UA Men's Soccer Season Ends In Overtime At Marquette
MILWAUKEE, WI - November 24, 2013 - The University of Akron men's soccer team saw its NCAA Tournament run come to an end in the second round with a 1-0 defeat to No. 9-seed Marquette in freezing temperatures and a rock-hard playing surface at Valley Fields Sunday night.
After a scoreless regulation, the Golden Eagles (13-5-2) bagged the Golden Goal in the first overtime period with just 23 seconds left. Coco Navarro, who got free when an Akron defender slipped and fell to the ground, finished a long cross from Adam Lysak to give Marquette its first NCAA Tournament win in program history.
"It was disappointing for two teams who like to play soccer to have their game decided by the conditions of the field," said UA head coach Jared Embick. "But give Marquette credit. They found a way to make a play."
"Both teams had to hit long balls in the channels to decide the game. It's not what you want. Both teams had to adapt through it and unfortunately, a slip on the field hurt us in the moment, and (Marquette) capitalized."
It was a startling conclusion for the Zips (17-4-1), who nearly won the match in regulation when Zac Portillos banged a liner off the right post in the 76th minute. Then, just five minutes into overtime, Akron thought it had won a penalty kick opportunity when Reinaldo Brenes appeared to be tackled from behind in the box but no call came.
With temperatures that hovered in the low 20s and wind that made it feel much colder, players on both sides struggled to get solid footing on the frozen pitch and the pace of play suffered as a result.
After being out-shot 10-5 in the first half, UA settled in after the break and had the better of play but couldn't cash in. Third-year sophomore Jake Fenlason turned in another commendable performance with nine saves – the most by an Akron goalkeeper all season – in a losing effort.
Much of the action took place in the middle third of the field in the first half.
The Zips had their best chance of the half in the 34th minute when Eric Stevenson chipped a ball over a Marquette defender for Brenes, who was streaking down the left side of the field. Brenes took a quick touch to avoid the MU goalkeeper, who had come off his line, but couldn't quite get control of it as his shot hit the side netting.
Fenlason had to make three saves in the opening period as the Zips dealt with a number of dangerous crosses by the Golden Eagles. MU's best look came in the 27th minute when a cross found C. Nortey with space in the midde of the box but hooked it wide of the left post.
In all, the Golden Eagles, who captured their first Big East Tournament Championship last weekend, out-shot the Zips 19-15. With the win, Marquette advances to play at No. 8-seed Virginia in the third round of the NCAA Tournament next Sunday (Dec. 1).
Columbus Crew Welcome Their New Man
Photos/Content by Robert Ivory
COLUMBUS, OH - November 12, 2013 - On Tuesday, the Columbus Crew welcomed their newest member as former USMNT defender Gregg Berhalter became the Crew's seventh head coach and the first-ever Sporting Director in club history.
"The vision I have for Columbus is a club about community and a club about togetherness," Berhalter said at the reveal Tuesday. "Our goal is to have a team that is successful. I am looking at the roster now and I am pleased with what I see. It's a good group of guys. It's a team that driven, a team that's hungry."
"Columbus is a young, progressive city and I think it's a great fit for a young, progressive coach," Crew President Mark McCullers said of his new coach.
Berhalter joins the Crew after a playing career that spanned nearly 20 years and included playing in Holland, Germany, and finishing his career in MLS at the LA Galaxy. After spending time with the Galaxy, Berhalter managed Hammarby, a Swedish Second Division club.
"My ideas about soccer are attacking-minded. I'm looking for a dynamic team that can get quickly forward and move the ball quickly. I believe in a possession-based game," Berhalter said.
As a defender in his career, the defensive side of the game will be one in which Berhalter will look to perfect quickly. "I want an organized defense. However, I want the team to play nice, attractive football. The game revolves around holding the ball in my eyes."
The humble Berhalter also becomes the club's first-ever Sporting Director and will become an intricate part of the franchise, rather than just managing the team.
"I feel that having the title helps streamline decisions and bring efficiency across the staff," Berhalter said of his role. "I think it will prepare the team in the best way possible. I am excited about the position and it will give me room to operate."
