Neco Brett of the Pittsburgh Riverhounds celebrates after scoring a penalty kick goal in the 57th minute against Dayton Dutch Lions in the Second Round of the 2019 US Open Cup. Photo: Chris Cowger | Pittsburgh Riverhounds
After 50 minutes, it appeared the Dayton Dutch Lions were making a serious bid to keep its all-time unbeaten record at Highmark Stadium intact.
Things turned sour quickly for Dayton though, as Neco Brett scored twice in a 12-minute span in the second half and Anthony Velarde added an assist and a late goal to spoil the USL League Two club’s upset bid, as the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC turned things up a notch to defeat Dayton, 3-0, in the second round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match.
While the Hounds dominated possession (59% to 41%) and had more shots (15-8, 9-4 on target), Dayton asserted themselves well, and responded numerous times with chances that could have turned the tide of the match.
In the 52nd and 53rd minutes, with the game remaining scoreless, Dayton had back-to-back chances to take the lead.
Tate Robertson, who scored the game winner last week in Erie, put his play making abilities on display in his return to Pennsylvania. In his first chance of the second half, he broke through on left side to send a very dangerous ball right at the center of the six yard line for Gabriel Pewu but the big forward just missed on connecting with the ball.
A minute later, Robertson took one himself from the left edge of the box, forcing Riverhounds goalkeeper Austin Pack to his left to make a save that kept the match scoreless.
“Certainly a nervy moment. A couple of those could have gone in for them, and it would have been a completely different game,” Dan Visser, Riverhounds assistant coach said. “We had opportunities in the first half. Neco had a few clean chances in the first half, and didn’t score, and in the second half, we did covert those chances.
The Hounds, who lined up in a 5-4-1 formation, featured numerous players who haven’t played significant minutes in league play thus far this season. It was an opportunity for those players to get valuable game experience, but also contribute to the Hounds first Open Cup win at home since 2015.
Players from the Pittsburgh Riverhounds (left) and the Dayton Dutch Lions battle for the ball in Tuesday’s Second Round match in the 2019 US Open Cup. Photo: Chris Cowger | Pittsburgh Riverhounds
“The Open Cup is really good for that. Get some new guys time. They played very well.” Visser added. “For one, it’s a mid-week game so just in terms of saving some legs for the weekend some rotation is necessary. But then the nature of the open cup just allows us to get some new faces in, and I think they showed well.”
Dayton showed its ability to keep the ball against a quality and well organized pro side, and create dangerous chances in the final third.
“In the first half, we held our own, and we had some pretty good chances,” Dan Griest, Dayton’s Head Coach said. “In the fifth minute, we had a great opportunity there, and had a chance to go up 1-0 early in the match.
Still, for much of the first half, the Hounds dominated play — and the hometown kid, midfielder Robbie Mertz, making his first-ever start as a Hound, was at the center of numerous opportunities.
“His effort was really good,” Brett said of Mertz, and all of his teammates. “All of us, we’re professionals. Whenever the coach calls on you, you have to show up. That’s his job to get out there and do his very best. It doesn’t matter if you’re a rookie or if you’ve played a few years in the league.”
Mertz delivered a free kick chance in the first minute that almost found Brett on the back post, then sent a shot toward the bottom right corner of the cage in the 6th minute but was denied by Dayton’s goalkeeper Federico Barrios.
Just minutes later, Brett booted a right-footed attempt on target but another save by Barrios kept the Hounds off the board.
The duo of Mertz and Brett nearly struck gold again in the 40th minute.
Off of a cross from the rookie, Brett sent a shot on target from a difficult angle but the shot was punched away by the goalkeeper.
Riverhounds SC finished the opening period with seven total shots, four of those coming on target. On the defensive side of the pitch, the club managed to hold Dayton to just one total shot in the first 45 minutes.
Unable to capitalize on its aforementioned chances right after the 50th minute, Dayton still never backed down.
Instead, the Hounds stepped up the pressure, and Brett got behind a pair of defenders on a through ball played into the right side of the box in the 57th minute.
“I was making a run as a ball was played for me, got past them, and was clipped from behind,” Brett said.
Sure enough, the Riverhounds leading scorer in 2018, stepped up to bury his third penalty kick goal in all competitions this season to break the scoreless affair.
Twelve minutes later Brett and Velarde hooked up as Velarde drove quickly into the box, drawing a few defenders, then finding Brett to his right.
And this time, Brett didn’t hold anything back, blasting a shot into the back of the net.
“I was confident. I’ve been working hard all week and trying to score goals. It was just one of those chances and I made use of it,” Brett said.
The Dutch Lions showed a lot of fight — right until the end of the match, when Robertson created another chance as the game entered the 90th minute. This time, as he tried to get past two defenders on the edge of the left side of the box, he was knocked to the ground, earning a penalty kick.
With Robertson still hobbling from getting knocked down, Dayton’s Jackson Dietrich took the penalty attempt.
Dietrich though, missed his chance — sending his shot wide left.
The Hounds quickly responded, as late substitution Jordan Dover delivered a perfectly placed cross from the right side into the center of the box for Velarde, who put the final nail in the coffin with a clinical finish for the 3-0 lead.
“I was fortunate to get a good play, Jordan found me and I was just able to put it away. It feels good,” Velarde said. ”
For Velarde, who started three league matches and has now made appearances in all of the Hounds nine contests this season, it was his first opportunity to play a full match, picking up a goal and an assist.
“I think it’s always good to play the full 90. I’m used to playing until the 70th minute and then coming off. It was a good experience. It’s always good to play a full 90, then look back at the game and see how you played the full 90 instead of coming off the bench,” Velarde added.
While the Hounds provided its younger players with a boost of confidence and advanced into the next round, Dayton came away with a lot of positives.
“The scoreline was 3-0, but we gave a very good account for ourselves tonight. Obviously, they’re (Riverhounds) a professional team, and they do a lot of things really well. Our players showed they’re very technical, but fitness really showed in the second half though.”
With the win, the Riverhounds advance to the third round of the long-running competition, where they’ll host the winner of the Lansing United-Indy Eleven match which will be played on Wednesday.