LOS ANGELES -- A draw would've represented a positive result for the Riverhounds, really.
Already holding down first place in the USL Eastern Conference standings and facing ninth-place Saint Louis FC on the road Saturday, the Hounds simply could've held court and all would've been well heading into next week's regular-season finale.
That's a goal. And a 1-0 win. And another three points for these Hounds, running their season total to 65 and their record to 18-4-11.
"I think it was a really professional and solid performance for any game, especially a road game that meant a lot," Hounds head coach Bob Lilley said after the game in Saint Louis, Mo. "The guys played great. They had to battle on the road and had to be persistent. They did a good job with a difficult opponent."
They did do a good job, coach — so good that they'll be rewarded for their efforts with another home playoff game at Highmark Stadium, regardless of what happens next Sunday, Oct. 20, against 10th-place Birmingham Legion FC down in Alabama.
It's well deserved for a club that posted its 18th single-season victory — the most in Hounds history — and that has overcome a rocky start to crank the jets and run away with accolades aplenty down the stretch. They're 7-0-3 in their last 10, allowing two goals during that stretch.
Two. In 10 matches.
Impressive as that is, tonight's performance might've topped it. Check this out: Saint Louis FC didn't register a shot on goal. At all. Kyle Morton got the clean sheet, but I could've too. You could've. Anybody could've. That's how it's done.
It's a pretty solid way to make sure the other team doesn't score, don't ya think?
"I think the first 10-15 minutes it was hard to string passes together," Lilley said. "We worked our way into the first half and got better as the half went on. I thought we were very good in the second half. We tried to play in their half and get on the ball. Eventually, we broke them."
Now, the stakes are as such for the Hounds: Nashville SC, second in the standings with 64 points, faces Atlanta United 2 Saturday, Oct. 19, so the Hounds will know what they need when they take the pitch Sunday against Birmingham.
If Nashville wins, the Hounds will need to win as well to maintain first place. If Nashville draws, the Hounds will need to draw (or win). Even if the Hounds lose and Nashville draws or wins to take first, one thing won't change: There will be a pro team playing a home playoff game in Pittsburgh this year.