A big selling point that Berhalter had for him was his relationship with former USMNT manager and current Galaxy head coach Bruce Arenas.
"There's a lot to learn from Bruce," Berhalter explained. "He has a great way of managing his players and a way of getting the best out of them. He also manages personalities very well and gets everybody to buy into their role."
Also when asked about coaches Berhalter will look for, Columbus favorite Frankie Hejduk was suggested and Berhalter agreed that Hejduk would be a great fit to wherever he would end up in the organization.
"He has a short-term vision for getting the club back to its winning ways, but has an intermediate and long-term goal for the team. He believes in the market of Ohio and hopes to continue with the success of homegrown talent of Ohio," Crew Investor-Operator and Chairman Anthony Precourt said of the newest coach of the Crew.
MU Men's Soccer Falls to John Carroll in OAC Semifinals Wednesday Night
UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS, OH – November 6, 2013 - Third seeded Mount Union ended its season with a 2-1 loss at second seeded John Carroll in the semifinal round of the Ohio Athletic Conference Men's Soccer Tournament Wednesday at Don Shula Stadium.
John Carroll wasted no time getting on the board early, as their leading goal scorer Brian Potocnik would score in the first minute of action to take a 1-0 lead.
Matt Brodman would score in the 33rd minute to give the Blue Streaks a 2-0 lead going into the half.
The Raiders would come within one as Colin Combs would score in the 76th minute, but the Blue Streaks would hold Mount Union to a 2-1 final.
In goal for the Raiders, freshman Dylan Lias faced eight shots on goal, while John Carroll's Zach Fehrenbach faced 10 shots on goal.
Mount Union finishes the season with a 12-9 overall record, and third in the conference.
John Carroll (15-3-1) advances to the championship round of the OAC Tournament against top-seeded Ohio Northern Saturday.
MU Women's Soccer Suffers Loss to Otterbein in First Round of the OAC Tournament
WESTERVILLE, OH - November 5, 2013 - Fifth seeded Mount Union ended its season with a 1-0 loss at fourth seeded Otterbein in the first round of Ohio Athletic Conference Women’s Soccer Tournament Tuesday at Clements Field.
Neither team was able to generate any goals in the first 45 minutes of action, as Otterbein outshot Mount Union 9-4.
It wasn’t until the 77th minute off a corner kick, that Madison Burchfield would head the ball into the net off a corner kick, to give Otterbein the 1-0 victory.
In goal for the Purple Raiders, junior Maria Favorite faced only two shots on goal, while Otterbein’s Dana Strimbu faced three shots on goal.
Mount Union’s season ends with a 12-6-2 record as the 12 victories are a school single-season record while Favorite matched the school single season shutout record with 10.
Otterbein (12-6-1) advances to the semifinal round of the OAC Tournament against top-seeded Capital Thursday at 2 pm in Columbus.
UA Women's Soccer FInishes Out Season
AKRON, OH - October 31, 2013 - The University of Akron (5-11-3, 2-4-1) wrapped up the 2013 season on a rain-drenched Thursday afternoon with a 2-1 loss to Mid-American Conference opponent the University at Buffalo (6-9-3, 3-7-1) at FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field.
The Bulls struck first on the scoreboard with a goal at the 3:57 mark by Karen McMahon to give UB a 1-0 advantage early into the first.
Despite the early goal, junior Lani Smith scored the match-tying goal in the ninth minute. Smith finished the season with nine goals and two assists to give her a total of 20 points this season. Her 20-point season ranks tied for third in program history for points in a season, while her nine goals ties the single season record for Akron women's soccer.
Buffalo fought back quickly to attain their second lead of the afternoon. Kristin Markiewicz netted an unassisted goal from the top of the box at the 12:29 mark, which would bring the match to its final score of 2-1.
Goalkeeper Alex Luevano-Harden started the match, and saw her record fall to 1-7-0 in the decision. She also recorded a pair of saves in the contest.
The Zips defense had a strong performance on Sunday in spite of the goals scored by the Bulls. UA held Buffalo to two shots in the second half and just one corner kick overall in the match. Defenders Katie George, Gillian Gross, Brianna Kanz and Maggie Rusnak remained on the pitch for the duration of the match.
