View From The Booth: Goals Dry Up For Pittsburgh Riverhounds During Soggy June


Riverhounds midfielder Kevin Kerr tries to escape two Rochester defenders during Saturday’s rain-soaked 1-0 loss on the road. (Credit: Liz Berie/

Matt Gajtka is the play-by-play voice of the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. The following is his commentary on the team’s progress through the first half of the regular season.

I always hesitate to write about officiating in a game story, because it’s usually a conversation that goes nowhere.

OK, so the referee wasn’t good. Now what do we talk about?

There are exceptions, though, and unfortunately for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, they have been on the wrong end of a pair of highly-questionable officiating decisions this season – both of which occurred in matches against the league-leading Rochester Rhinos.

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The dubious penalty awarded to the Rhinos by referee Jaime Herrera on Saturday wasn’t as egregious of an error as Vito Testa’s match-altering mistake April 4 at Highmark Stadium – here’s video of that bizarre game-winning goal – but the fact remains that the Hounds have missed out on at least two standings points partially because of events outside their control.

That those two incidents happened against the unbeaten Rhinos (9-0-5) delivers a psychic blow in addition to hurting the Hounds’ status on the Eastern Conference table. But let’s not allow the nature of those losses to distract from the wider perspective.

Its record now level at 5-5-4, Pittsburgh is firmly in the East’s sixth and final playoff position, three points behind New York Red Bulls II and three ahead of Harrisburg City Islanders.

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  • With the adrenaline of the U.S. Open Cup behind them, the Riverhounds have precisely half the season left to solidify what would be their second postseason berth in three years. A Fourth of July matchup with New York is next up at Highmark, where Pittsburgh is 4-1-3 in league play this year, 6-2-3 overall.

    Fans who attend Saturday’s pivotal match will have the option to stick around afterward to watch the holiday fireworks display, but what they may be wondering is what happened to the Riverhounds’ offensive pyrotechnics.

    The Hounds were averaging precisely 2.5 goals per match after their insane six-goal explosion May 30 against Harrisburg, but since then they have scored just four times in five matches.

    Even after being shut out for the first time on a soggy Saturday in Rochester, Pittsburgh remains the top-scoring team in the East with 28 total goals, and the No. 2 offensive club in the 24-team league. Midfielders Rob Vincent (nine goals, four assists) and Kevin Kerr (six goals, five assists) maintain residence in the USL’s top six scorers.

    Nevertheless, the Hounds’ signature attack from the first two months has regulated somewhat, even considering that Saturday’s game was a waterlogged farce and the U.S. Open Cup match was against an MLS side in D.C. United.

    The scoring drought becomes even more pronounced when taking into account that two of the Hounds’ five goals in June were Vincent penalty kicks – one against Saint Louis FC and another in the memorable collision with United.

    Undoubtedly part of the issue has been the absence of playmaker Lebo Moloto, who was increasingly finding his game before going down with a hamstring strain June 13 at Charlotte.

    He has missed three matches since, and coach Mark Steffens has switched from a 4-5-1 or 4-3-3 formation to a more defensive-minded 4-4-2 in the meantime.

    Regardless of tactics, the Riverhounds will search for offensive answers this Saturday when Red Bulls II invades Station Square.

    Getting Moloto back would help in that area, but even if he does return this weekend, it won’t be a cure-all for a team that went dry during one of the wettest Junes on record.

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