Hounds crush Birmingham Legion FC, 4-1


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Hounds midfielder Robbie Mertz is hoisted by his teammates after a goal against Birmingham FC – CHRIS COWGER / PITTSBURGH RIVERHOUNDS SC

Here's something impressive: 4-1.

That's the final score of the Riverhounds' demolition of Birmingham Legion FC Saturday at Highmark Stadium.

Now, here's something more impressive: 12-1.

That's the total score of the Hounds' last three matches, a 5-0 shutout of Atlanta United 2, a 3-0 shutout of New York Red Bulls II and tonight's 4-1 blowout.

Not. Bad.

"We have a good rhythm now," Hounds coach Bob Lilley was saying after the game in classic understated fashion. "Overall, I think it was a solid home performance."

Solid, indeed. And since Coach Lilley wouldn't explicitly say it, I will: The Hounds are on fire. They've responded from a disappointing start to the 2019 campaign exactly like they needed to: By winning — and winning big.

Tonight, there was plenty of love to go around, with forward Steevan Dos Santos starting the celebration with this:

Too easy. That's three straight games for Dos Santos with a goal.

"We know that we have good ability to get in behind with overlaps, you know our wide pieces whether it's [defender Jordan Dover], [defender Ryan James], [midfielder Noah Franke], [midfielder Kevin Kerr] — they're all pretty good servers of the ball and last year, at times, we didn't get enough time in the box," Lilley said. "We are always working on different ways to get behind, but you know a lot of times the hardest place to get is when you get breakaways. When you get in, the service needs to be good."

And while the 4-1 sheet may not be totally clean for Kyle Morton, it kinda still feels spotless, as Birmingham Legion FC tallied their lone goal in the 83rd minute, long after the game was out of reach.

Dos Santos kicked off those festivities, but Kerr and midfielder Robbie Mertz amplified them in the first half.

First, there was this:

Then, just over 10 minutes later, there was this:

"I think the biggest thing for us was just keeping the momentum going," Mertz said after the match. "We talked a lot about that this week, coming off a couple wins against Atlanta and New York. We just want to make sure we are maintaining focus, executing offensively and defensively. I think everyone came in with a really good focused mindset, and that is the important part, and people doing their job."

That's certainly working for the club. The Hounds now sit ninth in the USL's Eastern Conference with a 5-2-7 record. The climb is on.

Kerr's assist on Mertz's first goal gave him the all-time Hounds assist record at 26. Lilley, Kerr and Mertz all talked about it after the match.

"Obviously it's not the main focus," Kerr said. "When you turn up day-to-day, it's not on your mind. It's nice. The ball was out of play when the big picture went up on the board. It was a nice moment. You stay somewhere long enough, you hopefully rack up a record or two."

"I think Kevin is just a technical genius, if you will," Lilley said. "You know he knows where balls can go to be dangerous. He can whip a ball, he can feather a ball. He has always had an eye for that pass and there is a lot of forwards who have benefited from that pass."

“I think it is pretty awesome," Mertz said. "I don’t think I thought about it in the game. I will say there is a difference between him carrying the ball down the sideline and a lot of other players. Because that is what I saw and I knew he is going to put the ball in the right place. That’s why I made the run. I think it is really cool to think about all the experience and everything he has put into the club is something to look up to and try to emulate. He has been a top class all the way through. Just major congratulations to him."

• Think the Hounds can make a run? Their +11 goal differential is better than the next three teams above them in the standings and only the No. 1 Tampa Bay Rowdies has fewer losses (one) on the season. They've been right there all year, and now the ties are starting to turn to wins, and that makes all the difference.

• Birmingham Legion FC edged the Hounds in possession — 51.4 percent to 48.6 percent.

• Efficiency. The Hounds had four shots on target — all for goals. Interestingly, Birmingham Legion FC has six shots on target, converting just one of them.

• Tonight's attendance at Highmark Stadium: 3,866

• Next up: The Hounds face Bethlehem Steel FC Thursday, July 4, at 7 p.m. at Highmark Stadium. The two teams played to a 2-2 draw earlier this season. Tickets available here.

Highlights from the Hounds' 4-1 win over Birmingham Legion FC:

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