Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC advanced to the Quarterfinals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup for the second time in its history on Wednesday night, claiming a second consecutive win against an opponent from Major League Soccer in a 1-0 victory against Columbus Crew SC before a club-record crowd of 6,107 fans at Highmark Stadium.
Here are three key reasons why the Hounds produced another sterling performance and result against its top-flight opposition.
If you want to understand how Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC defeated Columbus Crew SC on Wednesday night, this graphic might sum it up best.
That’s Opta’s visual for where the game was played. The Hounds made certain that whether they did or did not have the ball, the game was going to be played where they wanted it to be played.
Columbus dominated possession, but at almost every turn they were met by disruption. Pittsburgh’s players followed the same model as they did against the New England Revolution – in that contest, the ball was in the Hounds’ defensive third only 21.7 percent of the time – and made life exceptionally difficult for the Crew’s lineup to progress into dangerous areas.
That’s a big reason why Columbus only recorded eight touches in the Hounds’ penalty area, while Pittsburgh registered 17, and had the two big chances of the game.
In two consecutive games, Hounds Head Coach Bob Lilley has set his side up to be the aggressor, and his players have delivered almost flawlessly.
It’s not by accident that Albert Dikwa is currently the leader in the race for the Golden Boot in the USL Championship. The man is on an absolute heater right now.
The moment the 25-year-old was played in behind the Columbus defense, you had a good feeling about what was going to happen next. Dikwa’s nine goals this season have come on an xG of 5.3, also highest in the league, and there are very few clear-cut chances that he’s squandered. So it was on this finish, which left an experienced goalkeeper in Evan Bush no chance to keep him out.
Here was the moment when @robbiemertz14 picked out @DikwaAlbert with a perfect pass, and Dikwa picked his corner of the net for the lead!#PITvCLB #HOUNDTAHN #USOC2023 pic.twitter.com/A4U4Uu7wo8— Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (@RiverhoundsSC) May 24, 2023
Dikwa has been a project – this is his seventh season in the league since Orlando City B brought him on board as an 18-year-old in 2017 – but after scoring a career-best 11 goals last season for the Hounds he’s now set to smash that mark and contend for major individual silverware this year.
The Hounds under Lilley have always figured out ways to get a top goalscorer in their midst – just look at Neco Brett’s 41 goals between 2018-20, and Russell Cicerone’s 31 goals in the past two seasons. With Dikwa in his fourth season at the club, they’ve now got one that’s been built from within.
There’s not been a night like this in Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC history.
The club-record crowd of 6,107 at Highmark Stadium – including many who had never been to the venue before – was treated to everything that the club has to offer. Led by a packed Steel Army section, the atmosphere helped pull the Hounds over the finish line in a way that can have a lasting effect.
As much as the results matter, this is the real magic of the Open Cup – getting more people and more communities invested in their local clubs.
Your Cupset Victory (not a) Selfie, featuring EVERYBODY.#UNLEASH pic.twitter.com/EsbCWJa0Py— Steel Army (@SteelArmy) May 25, 2023
Cincinnati, our boys are coming for you. @RiverhoundsSC pic.twitter.com/wcQ6ILMDVI— Rachael Kriger (@RachaelKriger) May 25, 2023
“It’s important for the club,” said Lilley. “We’ve been building this and growing. Certainly, these nights and opportunities to pack the house and have an MLS team here introduce the game to more people, and the fans played a big part tonight because we were tiring in the second half. The game got stretched and wide open and we probably needed to get hold of the ball a little more.
“The fans pulled us through. Every play in our defensive box late in the game, [goalkeeper] Jahmali [Waite] is coming up with a lot of stuff off crosses and corners, and winning headballs. It wasn’t pretty at the end, but there was energy in the building and our guys had something to hold onto, so that’s exciting.”