Akron finished the season with 21 goals and 17 assists, good for a total of 59 points in 2013.
USWNT Draws with New Zealand
Photos by Kevin Cross/ISNSoccer.com
COLUMBUS, OH - October 30, 2013 - The U.S. Women’s National Team, led by a Sydney Leroux first-half goal, played New Zealand to a gritty 1-1 draw in front of 15,139 fans at Columbus Crew Stadium.
The match was the second in four days against the Football Ferns with the U.S. earning a 4-1 victory on Oct. 27 in San Francisco, but New Zealand was able to salvage a draw this time with a late tally from forward Hannah Wilkinson.
The U.S. players will now have a few days off before getting back together in Orlando, Fla., in preparation to face Brazil on Nov. 10 at the Florida Citrus Bowl. Kickoff is at 3:30 p.m. ET in a match that will be broadcast live on NBC. Fans can also follow on ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker and on Twitter @ussoccer_wnt.
The U.S. is currently 12-0-3 in 2013 and has a chance to complete the year with double-digit victories and zero losses for just the second time in WNT history. The only other year was in 2006 when the U.S. Women posted an 18-0-4 record.
The U.S. generated a multitude of scoring chances in the first half and Leroux was finally able to capitalize in the 42nd minute. With her back to the goal, Leroux received the ball from Kristie Mewis well outside the box and made a gliding spin to her left, eluding several New Zealand defenders. After several touches, Leroux fired a low strike into the left corner past New Zealand goalkeeper Erin Nayler.
It was Leroux’s eighth goal of the year, tying her for second on the team this year with Christen Press. Mewis notched her second assist in nine appearances in 2013.
It appeared the U.S. was headed toward back-to-back wins against New Zealand, but Wilkinson spoiled those plans in the 87th minute. Wilkinson had been denied a great chance in the 54th minute when Hope Solo made a clutch save, but she managed to squeeze her shot home this time. She received a pass from Rebekah Stott down the right side and then shot to the far left corner past Solo for the equalizer.
The U.S. had the majority of the game’s scoring chances, out-shooting New Zealand 14-6, but put just five shots on goal, The USA’s first big moment came following a handball by New Zealand’s Ria Percival inside the penalty area. Percival tried to intercept Heather O’Reilly’s cross directed toward Leroux, but the ball bounced up and struck her arm. Wambach took the penalty kick in the 10th minute, but Nayler was moving to her right during the run-up and batted the ball away to keep things scoreless.
Wambach had a great look at the goal off of a Mewis cross from the left wing in the 26th minute, but her header hit the crossbar and New Zealand’s defense was able to clear the ball out of danger. Wambach had another header in the 34th minute off of Megan Rapinoe’s corner kick, but once again the world’s leading goal scorer just missed the frame.
New Zealand changed goalkeepers to open the second half, going with 40-year-old veteran and Belleville, Ill., native Jenny Bindon. Bindon also was able to hold Wambach at bay, saving a 53rd-minute header attempt off a O’Reilly’s cross from the right side.
Match and Training Photos
Crew Fight But Fall in Season Finale
Content by Gary L. Moody Jr.
Photos by Jeff Gossel/ISNSoccer.com
COLUMBUS, OH - October 27, 2013 - The Columbus Crew put forth a massive effort, but still fell to the New England Revolution 1-0 on Sunday. The win gave the visitors a berth in the playoffs after knocking the Crew out of the postseason a little over a week ago.
“When you are down a goal, make a couple of subs, and move some guys around the field, you lose your continuity,” Crew Interim Head Coach Brian Bliss commented. “The game was very sporadic, choppy in terms of flow. There was no rhythm.”
Things started well for Columbus with a 3rd minute shot from Dominic Oduro, the team leader in goals with 13. Revolution keeper Matt Reis was there to stop the attempt, starting a solid night in goal.
There was a lot of back and forth until Juan Agudelo struck for the Revs in the 28th minute. The play started with some intricate passes and combination play with Lee Nguyen, ending in a give-and-go and a goal.
