Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC Head Coach Bob Lilley pulled off one the biggest wins of his storied career on Tuesday night, as his squad beat the New England Revolution on the road, 1-0.
A 44th minute goal from Springfield, Mass. native Danny Griffin ended up being the difference maker, as the USL Championship team pulled off the road upset at Gillette Stadium to advance to the Round of 16.
It was the first time that the Riverhounds had upset a MLS side since knocking off the Colorado Rapids in the Second Round of the 2001 US Open Cup. And it was the first time they beat team from the top division on the road.
It was clear from the opening whistle that the Riverhounds were not simply going to roll over, despite playing an MLS team on the road after a relatively quick turnaround from a draw on Saturday away against Monterey Bay. The Revolution — fresh off a league win at Toronto on Saturday — started a lineup that was similar to the one they used against Hartford in the previous round of the competition, featuring a number of younger players such as Damian Rivera and Latif Blessing. Blessing found himself involved in the action early on, and ended up picking up the game’s first yellow card in the 19th minute. He was somewhat fortunate to avoid a second yellow with a crunching tackle of Joseph Farrell six minutes later that sent the Pittsburgh defender crumpling to the turf.
While the Revolution won the possession battle in the first half, Pittsburgh largely kept New England from creating serious attacking chances. Just when the game seemed destined to head into the half without a goal, a long pass along the ground from Marc Ybarra found its way through the Revolution defense, landing at the feet of a streaking Danny Griffin who tucked it away for the first goal of the contest and the first Open Cup goal of his career.
The 44th minute goal was Griffin’s first for the Riverhounds since returning to the club for his second stint in Pittsburgh.
Even after potential halftime adjustments, New England continued to struggle to find gaps in the Riverhounds defense. In the 63rd minute, the lack of attacking chances spurred Bruce Arena to call in reinforcements; the Revolution coach brought in four substitutes at once, including established Revolution veterans like Carles Gil and Brandon Bye. While the fresh legs seemed to bring at least some life to the Revolution, Pittsburgh continued to apply the pressure; a 73rd minute attempt being narrowly saved by Earl Edwards Jr. to prevent Pittsburgh from taking a 2-0 lead.
It only took two games back to get the first goal for @DannyGriffin04 since rejoining the club… and what a beauty of a ball through by @MarcYbarra23!— Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (@RiverhoundsSC) May 10, 2023
????Check out how we pulled ahead before the break.#NEvPIT #HOUNDTAHN #USOC2023 pic.twitter.com/bbxzg1nukY
At the other end of the field, a 77th minute ball by Gil found a wide open Altidore inside the box, but he was unable to keep the ball on frame. Despite being one of the most well known figures in U.S soccer, this game was also Jozy Altidore’s first appearance in the US Open Cup since his 2006 pro debut with the New York Red Bulls. The 33 year old has appeared in six other domestic cup competitions during stints in Canada, England, Spain and the Netherlands.
Seemingly not content with their 1-0 lead, the Riverhounds brought in star striker Albert Dikwa in the 78th minute. While the joint leader in scoring in this USL Championship season did not find the scoresheet, his presence helped Pittsburgh prevent the Revolution from putting all their numbers forward. The last ten minutes of the match saw an increase in attacking pressure from the Revolution, as the supporters section behind the goal urged the squad on.
New England continued to maintain possession on Pittsburgh’s side of the field, but failed to create any serious chances. Their best opportunity came in the 87th minute, but goalkeeper Jahmali White was able to clear the dangerous cross away, and Pittsburgh was able to preserve his shutout for the four minutes of stoppage time to seal the upset.
While the Riverhounds has appeared in 19 US Open Cup competitions, the victory marks just the seventh time they’ve defeated a team within U.S. Soccer’s professional divisions.
“It never felt like we were under siege. The last 5-10 minutes got a bit hairy, but the key was we found outlets,” Riverhounds head coach Bob Lilley said. “We were positive with our play going forward, we were positive with the ball, and that gave us the energy and time to get back and defend properly.”
For Lilley, it was the second time that one of his teams had eliminated a MLS team. In 2014, his Rochester Rhinos (USL Pro) upset the defending US Open Cup champion D.C. United 1-0.
This was New England’s first loss to a non-MLS opponent in the Cup since the Charlotte Independence defeated them 1-0 back in the Fourth Round of the 2015 competition.
The Revolution had yet to ever lose a U.S. Open Cup game held at Gillette Stadium, and were unbeaten in their last nine games in all competitions. (In year’s past, the Revolution has hosted some earlier round US Open Cup games at various smaller venues throughout the New England region.)
Head Coach Bruce Arena expressed disappointment with the squad’s performance after the game. “It was a pure performance on our part, there’s no excuses.” he said, “I give Pittsburgh a lot of credit, they played real hard and did a good job protecting the lead in the second half.”