Hounds

Hounds crush Dayton, break U.S. Open curse

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Riverhounds' forward Neco Brett (9) works against the Dayton Dutch Lions' Georgios Charkoutsakis (15) at Highmark Stadium – MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

The Riverhounds defeated the Dayton Dutch Lions, 3-0, in the second round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Tuesday at Highmark Stadium. Forward Neco Brett scored twice, midfielder Anthony Velarde chipped in the third goal and blah, blah, blah...

None of that matters.

Because this happened:

[caption id="attachment_827660" align="aligncenter" width="801"]Austin-Pack-Pittsburgh-Riverhounds-Highmark Hounds goalkeeper Austin Pack taunts Dayton's Jackson Dietrich after a missed penalty kick. – MATT SUNDAY / DKPS[/caption]

Need me to zoom in on that?

That's Hounds goalkeeper Austin Pack — in his first career start as a Hound, no less — having the time of his life in a high-pressure situation. With the Hounds leading 2-0, the Dayton Dutch Lions had the chance to close the gap and to spoil Pack's shutout with a penalty kick from Jackson Dietrich.

Here's how that went:

 

Brutal. Dietrich had it. He got Pack guessing the wrong direction, and he just had to convert. He did not, and Pack loved every second of it. Was it overboard? Yes. Was it disrespectful? Also yes.

Was it awesome? Hell yes.

That's the fire and the spark the Hounds needed all season. Leading into this match, the Hounds were unbeaten in seven straight, but they won just two of them. With five ties, they found themselves needing a little extra — more push, more energy, more something — to get over the hump. They found some of that just three weeks ago, when they stormed back at Highmark Stadium to overcome a 2-0 deficit and tie Nashville SC late. Tonight, they captured that momentum again, and they didn't let it go.

Hounds assistant coach Dan Visser told me after the game there was no major shift or adjustment involved. It was just a matter of playing Hounds soccer, sticking to the plan and executing:

And hey, if Pack wanted to taunt a little, he certainly earned that right, notching four official saves on eight total shots faced, including this absolute beauty that preserved his shutout and sparked the spotty crowd on hand:

"I feel like we've been getting to know him [Pack] in the last couple weeks, and then this was kind of a date we had in our heads that we wanted to see him play, and I think he showed very well," Visser said of his performance.

But pinning the win on Pack alone wouldn't do justice to the performances from Brett, Velarde, midfielders Robbie Mertz and Noah Franke and countless others. With a match against Memphis FC 901 looming Saturday for the Hounds, the team utilized some of its traditionally lesser-used players against the Dayton Dutch Lions, and the fresh faces didn't disappoint.

"I think the players that came in that haven’t gotten much minutes, they came and performed," Veladre said after the game. "I think that’s what you ask for for a professional player. It doesn’t matter if he doesn’t get as much minutes as others. When you get your number called, you’re there to preform and I think they did a great job.”

"I think the Open Cup is great for that," Visser added. "For one, it's a mid-week game so just in terms of saving some legs for the weekend, some rotation is necessary. But then the nature of the Open Cup just allows us to get some new faces in, and I think they showed well."

Now, the Hounds will need to keep the wins rolling against Memphis 901 FC (2-3-6) as they travel to AutoZone Park for a Saturday-night showdown. Ranked 13th in the USL's Eastern Conference standings, the Hounds need to start their ascent before the season gets out of reach. To Brett, Tuesday's win provides a nice launching point.

• Before tonight, it had been 1,448 days since the Hounds last won a U.S. Open match at Highmark Stadium.

• Brett's two goals tonight came on five total shots with four on net.

• The Hounds dominated possession in this one, controlling 59.2 percent of the action.

• Attack. Attack. Attack. The Hounds were relentless throughout, tallying 15 total shots: Seven in the first half and eight in the second.

• Pack's shutout marked the Hounds' third clean sheet of the season. They're 2-0-1 in those matches.

• Saturday's match begins at 8 p.m. ET and can be viewed on Pittsburgh's CW.

MATT SUNDAY GALLERY

[caption id="attachment_827548" align="aligncenter" width="1000"] Riverhounds vs. Dayton U.S. Open Cup, Highmark Stadium, May 14, 2019 - MATT SUNDAY / DKPS[/caption]

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