The Crew’s Bernardo Anor got involved with an acrobatic play of his own about 15 minutes later, executing a scissor kick that sent the shot just over the crossbar. Things began to fizzle out as the Revs carried their 1-0 lead into halftime.
The home side didn’t take long to get started on the attack. Agustin Viana was set up nicely by Jairo Arrieta a few minutes into the second half, but his shot was off the mark.
Ryan Finley took on Reis in a 1v1 situation in the 78th minute, but the veteran netminder made yet another fine stop.
The Crew were unable to find the equalizer as the finishing was a bit off on the night. Even eight minutes of stoppage was of no help, especially after a red card to Oduro left the Crew a man down for the final minutes of the match.
The match was very physical with Aaron Schoenfeld (head injury) and Bernardo Anor (illness) both leaving the match after leaving everything on the pitch. The Columbus substitutes failed to make much of an impact despite a lot of effort on the part of all the players.
“It’s not an easy feeling,” Crew defender Josh Williams stated. “We fought hard for Brian. I hope he knows that. It’s important we left it out on the field. We showed whoever is coming in and the new ownership that we fought hard.”
Williams and Crew goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum both made solid contributions on the pitch after missing long stretches due to injury.
“You don’t know how good this game is and how much you appreciate it until it is taken away from you,” Williams added. “Not being able to play really gave me new energy; it really made me appreciate the game. It felt awesome to come out and play in front of the fans.”
The Crew face an uncertain offseason where they may find themselves with a new head coach and a lot of difficult personnel decisions. Momentum is certainly on the side of Columbus, a team that has made strides in many areas. A strong crowd of 17,505 was on hand for the finale, giving the organization a bright spot to work from.
U.S. MNT Wins Hexagonal After Beating Jamaica 2-0
Photos by Jeff Gossel/ISNSoccer.com
KANSAS CITY, KS - October 13, 2013 - The U.S. Men’s National Team utilized a second-half attacking surge to secure a 2-0 win against Jamaica that clinched the top spot in the Hexagonal for a third straight FIFA World Cup Qualifying cycle. The match was played in front of a sold-out crowd of 18,467 at Sporting Park.
The U.S. victory, combined with Costa Rica’s 1-0 loss to Honduras earlier in the evening, made the Americans’ spot atop the final CONCACAF qualifying group unassailable with one match left to play.
The U.S. sits atop the group with 19 points (6-2-1), followed by Costa Rica (4-2-3, 15 points) and Honduras (4-3-2, 14 points). The USA and Costa Rica have qualified for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and Honduras has assured itself at least a spot in a playoff against the Oceania region representative New Zealand.
Midfielder Graham Zusi, who stars for Major League Soccer’s Sporting Kansas City, and forward Jozy Altidore provided the scoring punch with goals in the 77th and 81st minutes, respectively. The victory provided the USA with a perfect 5-0-0 record in home qualifying games during this cycle. The USA out-scored its opposition 8-0 over the five matches.
Goalkeeper Tim Howard, who wore the captain’s armband, earned the his 33rd international clean sheet to move into sole possession of second place all-time ahead of National Soccer Hall of Famer Tony Meola.
The U.S. MNT will wrap up 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifying on the road against Panama on Tuesday, Oct. 15, at Estadio Rommel Fernandez in Panama City. The game kicks off at 9:30 p.m. ET and will be broadcast live on beIN SPORT. Fans can also follow on ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker and on Twitter @ussoccer.
During the match, U.S. Soccer announced that the U.S. MNT would be playing Austria on Nov. 19 in Vienna. Further game details will be announced shortly. The USA will also face Scotland at the famed Hampden Park on Nov. 15 at 3 p.m. ET on ESPN2, WatchESPN and UniMas.
After a subpar first half, the Americans turned up the heat in front of an appreciative crowd during the second half and finally broke through with 13 minutes left in the game. It was Zusi, a halftime substitute for Landon Donovan, who delighted his hometown fans, cutting a low shot into the lower left corner off an assist from Alejandro Bedoya.
