PITTSBURGH – Hartford Athletic kept its chances of claiming first place in Group F alive as it edged past Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC 1-0 on Saturday night at Highmark Stadium to move within two points of the Hounds with a game in hand. Hartford will visit the Philadelphia Union II and New York Red Bulls II in the final week of the regular season, and should it win both games it would leapfrog Pittsburgh for first place in the standings.
The Hounds took control of the game in the early going and went close to opening the scoring in the ninth minute when Robbie Mertz got into the right side of the penalty area and then cut centrally onto his left foot, but his finish bent just wide of the left post. Jordan Dover had a similar chance off a good piece of interplay at the top of the penalty are in the 25th minute as his shot with the outside of his right foot didn’t quite curve enough to find the target.
Moments later, however, Dover conceded a penalty kick as he clipped Hartford’s Tyreke Johnson as he moved into the left side of the penalty area. Ever Guzman stepped up to the spot, but his shot down the middle was denied by Hounds goalkeeper Danny Vitiello as his trailing leg kept the ball out of the net. The Athletic almost capitalized on the ensuing corner as the visitors recycled possession after the initial cross was half-cleared, but Alex Dixon’s low shot from the right side of the penalty area fizzed just wide of the left post and just out of the reach of Guzman as he slid in to try and turn the ball home.
Guzman would find the net nine minutes before halftime, though, as a long ball forward from Hartford’s defense was mis-controlled by Pittsburgh defender Patrick Bunk-Andersen and allowed Guzman to outpace him to the loose ball. The Mexican controlled and then slid a finish into the left corner of the net past an advancing Vitiello, breaking the Hounds’ shutout streak at 519 minutes.
Neither side created much over the opening 25 minutes of the second half, but then Hartford was reduced to 10 men as goalkeeper Parfait Mandanda was sent off after an altercation with Pittsburgh’s Steevan Dos Santos as they vied for a loose ball in the left edge of the penalty area.
The Hounds tried to take advantage in the final 15 minutes, and with seven minutes to go Dos Santos couldn’t quite guide his header on target off a back-post cross from the left by Ryan James. Three minutes later James put the ball in the net but was whistled for offside as he stretched to send the ball home past substitute goalkeeper Mike Novotny.
Pittsburgh continued to push late for an equalizer and Mark Forrest sent a header wide off a corner kick by Kenardo Forbes, who made his return to the field after injury as a second-half substitute. But while the Hounds pinned the Athletic back, they were unable to find a way through as a final chance that fell to Albert Dikwa slid wide of the left post allowing the visitors to claim all three points.
USLChampionship.com Man of the Match
Sam Strong, Hartford Athletic – Strong won 8 of 12 duels and 7 of 8 aerial duels and made five clearances to help the Athletic earn their first shutout against the Hounds this season.