PITTSBURGH – Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC clinched its place in the 2021 USL Championship Playoffs with a 2-0 victory against the Tampa Bay Rowdies on Sunday night at Highmark Stadium as the hosts ended the Rowdies’ nine-game winning streak on goals by Tommy Williamson and Russell Cicerone in either half and a key second-half penalty save by goalkeeper Danny Vitiello.
The Hounds opened on the front foot and almost took the lead in the ninth minute when Shane Wiedt pushed into the attacking third on the right and delivered a cross that Todd Wharton volleyed just over the crossbar. Nine minutes later the hosts had another opportunity when Russell Cicerone cut a pass back to Williamson, but his shot hit teammate Kenardo Forbes in front of the net and was cleared to safety by Tampa Bay’s defense.
The Rowdies’ first good chance arrived in the 25th minute as from a central set piece, Lewis Hilton delivered a ball into the left side of the penalty area where Forrest Lasso headed across goal for Steevan Dos Santos, whose header hit the underside of the crossbar and came down in front of the goal line before the Hounds were able to clear.
The hosts continued to look more threatening overall, though, and on the half-hour mark a slide-rule pass by Alex Dixon bisected three defenders to pick out the run of Cicerone, whose shot was smothered by the Rowdies’ Evan Louro as he quickly came off his line. Three minutes before the break the Hounds struck, though, as a cross from the left by Preston Kilwien wasn’t cleared by Jordan Scarlett, allowing the ball to come to Williamson for a close-range finish into the right side of the net.
Tampa Bay was given a big chance to pull level 11 minutes into the second half as Dayonn Harris played a through-ball for Dos Santos that he lifted past Vitiello and was brought down in the penalty area. Leo Fernandes stepped up to the spot, but his shot the bottom-right corner was saved by Vitiello before the rebound was sent over the crossbar by Juan Tejada.
Pittsburgh had a chance to add to its lead soon after when Forbes lifted a pass to Dixon in the right side of the penalty area only for his shot to hit the side-netting outside the near post. Williamson then had a chance on a counterattack but lifted his shot wide of the right upright as Louro came off his line to challenge. The Hounds earned a penalty kick of their own with 16 minutes to go, however, as Dixon was brought down just inside the top of the penalty area by Lasso and Cicerone shot home to the right corner of the net for his 15th goal of the season as Louro went the opposite way.
The visitors went close to pulling a goal back with seven minutes to go as Hilton curled a free kick from beyond the top-right edge of the penalty area toward the left corner where Vitiello parried the ball wide for a corner kick, but the Hounds held firm late on to secure all three points and a fourth consecutive trip to the postseason.
USLChampionship.com Man of the Match
Danny Vitiello, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC – Vitiello made a key penalty kick save to keep the hosts ahead early in the second half and finished with a four-save shutout as the Hounds took a big victory on home turf.
PIT – Tommy Williamson 42’
PIT – Russell Cicerone (Penalty Kick) 74’