Normally, you think of Highmark Stadium as a special place because of its location, view of Pittsburgh and versatility. After all, there aren't many professional soccer stadiums which double as high school football fields, triple as a concert venue and quadruple as a macaroni and cheese festival location.
This season, though, it's been special for one very particular reason: The Riverhounds did not lose a regular season game at Highmark Stadium. Quite an accomplishment that has been, sealed by a 1-1 draw with Atlanta United 2 Saturday night.
The accomplishment was even more impressive given the club's slow start -- something the team and its engine, Kenardo Forbes, are very aware of overcoming.
"We have to be proud of ourselves after a slow start," Forbes said after the match.
"I think after the first 12 games we were at 11 points. To fight our way to get back to the top showed tremendous character as a team, and individually. We have to be proud of ourselves at this point. Tonight was a low night for us. Next week we can bounce back."
Of course, the Riverhounds captain considering Saturday's draw as a "low night" just shows how far this squad has come from that first stretch of the season. It might seem like a "low night" for not doing more, but the draw puts the Hounds three points clear of Indy Eleven at the top of the Eastern Conference. Sitting on top can make anything but a win feel "low."
To earn the draw, the Hounds held Atlanta to zero shots in the first half and found the netting once, as Neco Brett finished off a penalty kick to score his 13th of the campaign.
"I just knew that I had to convert it," Brett said of his opportunity. "We needed a goal. It was the perfect opportunity to get a goal. I was confident, and I already saw the keeper making his move. I just placed the ball on the opposite side."
The "opposite side" was the bottom right of Atlanta keeper Dylan Castanheira's cage.
That would be the Hounds' lone goal (of course, being a 1-1 draw), and not conceding the drawing goal until the 87th minute of play -- weathering a bit of a storm from Atlanta, who came in looking more impressive than they'd been this season.
"Atlanta deserves a lot of credit," coach Bob Lilley said of his team's draw. "They worked hard, they played at a faster tempo than most of the teams we've been playing recently, and they made it hard for us all game to create chances. For a team that has struggled on the road, they've been unbeaten in their last five against very good teams, and now they've made it six."
The draw extended the Hounds' current unbeaten run to nine games, including the last five that have been played since Sept. 21. The home slate is finished, having gone unbeaten at Highmark Stadium, and they'll finish the regular season on the road against Saint Louis and Birmingham on Oct. 12 and 20 respectively.
HOUNDS VS. ATLANTA HIGHLIGHTS
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