Altidore sealed Jamaica’s fate with an 81st-minute goal, easily finishing a left-footed shot into a wide open net after Edgar Castillo calmly crossed the ball in from the left side with a rolling pass just above the six-yard box. Altidore’s 21stinternational goal moved him into a tie with Bruce Murray for sixth on the all-time MNT scoring list.
Jamaica’s best scoring threat actually came on the final shot of the game as Theo Robinson’s close-range blast from the right side was batted away by Howard to preserve the shutout. The USA has now posted 10 shutouts in 2013. Howard made five saves as he improved to 8-2-0 on the year with four shutouts.
On to the World Cup
Content by Daniel Rogers
Photos by Kevin Cross/ISNSoccer.com
COLUMBUS, OH - September 10, 2013 - As the clock ticked down and the World Cup qualifying match against Mexico came closer and closer to starting, the U.S. Men’s National Team fans were chanting three simple words.
“Dos a cero.”
Before the match the U.S. had beaten Mexico 2-0 in each of their past three matches at Crew Stadium.
After Tuesday night’s match, the “dos a cero” run stands at four.
A 49th minute goal from Eddie Johnson and a Landon Donovan score in the 79th gave the U.S. the 2-0 victory of their archrivals. A 1-0 victory by Honduras against Panama clinched a trip to Brazil for the U.S. for the World Cup.
Scoreless in the first half, Mexico dominated play, creating chance after chance and almost going ahead were it not for a few majestic saves from U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard.
As the teams trotted back into the locker rooms things were looking bleak for the Yanks, who were missing midfield general Michael Bradley to injury and forward Jozy Altidore to yellow card accumulation.
Four minutes after the restart, a corner kick delivered by Donovan was picked out by Johnson, who powered the ball into the back of the net to open the scoring.
Later in the half the Donovan was found by substitute Mix Diskerud right in front of goal and calmly played into the top corner to secure the victory for the home side.
Captain Clint Dempsey would step up to take a penalty in the 94th minute, but failed to convert on the opportunity.
The score line tells a different story than actually took place on the field, as for large stretches of the match Mexico was in control, particularly in the first half the U.S. was lacking a creative touch it had found over the summer during a 12-match winning streak.
Fabian Johnson started the match at right-back, but was substituted at halftime after sustaining a left knee sprain late in the half. Eddie Johnson also left midway through the second half after falling to the turf because of a collision with Dempsey.
The U.S.’s record all-time against Mexico in Columbus improves to 7-3-0 with the victory. It is also the seventh straight cycle that the U.S. has qualified for the World Cup.
Subside Sports Man of the Match: Landon Donovan and Tim Howard, USMNT
It is really impossible to decide between two of the stars for the U.S. on the night. In the first half Mexico created three or four chances that would have opened the scoring were it not for the Everton keeper. While Howard kept the team in the match by preventing goals, Donovan was the main push forward for the U.S., tallying an assist and a goal against El Tri. If the stars continue to play at this level the U.S. could challenge going ahead in the World Cup.
Allstate at the USA vs. Mexico Match
RVA Wins National Title
Content by Gary L. Moody Jr.
Photo by Willie Riefner
RICHMOND, VA - August 4, 2013 - RVA FC claimed the 2013 NPSL National Championship with a 2-0 win over the visiting Sonoma County Sol.
“To do it in your first year, as an expansion team, is something pretty special,” RVA assistant coach Don Hughes commented. “It is a testament to these boys. It’s amazing to be around.”
It was a fast-paced match with two attacking sides. Simply put, it was 90 minutes of exciting soccer.
A goal in the 18th minute by RVA forward Josh Grant, assisted by Todd Wharton, got things started for the home side. Grant scored from 30 yards to put RVA up 1-0, a score that they took into the locker room at halftime.
RVA’s second goal came from Manel Bel in the 88th. Bel, whose father played for legendary Spanish side FC Barcelona, pushed the rebound over Sonoma keeper James Del Curto to seal the victory for Richmond.
The Sol had plenty of opportunities of their own as they pressured RVA for the entire match.
