Photo courtesy Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
PITTSBURGH – Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC completed an undefeated 2022 preseason with a 4-0 victory against West Virginia University on Saturday night at Highmark Stadium as Marc Ybarra, Dane Kelly, Russell Cicerone and Albert Dikwa scored for the Hounds.
The preseason record of five wins and a draw came against a strong exhibition schedule that featured three Division I NCAA Tournament qualifiers, including the Mountaineers, and three USL Championship teams the Hounds will face during the regular season.
Both the Hounds and Mountaineers struggled to get rolling in the first 10 minutes of the game, but the Hounds snapped into shape by finishing their first great chance of the game. Alex Dixon got the ball on the right wing and hit a low, hard pass to Ybarra, who placed a side-footed shot into the top corner of the net. The 12th-minute goal was the first of preseason for Ybarra, a rookie who was last year’s Big Ten Midfielder of the Year at Michigan.
Kelly doubled the lead in the 27th minute, as the USL Championship’s all-time leading scorer tapped in another cross from Dixon to end a good spell of possession. It was the fourth goal of preseason for Kelly, whose next regular season goal will be the 100th of his Championship career.
The Jamaican forward then helped set up the third in the 35th minute when he got behind the defense and pulled the goalkeeper off his line. Rather than force the shot from an angle, the Hounds worked the ball back to the top of the penalty area before Dixon put the ball on the feet of Cicerone to finish into the open net. It was Dixon’s third assist of the game and Cicerone’s third goal of the preseason.
The Hounds made six substitutions at halftime and more shortly after the break, but they were still able to add to the lead with nine minutes to go when Dikwa scored his first of preseason off a pass from first-year pro Toby Sims on the right wing — the same position Dixon was playing earlier in the match.
TAMPA BAY ROWDIES 1, SOUTH GEORGIA TORMENTA FC 1: Dayonn Harris scored a late equalizer for the Tampa Bay Rowdies as they played to a draw with USL League One side Tormenta FC at Al Lang Stadium on Saturday night
“There was some fantastic bits of play in the first half,” said Rowdies Head Coach Neill Collins. “A lot of what we saw in training this week was put out onto the field. Losing a goal from a set piece is something that can happen. I don't think the score line was maybe a fair reflection of how we played. The second half was a bit disjointed. There was a lot of changes to try and inject more life and get back to the way we were in the first half. Lots of positives, a few things we obviously still need to dig in and work on, but being able to score late is a great sign of our team never giving up and always going to the final whistle.”
Lewis Hilton went close to opening the scoring on a free kick from 30 yards seven minutes in after Steevan Dos Santos was clipped down in the middle of the field, only for Tormenta’s goalkeeper to make his first of several quality saves on the night. Laurence Wyke also had a chance in the 21st minute when he got on the end of a rebound at the top of the penalty area but saw his deflected shot in the woodwork.
Tormenta then jumped ahead in the 26th minute, capitalizing on a corner kick as the hosts failed to clear the delivery into the box, allowing Arthur Bosua to head home at the second opportunity. The Rowdies then dominated possession in the second half but continued to struggle in the final third. Tampa Bay captain Sebastian Guenzatti guided a fantastic overhead kick on target in the 62nd minute only for Tormenta’s keeper to rise up and push the ball over the bar.
As the match neared the final whistle, the Rowdies’ urgency increased to create several more chances. Kyle Greig had a dipping header pushed over the bar in the 85th minute. A minute later, Juan Tejada was denied at point-blank range. Tejada did play a key role in the equalizer, however, as he stepped in to take possession past a Tormenta defender and then fed the ball to Harris on the right edge of the penalty area, allowing Harris to cut inside before poking the ball into the back of the net.
ST. LOUIS CITY SC 1, LOUISVILLE CITY FC 0: Louisville City FC fell in its final preseason game as a second-half goal by Vitor Dias gave St. Louis CITY SC victory at the Creve Coeur Park Soccer Complex in Missouri on Saturday afternoon.
Dias scored in the 62nd minute to give the hosts the lead, and while LouCity was able to create chances in the first half it was unable to capitalize on having a blustery wind at its back to take an advantage into the break.
“The wind made for a really, really difficult game,” said LouCity Head Coach Danny Cruz. “Goal kicks were going 15 yards. There were certainly some things we had to get through collectively. It didn’t make for a pretty soccer game, but sometimes, especially on the road in our conference, you’ve got to be able to win those games.
“I felt like we created a lot of chances in the first half – was really happy with that. In the second half, we lost the wind, and it was difficult to get out [of our own half]. We conceded a goal with the ball bouncing around and need to make a play on it – need to be better there.”