RECAP PROVIDED BY PITTSBURGH RIVERHOUNDS
PITTSBURGH (Riverhounds.com) — The Pittsburgh Riverhounds (5-15-4) exploded for three goals in the first half, cruising to a 4-1 victory over Wilmington Hammerheads FC (6-11-7) at Highmark Stadium.
Corey Hertzog kept hot,tallying two goals, one in each of the halves, while Willie Hunt and Nick Thompson scored less than four minutes apart to close out the first half in the 40th and 44th minute, respectively. Wilmington’s lone tally came by way of Ashani Fairclough in the 72nd minute.
The victory clinched a season sweep of Wilmington, which saw the Hounds outscore the Hammerheads to the tune of 8-to-2, while also extending a now four-match unbeaten streak dating back to August of 2015. Pittsburgh has now won back-to-back home games for the first time since July 4 of 2015 as well, and the three first half goals were a new season high – trumping two-goal efforts in the first 45 against Montreal in June and Wilmington in July.
The Hounds got on the board quickly in the sixth minute, as Cristian Martinez fed Hertzog a pretty feed at the top of the box. The Hounds forward then unleashed an absolute rocket to beat a diving Eric Ati from 20 yards out.
Sustained bouts of possession for Pittsburgh followed, with the club eventually breaking through in the 40th minute off a corner. Lining up from the right, Danny Earls fired a beauty of a ball in to find a rising Hunt at the back post for the header on goal. For Earls, the helper marked his second on the season, both on corners, while Hunt tallied for the first time since scoring two goals against the New York Red Bulls in last year’s playoffs in September.
Thompson followed soon after with a gritty goal via a fortunate deflection. Battling for space off a long through-ball over top by Lebo Moloto, Thompson fought off midfielder Logan Miller to gain possession just within the box. With space, Thompson fired a shot on goal, deflecting off the leg of Miller, and just squeaking by an aggressive Ati. The goal added to a stellar performance for Thompson, who started up front alongside Kevin Kerr and Martinez, playing 69 minutes and finishing with four shots attempted to go along with his second goal of the season.
Wilmington came out with a spirited showing in the second half, outshooting the Hounds six-to-five, and eventually finding the back of the net thanks to some crisp passing by Kyle Parker to give Fairclough an open look on a header in close past goalkeeper Zack Steffen.
The match would conclude on an interesting sequence that gave the Hounds back-to-back penalty kicks in stoppage time. First, Moloto drew a foul in the box, allowing for Kerr to have the first crack at extending the Hounds lead to three. The captain fired a solid take on frame, but his shot rose, hitting directly off the crossbar. In the ensuing chaos for possession, Wilmington midfielder Zev Taublieb was whistled for a handball and issued a yellow card. Hertzog next stepped up to take the penalty, converting past Ati with ease and his second goal of the night.
With 11 goals on the season, only Rob Vincent (18) and Jose Angulo (13) have scored more for the Hounds in a single season than Hertzog since 2013. Hertzog also becomes only the seventh player in club history to have totaled 10 or more goals in a season, while his 26 points on the year have him third in the League scoring race – trailing only Chandler Hoffman (28) of Louisville and Jack McBean (32) of LA Galaxy II.
The Hounds now close out the week in Harrisburg against the City Islanders (7-14-4) in the third and final leg of the Keystone Derby Cup presented by K&L Gates and the Pennsylvania Lottery on Saturday, Aug. 27 at 7 p.m. For more information on the Hounds’ upcoming road date, visit Riverhounds.com.