Riverhounds rally to beat Hartford Athletics to complete 1st within the Atlantic Division
After the Pittsburgh Riverhounds were challenged several times in the first half by Hartford Athletics keeper Jeff Caldwell, Alex Dixon found the finishing touches and helped his team to first place.
Dixon scored twice in the second half to promote the Riverhounds to a 3-1 win over Hartford on Saturday night at Highmark Stadium.
The win, coupled with Tampa Bay’s 2-0 defeat by Charlotte, put the Riverhounds (9-4-3) at the top of the USL standings in the Atlantic Division.
“We just didn’t prevail in the first half and their goalkeeper made some really good saves, but we stuck with it,” said Riverhounds coach Bob Lilley.
“We changed it and brought Dixon a little higher. We went with one less center-back. We didn’t want to wait until the last 20 or 30 minutes to push. Our way of thinking could not be drawn. We wanted to score at least two goals and did a good job reducing their chances in the second half and getting the chances we needed to score some goals. I am proud of the boys. It wasn’t an easy game. The crowd played a big part. They were loud and brought the energy when we needed it. ”
Dixon scored a tap-in goal to equalize in the 49th minute after a long cross from Mekeil Williams through the penalty area. Williams’ pass landed perfectly at Dixon’s foot.
Williams made his first appearance since returning from the Gold Cup for Trinidad and Tobago.
Dixon’s second goal came after a counterattack. He dribbled in from outside the midfield line and shot a shot into the top left corner of the net.
“Williams put in a great ball on the first goal and I was able to get in touch with it,” said Dixon. “During the second I had a little break. I dribbled until I was about 35 to 40 feet away and I didn’t have really good options so I decided to take a shot. ”
Dixon, who previously played for Hartford, doubled his goals to four that season.
Louis Perez added an insurance marker in the 87th minute, which was set up by a Tommy Williamson header into the box.
The Riverhounds controlled the game, ending the game with 63.6% possession and having several prime chances in the second half before Dixon’s winner.
Dani Rovira served a perfect cross from the left into the box, but Albert Dikwa’s header went over the bar.
Dixon crossed from the right in the 72nd minute, but another header went over the bar, this time from Anthony Velarde.
Four minutes later, Williamson was fouled and the Riverhounds received a free kick from just outside the box. Williamson took the free kick, but his attempt just missed the right post.
In the first half, the Riverhounds had five shots on goal and scored six corners, but a well-executed counterattack was ended by Derek Dodson and gave Hartford the lead.
Dodson split the Riverhounds defense after a perfectly placed pass from the other side of Christian Gomez’s midfield and pushed the ball into the lower left corner of the net in the 26th minute.
The Riverhounds almost equalized six minutes later after a back pass from Younes Boudadi sailed past Caldwell and led to a corner.
On the corner, Williams headed the ball in, but Caldwell knocked it away. The ricochet rolled toward Dikwa, who fired a heavy shot that was thwarted by a falling Caldwell.
Caldwell also robbed Dikwa of a close range opportunity in the 43rd minute.
In the 37th minute, Dodson almost hit again. After winning a 1v1 match with Dixon, Dodson dribbled on goal alone, but his shot went into the center section of Riverhounds keeper Danny Vitiello.
“We avoided a bullet there,” said Lilley. “I don’t know how productive the dressing room would have been at halftime with 2-0. There wouldn’t have been a lot of lessons. ”
After three games in three weeks, the Riverhounds have reached halftime of the season. You will face a daunting eight game stretch over the next 29 days.
“We prioritized our last three games because we knew which track we were preparing for,” said Lilley. “Everything we do in the next 29 days will be critical. If we can stay around the top positions, we have the opportunity to prepare for a strong finish. ”