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Roller-coaster Hounds earn first point of 2019

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Hounds goalkeeper Ben Lundgaard – SWOPE PARK RANGERS

The Riverhounds were definitely going to win. Then, they were definitely going to lose. In the end, however, the Hounds fought to a 2-2 tie against the Swope Park Rangers in Kansas City, earning one point for their up-and-down efforts.

After a 2-0 defeat to the Tampa Bay Rowdies in their season opener, the Hounds needed to rebound, and that plan was in motion early Saturday in Kansas. Fueled by some brilliance from goalkeeper Ben Lundgaard, the Hounds warded off the Swope Park Rangers' early attacks and headed into the half locked at zero.

But let's talk about Lundgaard again for a second. The Hounds acquired the 23-year-old keeper on loan from the MLS' Columbus Crew SC before the start of the 2019 campaign, and plenty of question marks surrounded him ahead of this matchup. While he was selected 21st overall in the 2018 SuperDraft, Lundgaard was sent on loan to Indy Eleven that same year before undergoing thumb surgery, causing him to miss 11 games. He never made an appearance for either team, which raised plenty of eyebrows when the Hounds announced the acquisition.

His collegiate career at Virginia Tech is a decorated one — 23 career shutouts, 12 starts as a freshman, 70 total starts, first-team All-ACC — but would all that translate to the pro level?

Decide for yourself:

Not convinced? Decide again:

He wasn't perfect throughout, but Lundgaard showed an ability to make game-changing plays in goal, something the Hounds will need if they want to surpass last season's first-round playoff exit. They'll also need to start, you know, winning games, but the progress was evident Saturday.

After that tense first half, the floodgates opened in this match, kicking — err, heading — off with this beauty from Hounds defender Tobi Adewole in the 71st minute:

Undeterred, the Swope Park Rangers fired back — twice. Rodney Wallace, a loanee from MLS' Sporting Kansas City, struck first with a blast in the 83rd minute, then another loanee, Kelyn Rowe, beat Lundgaard from the six-yard box in the 88th minute to take the lead.

That's not the way to protect a lead. For a team focused on execution and dotted i's, this was not the intended result. Hounds Head Coach Bob Lilley acknowledged that point postgame.

"It’s never ideal to drop points from a winning position," he said. "But I think based on the team we played [we] improved this week. Hopefully, if we improve again next week, we get all three points.”

Following the mini collapse in the final minutes, things looked dire for the Hounds. However, rookie midfielder Anthony Velarde subbed in for defender Jordan Dover after Rowe's goal — a decision that immediately proved vital. With the game winding down, Christian Volesky drew a red card from the Swope Park Rangers' Mo Abualnadi, awarding the Hounds with a penalty kick.

Enter Velarde:

Not a bad way to make your debut, eh?

Ultimately, that goal saved the point for the Hounds, who now head into a matchup with Bethlehem Steel FC (1-2-0) — the team that eliminated them from the playoffs last season — next Saturday, March 30, in Chester, Pa.

Rookie defender Caleb Smith made his professional debut in the 75th minute, subbing in for forward Neco Brett.

•  The Hounds had more total shots (12) than the Swope Park Rangers (8), but the Rangers put five on target to the Hounds' four.

•  Lundgaard made three saves, giving him a .600 save percentage in his first professional start.

•  Steevan Dos Santos generated the Hounds' lone shot on goal in the first half.

• Next week's matchup vs. Bethlehem Steel FC will mark the Hounds' first visit to Talen Energy Stadium.

• The home opener, when it finally arrives, is April 13.

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Full highlights from the Hounds' tie against the Swope Park Rangers:

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