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Much sharper in the final third, Riverhounds beat defending champions Phoenix 3-1, for first win of the season




Photo courtesy of Phoenix Rising FC

The Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC finally found their scoring rhythm in earning their first win of the season, defeating defending USL champion Phoenix Rising FC 3-1 late Saturday at Rising Stadium in Phoenix, Arizona.

The Hounds saw goals from three forwards, with Kazaiah Sterling putting the Hounds ahead in the first half, then Edward Kizza and Babacar Diene replied with second half scores that pushed Pittsburgh past Phoenix despite being on the short end of possession (60/40). ) and shots (19-10) totals. Kizza and Junior Etou also added assists as the Hounds tripled their goals from the first five games.

Phoenix were in the foreground for long stretches, but the Hounds were more efficient – ​​for the first time all season where it mattered most – in the final third. Pittsburgh made the most of 10 shot attempts, including five on frame and three in the back of the net, while Phoenix landed four shots on frame.

Although they were under heavy pressure for the first 25 minutes, the Hounds took the lead when Kazaiah Sterling scored his first goal with Pittsburgh in the 26th minute after receiving a smart back pass from Kizza.

Just moments after taking their first lead of the season, the Hounds gave one back. Phoenix’s RΓ©mi Cabral sent a left-footed shot from the center of the penalty area into the bottom left corner after an assist from Pape Boye.

Early in the second half, with the teams deadlocked at 1-1, Sterling almost regained the lead, after Pape Boye was called for a handball in the penalty area as he extended his elbow to make himself bigger to clear the to deny Junior Etou’s shot attempt. This resulted in a penalty call in favor of Pittsburgh. However, the former Tottenham Hotspur tried to get cute with his PK attempt, with a long run-up before a delayed shot sailed over the right corner.

Pittsburgh continued to press forward into spaces when opportunities presented themselves – with the next solid chance coming in the 62nd minute, when Kizza put the Hounds ahead with a quick reaction to the ball being played over him at the far post, thanks to sharp , low pass across the box from Junior Etou.

The Hounds grew in confidence as the game evolved, keeping Phoenix’s offense in check while still pushing for a game-ending goal.

That goal would come in the 89th minute, when substitute Babacar Diene took advantage of another build-up that started on the left, again from Etou, who sent a ball into the box that forced a clearance attempt, but Diene was the man on the left flank. the spot, and converted on a close-range opportunity.

For Pittsburgh (1-3-2, 5 points), it was their first win in the Pacific or Mountain time zone since 2021, as they had a streak of ten straight Western Trip games without a win.

The Hounds return home next Saturday when they take on the only team in the USL Championship to take all three points on Saturday, Detroit City FC, in what will be a rematch of the USL Championship Eastern Conference quarterfinals, where the Hounds were eliminated 1-0 in the 2023 USL Cup Playoff tournament.

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John Krysinsky has covered football and other sports for several publications and media outlets for many years. He is also the author of ‘Miracle on the Mon’ – a book about the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, which chronicles the club, particularly the early years of Highmark Stadium, with the story leading up to and centering around a remarkable match that created a spark. for the franchise. John has covered sports for Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, DK Pittsburgh Sports and Pittsburgh Sports Report, served as a color commentator on Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC broadcasts, and worked with OPTA Stats and broadcast teams for US Open Cup and International Champions Cup matches in the US . . Krysinsky also served as head men’s soccer coach at his alma mater, Point Park University, where he led the Pioneers to first-ever winning seasons and playoff berths (1996-98); head coach of North Catholic boys (2007-2008), associate head coach of Shady Side Academy boys (2009-2014).