Pittsburgh Riverhounds Still Searching After Squandering Late Lead Against Harrisburg


PITTSBURGH The Pittsburgh Riverhounds have two victories in U.S. Open Cup play, but the USL Pro regular season continues to be cruel.

After leading for more than 70 minutes of action, Pittsburgh (0-6-4, 4 points) surrendered a late lead in a 1-1 draw with the Harrisburg City Islanders on Sunday evening at Highmark Stadium. The last-place Hounds were about five minutes away from their first league victory when Harrisburg midfielder Jimmy McLaughlin buried the equalizer.

McLaughlin essentially did it all himself, beating several defenders on his journey from the left wing to the top of the penalty arc. He worked himself open and drove the ball into the top-right corner of the net past helpless Riverhounds keeper Mike Lisch.

“I thought we played really well until the final five minutes,” Riverhounds interim coach Nikola Katic said. “We have to keep working on our defensive shape and stay disciplined. In today’s game you have to defend with the whole team, all 11 guys.

“Overall I thought the performance by both teams was great, but we lost a few guys in the middle and you can’t do that.”

McLaughlin’s accurate right-footed strike sobered the partisans on the South Side, all of whom were anticipating a win after the Hounds played a relatively sound, organized 85 minutes. Many Pittsburgh players bent over in frustration at that point, sensing that a solid effort was at least partially wasted.

“I guess we were just trying to manage it near the end,” said defender Brian Fekete, Pittsburgh’s lone goal scorer on the evening. “That’s what it came down to at the end and unfortunately we just couldn’t pull it off. It’s about as close as you can get, five minutes away.”

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Riverhounds second-half substitute Jhonny Arteaga created a decent opportunity in stoppage time, but his drive from 20 yards out was right into the breadbasket of Harrisburg goalie Nick Noble. The final whistle sounded soon after, so Pittsburgh had to settle for breaking their four-match losing streak instead of getting a much-desired win.

“Closing out the game is something we have to work on,” Riverhounds striker Jose Angulo said. “We haven’t experienced that a lot this year, but there are a lot of positive things we can take out of it. I think we’re getting close to our goal and we showed that tonight.”

Second-year pro Fekete scored in the 12th minute to give Pittsburgh an early advantage, one they held for much of the balmy late afternoon on the South Side. Neither team was especially successful in generating offense in the heat, with Harrisburg (2-5-2, 8 points) appearing to struggle finding energy after playing the night before.

However, the Riverhounds couldn’t get a second goal, marking the sixth match in a row that they scored fewer than two. Pittsburgh has netted a total of nine goals in 10 USL Pro games.

“Offensively we were creating, but we have to score more goals,” said Angulo, who has two goals this year after leading the league with 15 last season. “We can grow from this. It’ll come. When it rains it pours, and we just gotta get it going.”

Pittsburgh forward Jose Angulo controls the ball in the first half on Sunday, June 1 at Highmark Stadium. The Riverhounds tied Harrisburg 1-1 in the first leg of the Keystone Derby. (Photo: Matt Gajtka

The Riverhounds, who last took the pitch Wednesday in a home U.S. Open Cup win over RWB Atria, were a bit stagnant to start the match, with Lisch forced to come up with a pair of lunging saves in the opening minutes. Harrisburg displayed impressive team-wide technical ability, threading passes through small spaces to create something from seemingly nothing.

But the field started to tilt in the Hounds’ favor around the 10-minute mark, resulting in a free kick from the right flank. Matt Dallman took it, sending a dangerous ball into the penalty area that midfielder Michael Green captured and fed to Fekete. The first-year Riverhound drilled the loose ball into the roof of the net for his first goal of the season.

“We came in early today and worked on that exact type of play,” said Fekete, a 24-year-old Florida native who played for Orlando City last season. “It was weird because (Katic) told me, ‘You’re going to score tonight’ because I was up in the box. It just so happened that it came to me and I ended up scoring.”

Pittsburgh kept the pressure on from there, with midfielder Anthony Obodai nearly making it 2-0 when his blast from 30 yards just missed the goal to the left. Harrisburg had its own near-miss moments later, but a free kick from just outside the penalty area sailed wide.

The visitors didn’t have a great deal of success offensively until McLaughlin’s breathtaking strike, but Luan Silva’s 10-yard shot about a minute later nearly stole a win. The point-blank attempt missed to the left, sparing the Riverhounds a fifth loss in a row.

“Once we get our first win, I feel like it’s going to start opening up for us,” Fekete said. “Hopefully we can get into the top five at the end of the year.”

The draw meant that the two Pennsylvania clubs remain on even terms in the so-called Keystone Derby. Pittsburgh and Harrisburg will play two more times this month, with a matchup in the state capital coming up June 11 and a return meeting at Highmark Stadium three days later.


The Hounds will travel to Rochester, New York, next Saturday as they try to improve their 0-3-1 road record.