Hounds rally to upset first-place Red Bulls


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Hounds midfielder Kevin Kerr boots the ball during the team's 2-1 victory over New York Red Bulls II. – NEW YORK RED BULLS II

Here's a bad idea: Falling behind on the road to the first-place New York Red Bulls II in just the 20th minute.

Here's what the Hounds did Wednesday evening: They fell behind, on the road, to the first-place New York Red Bulls II, in just the 20th minute, courtesy of a Tom Barlow boot past keeper Kyle Morton — the first shot of the match, in fact.

Instead of crumbling under the early pressure and accepting this early deficit against the USL Eastern Conference leaders, however, the Hounds fired back — with fury — to win, 2-1.

"I think the goal woke us up," head coach Bob Lilley said after the match at MSU Soccer Park in Montclair, New Jersey. "The last 15 minutes of the first half we were more positive. In the second half, we got more runners in front of the ball. When we went forward, we closed the field up."

Closed the field up, indeed. Like, all the way up.

Coming into Wednesday's match, Red Bulls II averaged 18.65 shots per match. Against the Hounds? The club registered just nine total shots. That's how you win on the road against an elite opponent.

Well, that and headers like this from Joe Greenspan:

... and kick-saves like this from Morton:

... and the lethal right foot of Neco Brett:

But none of that happens if the Hounds don't dig out of that early hole, regroup and recalibrate. Coming into the match on an 8-1-1 run, the Hounds could've dropped this one and no fans would've been too upset. I mean, 8-2-1 is still pretty sweet, and it is Red Bulls II after all.

But nope. These Hounds refused to let that happen and instead out-shot their opponent, 14-9, while also blocking more shots, 5-1, to take the win back home to Pittsburgh. None of it came easy on this night, though. Red Bulls II owned possession, 57.2 percent to 42.8 percent, and also conceded six fewer fouls — seven to the Hounds' 13. They also completed more passes (478 to the Hounds' 345) at a more accurate clip (69.7 percent to 58.6 percent).

It's the kind of stuff a first-place team does, even in defeat.

"There were two good teams," Lilley said. "It was a tight game. Fortunately, we got the winning goal in the second half. We did a good job closing the game once we got the lead, as well."

This victory — the finest of the Hounds' resurgent season — runs the club to 11-3-8, good for fourth place in the USL Eastern Conference standings. They're now 9-1-1 in their past 11 — the hottest team in the league. Only third-place Nashville SC and 10th-place Birmingham Legion FC haven't lost in their past five, but each does have a recent draw. Only the Hounds can claim a pure 5-0 record during that stretch.

While a sizable portion of the Hounds' recent success came against lesser opposition — teams they should beat — this latest victory shines a light on so much more. This Hounds team is for real. You don't just go into Red Bulls II's house and do that without some serious grit and skill, and you certainly don't go 9-1-1 during any 11-game stretch without even more of the same.

Go ahead, look now: The Hounds are charging. And there's no telling where this run ends.

• The Hounds stick to the road to face North Carolina FC (11-5-7) this Saturday, Aug. 17, at 7 p.m. The Hounds previously defeated North Carolina FC, 1-0, at Highmark Stadium on July 20.

• The Hounds' three losses on the season are tied for the fewest in the USL Eastern Conference. The second-place Tampa Bay Rowdies also have just three on the year, but they have more wins — 13 to the Hounds' 11.

• Therein lies the story of the Hounds' season. The club's eight ties are second-most by any top-1o squad. For so long, the story of the season was, "Oh, if the Hounds could just convert some of those ties to wins..." Well, now they are. And you're seeing how that works out.


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