Sol defender Taylor Varnadore, who scored the game-winner on a bicycle kick against FC LVU Sonic in the National Semifinals, nearly was the hero again as his shot just missed in the 57th minute. Fellow Sonoma defender Cody Martin had a shot clank off the post just 10 minutes later. Both were solid opportunities that gave Sol fans hope until the final whistle.
The match was truly a showcase for the high quality of play of NPSL. Almost 1500 fans enjoyed a great atmosphere and lots of entertaining soccer.
RVA’s national title was quite an accomplishment, considering that they were in their first year in the NPSL.
“It means the world to us,” RVA defender/midfielder Ryan Zinkhan stated. “All the hard work paid off for us. Sonoma were attacking us and putting pressuring against us and we were on our heels for a little bit, but we came together as a team and pulled out the win.”
AS Roma Beats MLS All-Stars in Impressive Fashion
Content/Photo by Robert Ivory
KANSAS CITY, KS - July 31, 2013 - All the glitz and glamour was on hand Wednesday night in Kansas City, as the MLS All-Stars lost 3-1 to Serie A heavyweights AS Roma in front of 21,175 fans, a new Sporting Park attendance record. It marked the 10th time the MLS played an international side in an All-Star game (7-2-1) and marked the fourth loss in the past five years for the All-Star squad.
"It was a good match against a great MLS team," Roma head coach Rudi Garcia said via an interpreter after the match. "We still have a lot to work on, seeing how we did not keep a clean sheet. They were a very strong side and for us to win is a good sign. It was important for it to be like a league game and to beat a strong side was really important."
Goals came from Kevin Strootman, Alessandro Florenzi, and Junior Tallo, while Omar Gonzalez notched the only MLS goal in extra time.
"I really appreciate that AS Roma was willing to come in and play this match," MLS All-Star and Sporting KC head coach Peter Vermes mentioned. "It's important for us to have high class opponents in this game and they were obviously great tonight. It was great for the fans to see and the players did a great job of representing their MLS clubs on and off the field."
Hometown defender Matt Besler said of the event: "We look forward the most as players is facing these guys all season long, but you never get to sit down with them, that's an exciting part for us players. We get to come together for a few days and have some fun, that's what I will remember."
Many storylines swirled around the All-Star match, but none was more prominent than former MLS player, member of the USMNT, and current AS Roma midfielder Michael Bradley making his return to the States.
"This was a good chance for us to go against a good team in a great environment to move ourselves forward," the midfielder remarked. "There was motivation since I play against guys who are teammates on the national team, a lot of friends. It's motivation and to come with your club team knowing that these are talented guys and it's uplifting."
Bradley would play all 90 minutes and added an assist.
The Roman squad got off to a terrific start as newly signed Dutch international Kevin Strootman scored just four minutes into the match. Strootman was hit perfectly in stride with a ball from Alessandro Florenzi that beat the MLS center backs. The ball took a slight deflection off a sliding Aurelien Colin, a Sporting KC defender, but still beat FC Dallas keeper Raul Fernandez for the early 1-0 lead.
"We scored quickly and it helps us in the game, and after that, not too many problems. We were lucky were could score the goal and wait a little bit," the Dutchman said.
Roma followed after the half with a goal from Florenzi, who put away a right-footed shot from the cross of Federico Balzaretti past RSL's Nick Rimando, fresh off a CONCACAF Gold Cup Championship. The Romans followed with a goal in the 67th minute from Tallo, as the Italian side controlled the ball in the attacking third and a series on sharp passes (starting with Bradley and finishing with a center pass from Strootman), as the Ivorian Tallo had no problems lifting his squad to a 3-0 lead.
"We played really well and I am happy that the third goal was collectively a team goal," Garcia remarked about his squad's final goal.
Finally, in extra time, LA Galaxy's Omar Gonzalez broke up the clean sheet with a difficult header off an in swinging free kick from the Vancouver Whitecaps' Camilo.
"I don't think that the result was the key focus," Vermes said. "It was really about a vision that becomes a reality. When you look at the overall picture of the past few days, it's a first class experience and great event, we're not losing three points, so it was a great opportunity to show Sporting and Kansas City."
