Hounds

Hounds tie Nashville SC with furious comeback

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Hounds defender Ryan James celebrates after helping tie the game vs. Nashville SC. – MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

"They can still come back. I can feel it, man."

Our own Matt Sunday said that to me Saturday night on the turf at Highmark Stadium, and I chuckled. At that point, the Riverhounds trailed Nashville SC 2-0 midway through the second half, and it wasn't just the score that painted a bleak picture. It was everything happening on the pitch.

It was this:

And this:

Offensive performances like that don't win matches at any level. The Hounds registered zero shots in the first half, and when they did finally find space and opportunity to launch 'em in the second, the result initially wasn't pretty:

So it wasn't that I didn't believe in my dude Sunday, it was that everything happening in front of me said 3-0 or 4-0 Nashville was a more likely outcome than the Hounds mounting any sort of comeback. At the half, Nashville SC rang up six shots — including four within the box — and they dominated play in general, consistently forcing the Hounds into poor passes and decisions. The home team's gameplan consisted of lobbing the ball somewhere toward forward Steevan Dos Santos then... praying.

Think I'm exaggerating?

"I mean, the first half I don’t think we recorded a shot," Hounds head coach Bob Lilley was telling me postgame. "We played in front and we hit long balls and we hit hopeful balls into the box for one guy, Dos Santos." 

Then came the late substitutions, and everything changed.

Forward Christian Volesky entered the game for Dos Santos in the 65th minute, and Nashville SC scored almost immediately after on this nifty bit of work:

However, it was all Hounds from there. They owned 60.6 percent of possession in the second half and registered three shots, including this beauty from Volesky himself in the 87th minute that opened the floodgates and paved the way for the Hounds' late push:

"It's an instinctual goal," Volesky was telling media after the game. "I couldn't put my foot on it, but Bob tells me all the time it's easier to get your head on those types of goals. Just instincts, you know? Lucky to be in the right place at the right time."

To hear him use that word — lucky — is interesting, because to head coach Bob Lilley, it's exactly the type of play Volesky makes every day in practice. It's the type of hustle and grit he's used to seeing from No. 12, and it's what he expected when he put the forward into the game down two.

"He’ll gamble. On the goal, he gambled and made a hard run to get in front of the guy at the near post," Lilley said after the game. "That’s what he typically does, so that was nice to see."

But to Lilley, it was more than just Volesky's willingness to take risks. It was a total team effort — something sorely lacking through the first 65 minutes of play. I'll let him explain:

Minutes later, that theme continued, and defender Ryan James blasted a pass from midfielder Kevin Kerr into the back of the net to tie things at two in extra time. While the goal was officially ruled an own-goal as it ricocheted off Nashville SC's Kosuke Kimura, the scoreboard didn't seem to mind, and the tie held to the finish.

"I’m happy we responded and didn’t lay down," Lilley said. "I am very happy about that." 

With the tie, the Hounds concluded a three-game homestand at 1-0-2, winning their home opener against Hartford Athletic then tying St. Louis FC and Nashville SC in back-to-back contests.

One point is better than zero to be certain... but it's also much worse than three. The Hounds rank 12th in the USL's Eastern Conference after Saturday's match, and they need to start climbing.

"I'd like to say that everybody in the locker room isn't satisfied," James told me after the game. "I think we're glad we didn't come away with a loss today but by no means are we satisfied with the results. We definitely wanted three wins and nothing less than a win. If we don't win at home, we're never satisfied and we go back into the next week grinding."

The Hounds' next chance at three comes Saturday, May 4, when they travel to South Carolina to face the Charleston Battery at 7:30 p.m.

• During the team's home opener two weeks ago against Hartford Athletic, Kerr tied the franchise's all-time assists mark (25) with Hounds Hall of Famer David Flavius. Tonight, Kerr was originally credited with the assist on James' goal, but upon further review, the goal was deemed an own-goal, negating Kerr's assist and the record that would've come with it. He'll still need one more for that honor.

•  I appreciated this little bit of unintentional symbolism on Nashville SC's first goal tonight.

"The hype train has left the station" comes to mind. At that point, it was fitting, too. The Hounds came out flat, and it seemed Nashville SC was exposing each and every one of the team's weaknesses.

•  You wouldn't like Lilley when he's angry...

•  Kyle Morton got the start in goal tonight over Ben Lundgaard, which was surprising when I saw the lineups. Lundgaard has posted two shutouts and two wins in goal, making him the expected choice for tonight's match vs. Nashville SC. As it turns out, he was the choice. But he was injured.

“Ben had a bit of a tight back," Lilley said postgame. "It wasn’t anything more than that. They both need to be ready. We did have Ben originally scheduled and he tweaked his back a bit yesterday, and we just made the decision yesterday we’d go with Kyle.”

•  Want more proof that lede with Sunday actually happened? He was quick to post the screenshots:

•  One final bullet: I got to meet subscriber Willy Peppers tonight and just... what a guy. He even brought me some homemade hot sauce, and of course, I bought some popcorn at the stadium so I could try it out onsite. I'm not just saying this to be nice: The stuff is delicious. These bottles are not going to last long in my fridge. I promise you that. Truly a pleasure meeting you, Willy, and if anybody else is ever around, say hi. I genuinely love chatting and getting to know the people behind the keyboards here.

FULL HIGHLIGHTS

MATT SUNDAY GALLERY

[caption id="attachment_814252" align="aligncenter" width="1000"] Riverhounds vs. Nashville SC, Highmark Stadium, April 27, 2019 - MATT SUNDAY / DKPS[/caption]

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