Pittsburgh. But the Commodores began making forays into the attacking third late in the opening stanza. They were rewarded in the final minute of regulation via Cameron Philpot. The Erie attacking mid collected the ball eight yards from goal and put a brilliant one-time finish past goalkeeper Mike Kirk to cut the lead in half.
Philpot’s exploits will go down as among the most memorable for the Commodores in the US Open Cup. He finished with both tallies for the club during the tournament after scoring the lone goal in Erie’s penalty shootout win over the Rochester River Dogz in Round 1 last week.
Erie’s opportunities to level things up were few and far between in the second 45. But they did get a legit chance late in the half when Jack Simpson dribbled the ball into Pittsburgh’s box and unleashed a far post curler from the left hand side of goal. But Kirk was up to the task at diving to his left and parrying it away for a corner.
In the end, the game turned into a scrappy affair between an underdog hoping to pull off a shocker and a team coming into the game with high expectations.
“We get the early goal which helped but I think we got a little complacent,” Riverhounds manager Bob Lilley noted post-game. “I think (after) the second goal we really took our foot off the gas. And obviously they get a goal right before halftime that got them back in the game.”
“It’s disappointing we didn’t get a third goal with as much possession as we had,” Lilley continued. “But they deserve credit. They defended well. They kept themselves in it. They carved out some chances on the break and they were always in it.”
Erie clearly had hopes that Philpot’s tally late in the first half was the beginning of a comeback. But Pittsburgh held fast and persevered in the second stanza to come away with their first road victory in the Open Cup since 2008.
“We knew (after their late first half goal) that we were going to be in a battle for the rest of the game,” Kerr emphasized after the match. “(But) the boys did the job in the second half. It wasn’t the prettiest game you’ll ever see. It wasn’t the greatest football. But we’ve been here the last two years and had two early exits. So, all in all, (we’re) delighted to get the job done.
The Riverhounds move on to face FC Cincinnati in the Third Round which takes place next week on May 23.