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Hounds bring extra bite to beat champs in Louisville

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Neco Brett rams home his penalty kick Saturday night in Louisville, Ky. - LOUISVILLE CITY FC

Want to watch the Riverhounds notch their first victory of 2019 in, oh, 10 seconds?

Enjoy:

With that blast from Neco Brett, the Hounds took down Louisville City FC, 1-0, Saturday night, earning three points for their efforts. And with the victory, a 1-1-2 road run to open the season finally reached its end.

On the surface, this may seem disappointing for a team that didn't lose until its 11th match last season, but the Hounds' latest is a win that inspires hope for their upcoming campaign. Defeating the back-to-back USL champions on the road is always a big deal, but to do it the way the Hounds did it? That's even sweeter.

"It’s not easy to shut Louisville down or limit their chances, and I thought we did a pretty good job of that," Hounds coach Bob Lilley said after the match.

Indeed, the Hounds gave up just one shot on target — a header from Louisville City FC midfielder Magnus Rasmussen in the 77th minute — and Ben Lundgaard shut it down. For a team that hasn't yet found its groove offensively, performances like that will go a long way toward keeping them competitive in the Eastern Conference standings, where they're currently 10th.

The good news on that front: The Hounds haven't allowed more than two goals in any match this season, and the offense is coming. Following the win in Louisville, Lilley was already mentioning where they need to improve, and it's nothing fancy or impossible by any stretch.

"I think if we play a little bit better in terms of our possession, maybe there are more goals," he said.

From week one's loss to the Tampa Bay Rowdies to the back-to-back ties against the Swope Park Rangers and Bethlehem Steel FC to tonight's victory over Louisville City FC, the Hounds' progress in 2019 is evident. Each match, they're getting closer to their dominant 2018 form. Tonight, those strides were not lost on Lilley.

"We were a little bit more connected," Lilley said. "The balance we had getting forward, but also defending well as a group was better than it has been. We won the tackles. We won the headers. I think we showed some good moments of quality."

Of course, the key word there is "some." Lilley and the Hounds aren't kicking back, lighting cigars and popping bottles by any means. This is one win in a long, long season, and even in victory, they lost the possession battle — 59 percent to 41 percent — and they committed more turnovers — two to zero — than Louisville City. And yeah, one goal off a PK isn't going to get it done down the stretch, either.

There's work to be done as the team prepares for its home opener Saturday against Hartford Athletic. But if they can make progress and carry this momentum onto that fresh Highmark Stadium turf, fans could be in for a show. Hartford is 0-5 on the year, getting shut out in three of those games and scoring just one goal apiece in the other two. In total, they've been outscored 11-2 this year, and they're dead last in the Eastern Conference standings.

If there's a time for the Hounds to unleash, this is it.

• Upper St. Clair's own, midfielder Robbie Mertz, logged his first professional minutes for the Hounds, subbing on for midfielder Anthony Velarde in the 77th minute.

•  While Louisville City FC officially tallied one shot on target, Lundgaard made a second save in the 30th minute, punching a shot from midfielder Oscar Jimenez out of harm's way.

•  Louisville City FC out-passed the Hounds 432-307 and did so at a more accurate clip: 70 percent to 57 percent.

•  The first 3,000 fans through the gates at Highmark Stadium Saturday will receive a free schedule magnet via K-Love.

• Tickets are available for that match right here.

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