Following several consecutive playoff appearances, the Pittsburgh Riverhounds had high expectations coming into the 2023 USL Championship season. While the start wasn’t a total disaster, it was definitely below their standards. Through their first nine games, the Riverhounds has just two losses. The issue was that they also only had two wins. However, since the inconsistent start, Pittsburgh has started turning things around.
A couple of come from behind draws and strong defensive efforts kept things from being through the early part of Pittsburgh’s campaign. Following another few up and down performances, the Riverhounds prepared for their biggest test of the season. A U.S. Open Cup match on the road against the MLS giant, New England Revolution.
The Riverhounds Turning Things Around
Very few people gave the Riverhounds a chance. The Revolution were sitting near the top of the MLS standings. With a home crowd behind them, many thought the Riverhounds would roll over. Luckily for Pittsburgh, midfielder Danny Griffin didn’t get the message. In the 44-minute, Griffin snuck behind the Revolution backline and slotted home the eventual winner just before halftime. The Riverhounds would hold the Revs at bay en route to a 1-0 victory.
Riverhounds head coach, Bob Lilley, had to say the following to say after his teams monumental victory: “It never felt like we were under siege. We were positive with our play going forward, we were positive with the ball, and that gave us the energy and time to get back and defend properly.”
The massive upset seemed to be just what Pittsburgh needed to spur their turnaround. They followed the Cup performance with a pair of league wins. A 2-1 win over Birmingham Legion FC followed by a 4-1 thrashing of the Las Vegas Lights. The Riverhounds were beginning to find the scoring boots they’d been missing to start the season. Things were turning things around.
Following three straight wins, the Riverhounds found themselves in familiar territory. Their next match was a Round of 16 U.S Open Cup match against MLS side, Columbus Crew. With the benefit of a home crowd behind them and the added confidence of a win against an MLS side already this season, the Riverhounds were ready for the challenge.
It turned out to be a dream start for Pittsburgh. Talisman, Albert Dikwa found the back of the net in the 22-minute to make the score 1-0. This would prove to be enough for the Riverhounds to get out with a win. A staunch defensive effort and several key stops by goalkeeper, Jahmali Waite, guided the Riverhounds to victory.
On top of making a number of stops, Waite commanded his box with military general-esque composure. Collecting a number of crosses and organizing his backline effectively to give Columbus limited opportunities to score.
— U.S. Open Cup (@opencup) June 2, 2023
Following the “Cupset” victory, Pittsburgh carried on with a 1-0 league win over Loudon FC. Extending their winning streak to five straight matches.
Dikwa Leading the Way
With a season that began with ups and downs, Albert Dikwa’s goalscoring has been a constant for the Riverhounds. Dikwa is the co-leader in goals scored in USL play this season, scoring nice in just eleven appearances. His stellar play has earned him a nomination for the USL Championship Player of the Month for May.
— Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (@RiverhoundsSC) June 1, 2023
Dikwa is already making a strong case for USL Championship MVP. He hopes to keep up his fine form as the Riverhounds look to keep stacking wins after turning things around.
Pittsburgh returns to USL Championship action on Saturday, June 3rd when they take on Phoenix Rising FC. Another massive U.S. Open Cup fixture also looms in their near future. The Riverhounds head to Ohio to take on FC Cincinnati on Wednesday, June 7th as they look to continue being a thorn in the side of MLS opponents.
Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports, of a Headshot of Dz Harmon and Danny Griffin, on May 24, 2023.