Kenardo Forbes is super, but he's hardly a super sub.
It's not a knock on the Riverhounds' midfielder, though. He's just simply a staple in the starting 11 for the club -- rarely getting the chance to come on and flex his work rate in a game where the rest of the legs have run their course.
In this Wednesday night U.S. Open Cup clash at Highmark Stadium with Indy Eleven, though, Forbes was everything he's not used to being, and everything the Hounds weren't for the previous 80 minutes of open play: He took the field in the 81st minute, outworked and outran everyone in proximity, made a couple of passes and, four minutes later, found enough space from 20 yards out for a hard, low strike that sent the Hounds to a 1-0 victory and a berth in the Open Cup's fourth round against the Columbus Crew:
"I was open," Forbes told me after the match. "Like, 10 yards open, 20 yards out ... so, I have to shoot that."
That's the short story. The long story is a bit different.
For the first 80 minutes, the Hounds' work rate was non-existent. They ignored Bob Lilley's sideline cries to press higher, ideally keeping Indy from calmly playing out from goalkeeper Jordan Farr. Steevan Dos Santos refused to make runs while his teammates waited to serve him from the wings. Neco Brett tried a couple times from range, but primarily wasted balls played through blindly to end lines instead of teammates.
The lone impressive Riverhound before Forbes took the field was goalkeeper Kyle Morton, who remained impressive through stoppage time, saved five shots on the night and secured the clean sheet.
"A couple times they got free and had a little bit of space where they could crack one," Morton said after the win. "Luckily, I was in the right position and I was able to get a couple hands on them."
Morton went on to talk about the biggest issue I saw from the Hounds performance, and something I spoke with Lilley about just moments before:
"I thought we could have been a little higher pressure. Maybe gotten a couple clearances. Maybe blocked a couple of them," Morton said of the lack of press in front of him -- Farr and his defenders being gifted endless time to play the ball from the back.
I asked Lilley about the team's energy and lack of pressure, and he was a little more expressive about the poor performance than his goalkeeper:
Just after discussing his team "catching a break," as he'd describe it, Lilley turned his attention toward Saturday's league clash with Indy Eleven on the road. And, that, my friends, is why a player like Forbes was available from the bench during a Wednesday Cup match. The focus for a USL team should remain on league play, and not the tall task of upsetting a run of MLS teams to win the oldest trophy in U.S. soccer.
The Hounds will travel to Columbus, Ohio, to take on the Crew in the fourth round of the tournament. The game is likely be held June 11 or 12, although it seems the Crew may have already updated their scheduling to reflect a June 11 showdown. The time of the match will be determined after the date is officially announced. To go on an upset spree, playing at Highmark Stadium would have helped, but Hounds will have to survive their first MLS test of the 2019 Open Cup on the road.
Regardless of location, the Riverhounds will have to work, respond to their manager and make attacking runs. Rebounding with a better effort in Saturday's rematch with Indy Eleven can be the first step toward that. "Catching a break" alone simply won't get them through the U.S. Open Cup's challenge.