As for the player's reaction about KC, everyone was very positive about their experience:
"It was nice to see the supporters fill the stadium, always singing, it was very special to play in this kind of game. It was very good to be here." - Roma midfielder Kevin Strootman
"It comes very close (to the supporters in Seattle), of course I have to give it to my hometown, but Kansas City was great. The fans are amazing and a lot better than I expected. So kudos to them." - Seattle Sounders defender DeAndre Yedlin
"They are a class act here. I think this was a big week for everyone, and everyone will learn from this. it was odd being on the home side in this place. You are doing the national anthem, but you don't know anybody, but they are cheering for you. It was fun and I thought the fans were incredible, so it was fun to be on the home side. " - Real Salt Lake midfielder Kyle Beckerman
"Everybody's a Winner"
Content by Gary L. Moody Jr.
Photo Credit: Joe Foughty/ISNSoccer.com
PITTSBURGH, PA - July 19, 2013 - The words from Wigan Athletic manager Owen Coyle could not have been more true.
Wigan Athletic finished their U.S.tour with a 4-1 win over USL PRO side Pittsburgh Riverhounds. Over 4,000 passionate fans turned out to see the FA Cup Champions take on their local team. The game had a great atmosphere: a beautiful new facility, the skyline and the rivers as a backdrop, and fireworks for the fans afterwards.
Simply put, this is a thriving soccer market. That’s not easy, considering this area is the home of American football. Something’s happening and that something is the Pittsburgh Riverhounds and the beautiful game.
The start of the match was delayed about 15 minutes due to severe weather passing through the area., but it was the Riverhounds who struck first when the action finally started. Jose Angulo launched a strike from distance in the 3rd minute, catching Latics keeper Lee Nicholls by surprise. Coyle called the score a “wonder goal,” which was certainly justified.
But the home team’s lead was extremely short-lived.
Ohio State product Roger Espinoza equalized 8 minutes later, which was just the beginning for the Wigan attack. James McArthur, whose great speed caused the Pittsburgh defense fits all night long, got credit for the assist.
Emerson Boyce made it 2-1 in favor of Wigan in the 28th with an assist from Ben Watson. It was a beautiful sequence of events, Watson with a brilliant free kick that found the head of Boyce, who put it past the Pittsburgh keeper with ease. It was a textbook play executed to perfection.
2-1 would be the score at halftime as both sides headed for the locker room.
Wigan didn’t let up in the second half with Jean Beausejour setting up Grant Holt to further their lead to 3-1 minutes just three minutes into the second half.
The biggest moment came roared in the 81st minute when CEO Jason Kutney entered as a substitute. It was just his third appearance of the 2013 season, which is understandable considering all of his front office responsibilities. The crowd roared for the veteran midfielder, who surely hasn’t seen the field as much as he would have liked.
“He has to be the busiest man in America,” Riverhounds goalkeeper Hunter Gilstrap stated. “Jason is the heart and soul of the franchise. He is the Pittsburgh Riverhounds.”
The 88th minute saw the score change again to 4-1 thanks to a Jordi Gomez strike. This would be the final score as the match ended just moments later.
The score could have been much worse, but the Riverhounds kept things reasonable. That’s all you can really ask for.
The Pittsburgh players knew the quality they were up against, but continued to play their hearts out. There was certainly a mutual respect between the two sides that made the match that much more enjoyable.
“We’d come back in a heartbeat,” Coyle commented. “I have no doubt about it. We certainly know there is quality in the U.S.”
The journey back to the EPL began in the U.S. as the Latics built fitness and prepared themselves for a marathon of a season, a season that could include 60+ games.
“We will use our experience and expertise to make sure we get through that,” Coyle added. “Will it be tough? Absolutely. The goal is to be back in the EPL, where everyone wants to be.”
Coyle is bringing in reinforcements to make that goal a reality, including bringing in at least 4 more new players in the very near future. He has already signed 7 new players to add to the remnants of last year’s squad. Espinoza, McArthur, and James McCarthy all seemed to benefit from the U.S. tour; hopefully their success in the States will translate to some playing time back in the Championship.