As Louisville City FC played away to Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC in marking its fifth game in 15 days, well, the boys in purple looked much like a group forced to play five times in 15 days.
To add, one of the USL Championship’s top-scoring sides was confined to Highmark Stadium — smaller than its normal Lynn Family Stadium pitch, and over turf as opposite to natural grass. It all amounted to a scoreless draw Saturday with host Riverhounds SC.
“I’m extremely proud of the group tonight,” said coach Danny Cruz. “This has been a difficult stretch. This is a tough place to go and play, and I’m sure you can tell watching the game we can’t play the football we want to play here. But I asked the group to fight and give all they could before the match, and I certainly felt that they did that.”
With the result, City (18-5-6, 60 points) increased its Eastern Conference lead over Memphis 901 FC. The boys in purple have already clinched a spot in the 2022 USL Championship Playoffs, and over the regular season’s final five games they’ll look to solidify an opening-round bye that comes with the No. 1 seed.
A return game against Pittsburgh (15-7-7, 52 points) — LouCity claimed a 2-0 lead back in April at Lynn Family Stadium — came on the heels of a midweek draw at FC Tulsa following a victory last weekend over Sacramento Republic FC.
Cruz elected for five changes as a combination of injuries and fatigue continue to impact LouCity’s lineup. Two early substitutions — defender Wes Charpie left in the 21st minute and Manny Perez at halftime — further complicated the manager’s task Saturday.
“It was a great feeling coming on the field,” said Josh Wynder, who replaced Charpie to mark his first appearance since July coming off an ankle injury. “The boys helped me out. Everyone fought, and we knew this was going to be a tough game. For us to get a shutout was a great experience.
“…I’m definitely very close to 100%. I’ll be ready if my number’s called again.”
Neither side generated what Stats Perform deemed a “Big Chance” over the first 90 minutes, and Pittsburgh didn’t land a shot on frame until the second half. Riverhounds SC nearly nabbed three points late, though, when Edward Kizza slipped in behind the defense deep into stoppage time. Goalkeeper Kyle Morton came out to make the save, sealing his 12th clean sheet of the year.
The game’s other scoring opportunity came in the 53rd minute as LouCity struggled to handle a Pittsburgh cross into the box. Oscar Jimenez’s touch sent the ball heading toward the goal, it bounced off the post, and Sean Totsch cleared it away.
“I thought there were some really good individual performances defensively,” Cruz said. “We needed to get back to shutouts. There were a couple of big moments and big plays we made to keep that zero. I can’t speak highly enough of the group in (the locker room) right now.
“Ultimately, the rest of the season is in our control, and I’m really, really proud of the response from the game in Tulsa.”
City’s best look arguably came in the 26th minute. Amadou Dia, working in transition, flicked a cross to the back post and saw Wilson Harris chase it down, turn and fire to force a save. Brian Ownby and then Wilson Harris also tried shots that hit top netting into first half stoppage time.
Oscar Jimenez put a header on target as well in the 80th minute, attempting to finish off a free kick from out wide. It was saved to thwart the only other real look by the boys in purple.
“We created a small amount of chances for sure, but a lot of teams do that here,” Cruz said. “…If everybody looks at the work that these guys have had to put in the last five games in a difficult stretch — to see the response from the group, to see the fight from the group, to see the willingness to go out and make sure we get a result out of it — it’s fantastic.”
The schedule normalizes from here on out. With just one exception, LouCity will play weekend to weekend through the end of the regular season starting next Saturday when it hosts Loudoun United FC for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff at Lynn Family Stadium.
Game Summary: Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC vs. Louisville City FC
Date: Sept. 10, 2022
Venue: Highmark Stadium
Kickoff: 7 p.m.
Weather: 72 degrees, cloudy
Player of the Match: Kyle Morton
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (0, 0, 0)
Louisville City FC (0, 0, 0)
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC: 26 — Jahmali Waite, 27 — Jelani Peters, 5 — Mekeil Williams, 15 — Arturo Ordonez, 6 — Angelo Kelly, 14 — Robbie Mertz (87’ 18 — Marc Ybarra), 11 — Kenardo Forbes, 12 — Daniel Griffin, 7 — Alex Dixon (74’ 21 — Luis Argudo), 10 — Russell Cicerone (74’ 17 — Edward Kizza), 9 — Albert Dikwa
Subs not used: 1 — Kevin Silva, 4 — Dani Rovira, 16 — Toby Sims, 29 — Dane Kelly
Head Coach: Bob Lilley
Louisville City FC: 1 – Kyle Morton, 15 – Manny Perez (46’ 19 — Oscar Jimenez), 6 – Wes Charpie (21’ 66 — Josh Wynder), 4 – Sean Totsch, 3 – Amadou Dia, 12 – Tyler Gibson, 36 – Paolo DelPiccolo, 9 — Jorge Gonzalez (92’ 23 — Elijah Wynder), 77 — Enoch Mushagalusa (69’ 21 — Ray Serrano), 14 — Wilson Harris, 10 – Brian Ownby
Subs not used: 18 – Danny Faundez, 32 — Ian Soler, 7 — Napo Matsoso
Head Coach: Danny Cruz
Stats Summary: Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC / Louisville City FC
Shots: 7 / 8
Shots on Goal: 2 / 2
Possession: 50.5% / 49.5%
Fouls: 19 / 17
Offside: 7 / 1
Corner Kicks: 6 / 2
Louisville City FC:
15’ Wes Charpie (yellow)
45’ Josh Wynder (yellow)
60’ Oscar Jimenez (yellow)
72’ Jorge Gonzalez (yellow)
81’ Paolo DelPiccolo (yellow)
Referee: Ethan Buege