The Riverhounds deserved to beat the Charlotte Independence Saturday night at Highmark Stadium. Just look at the numbers:
- Shots – Hounds: 15, Charlotte: 6
- Shots on target – Hounds: 3, Charlotte: 1
- Shots from inside the box – Hounds: 8, Charlotte: 2
- Corners taken – Hounds: 11, Charlotte: 3
Now, for the kicker:
- Goals scored – Hounds: 0, Charlotte: 0
Yep. All that work, all that beautiful soccer, and the Hounds leave the night with just one point, another tie to move their record to 2-1-6 on the year.
Hounds head coach Bob Lilley summed it up perfectly for me after the match at Highmark Stadium:
Here's the thing about all those stats above: The Hounds did it down a man, playing 11-on-10 for the majority of the game.
Defenseman Joe Greenspan was ejected in the 36th minute after racking up two yellow cards in succession. This forced the Hounds to make adjustments, but team captain and midfielder Kenardo Forbes said it's something they were well prepared to handle.
"It's just a mentality," Forbes, who had three shots on the night, was saying after the match. "We do it all the time in practice. We always play down a man in practice."
Midfielder Thomas Vancaeyezeele backed up that notion, adding that the stakes are especially high when the team loses a player of Greenspan's caliber.
"Obviously that's not easy when you go a man down, especially when it's Joe," Vancaeyezeele said. "He's so key in the backline. But I feel like the energy of the team went up and we actually stayed focus more. We had a lot of energy. We were pressing super high and I feel like we didn't feel we were a man down."
It didn't look like the Hounds were a man down, either, which is a credit to the coaching staff and the players both. This team was prepared to battle through adversity, and that's exactly what they did. Put aside the 40-minute weather delay and the red card for a moment. When you just get down to the soccer that happened on the pitch, the Hounds dominated almost everywhere.
They couldn't convert their shots, and that made all the difference. While all parties involved agree the signs are encouraging, the fact remains they'll snag just one point from this one, hard-fought or not. It all shows up the same in the standings.
But that's just it with this 2019 Hounds squad. They are close. Their record of 2-1-6 ranks them 13th in the USL's Eastern Conference standings, but the next seven teams above them all have more losses on the season. You have to climb all the way up to No. 5, Saint Louis FC at 5-1-4, to find the next team with just one loss on the year.
So while ties aren't getting the job done by any means, it's also... a tie. It's not a loss. The Hounds aren't getting significantly outplayed, they're just missing the finer points and details that will turn one into three. It's a fact not lost on Lilley.
"It's still going to be incumbent upon us the next time we're in this position and it's 0-0 in the last 20 minutes and we're this dominant that we find the goal," Lilley said. "Let's be honest: There's still, [with] a little bit better quality at the end, we may have, even the [Hounds forward Steevan Dos Santos] rip, if that's low, maybe it gets through the keeper... It's probably a mistake to hit it hand-high. These are the little things we're trying to clean up, and we go to the tape — and as good as we played, and as good as Steevan played — that'll be addressed...
"I just believe we're better and there are things to work on," Lilley said. "And if we keep doing that, it's a process. The results will follow."
• Here's one of the Hounds' 11 corners, this one from midfielder Robbie Mertz, who played all 90 minutes in a solid all-around performance:
• The weather delay may have upset the Hounds' early momentum a bit, but it made for one beautiful sky when action resumed. Just take a look at my view next to Matt Sunday at field level:
• Yeah, 0-0 disappoints the players, the coaches and the fans alike. This was a three-point performance without question from the home team. But the players aren't letting the tie dampen their spirits. As Forbes put it, there's still plenty to be proud about, especially considering all the circumstances at play:
• Austin Pack got the clean sheet in goal for the Hounds.
• Hounds defender Jordan Dover took a cleat to the face late in the match and remained down on the field for several minutes. There were no immediate updates after the game on his status, but he was able to walk off the field with minimal assistance. Sunday has a shot of him walking off below.
• The Hounds will play Indy Eleven in Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup action at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 29, at Highmark Stadium. Fans can purchase tickets here.
MATT SUNDAY GALLERY
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