After a disappointing 3-1 home defeat a week ago, Hadji Barry and Zach Ellis-Hayden lifted OCB (4-4-3, 15 points) to a 2-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Riverhounds (4-5-3, 15 points) at Highmark Stadium. Barry recorded a goal and an assist, Ellis-Hayden scored his first career goal, and OCB moved back above the playoff line.
Head Coach Anthony Pulis made six changes from last week. Earl Edwards, Jr. remained in net, but above him only Zach Carroll remained in the defense. Seb Hines started next to Carroll in his return from injury, with Zach Ellis-Hayden and Scott Thomsen the fullbacks. Austin Martz, Jordan Schweitzer, Lewis Neal, and Pierre Da Silva filled in the midfield, with Danny Deakin playing just under Hadji Barry up top.
The game started out slowly, with each team feeling each other out. In the seventh minute, OCB had the first corner of the game and decided to take it short. After a turnover, former Lion Corey Hertzog almost broke free on the counter, but Martz defended it perfectly to win the ball back for the young Lions.
Pittsburgh’s first big chance came in the 13th minute. A ball was put into the box and a few of the Riverhounds got touches on it. The young Lions eventually cleared the ball for a corner, but on the ensuing corner Pittsburgh could not take advantage and lost the ball.
Two minutes later, a shaky defensive effort nearly led to an OCB goal. Barry and Deakin played one-two with each other on the top of the 18. Barry’s eventual shot went inches wide of the post, and the game remained scoreless.
After a brief spell of possession from OCB, the match started to open up some. The game’s first goal nearly came in the 26th minute, when Jamal Jack put a through ball into the box that found Ritchie Duffie. Duffie took a touch, hesitated and then shot, but Carroll came flying across the box to knock the ball out for a corner.
Pittsburgh had another two chances to score on back-to-back corners, but failed to find the back of the net on both occasions. On the first, Edwards made a fingertip save over the crossbar off of Hertzog’s header. The next ball in found the head of Romeo Parkes, but the ball went into the outside netting.
Three minutes later, OCB had a corner of its own. Martz’s ball fell to Carroll, whose header was on target and deflected out for another corner, but nothing came of that either.
Two minutes after that, in the 30th minute, it was the Riverhounds’ turn for a corner, and they made the most of it. The corner fell to Hertzog on the far side of the box, and OCB was slow to transition over. This slight hesitation was all the time that Hertzog needed and he put it away emphatically to put Pittsburgh up, 1-0.
The young Lions found the equalizer in the 42nd minute. Some sloppy defending led to OCB having multiple shots inside to box. The ball went from player to player before a deflected shot fell to the feet of former UCF Knight Barry. With just the keeper to beat, Barry flicked the ball into the back of the net, and the game was tied at one, silencing the home crowd.
The goal sparked some energy into OCB, but with so little time left in the half, the young Lions were unable to capitalize on it. Still, OCB went into the break with all the momentum. OCB held 56% possession, but were outshot 6-4 in the first half (3-1 on target).
To start the second half, Pittsburgh put OCB on its heels, and Pulis’s side was defending with nine men, and then going on the counter. However, this high pressure from the Riverhounds was their undoing, as a clearance attempt led to a Barry one-on-one with a defender. The ball went out for a corner, and Lewis Neal had a shot from distance on the second ball in that nearly found the back of the net.
OCB continued to go on the counter. In the 53rd minute, Ellis-Hayden took his second shot of the year, which found the back of the net and put the Lions on top. A one-touch flick on from Barry gave Ellis-Hayden the ball on top of the box. The defender then took a left footed crack that found the upper 90 and gave the young Lions the lead, 2-1.
With the momentum once again on its side, OCB put pressure on Pittsburgh and was in control of the match. The Riverhounds had a few opportunities, but the young Lions were defensively solid and did not allow any Pittsburgh players to possess the ball inside the box. On the offensive side of the ball, OCB played with freedom, passing the ball around a Pittsburgh defense that looked lost at times.
Deakin had a chance to put OCB up 3-1 in the 75th minute. Marked closely, Deakin found some space, and took a left footed shot. His attempt beat Mitchell, but hit the crossbar.
Man of the Match Hadji Barry’s night ended in the 77th minute. Pulis decided to take out Barry, who finished with a goal and an assist, for Albert Dikwa.
Pittsburgh made a few substitutions to try and find some life, but the Riverhounds were unable to break into OCB’s box, as the young Lions flooded their box and collapsed on attackers. Pittsburgh tried hitting long balls down the field, but could not break through.
In the closing seconds, Pittsburgh threw players forward, and finally found some life again. In the 90th minute, Ben Fitzpatrick found himself all alone in the box, but Edwards came flying out for the save. On the second ball in, the ball bounced around in the-six yard box, but Edwards fell on it before the Riverhounds could get a shot off. In the 94th minute, Parkes made a great move to get open down the left hand side before sending a low cross in, but no one could get on the end of it.
Possession was split 50/50, but OCB trailed in shots 18-7. However, many of Pittsburgh’s shots were half chances or contested headers and the only statistic that matters is the final score. The young Lions won that stat, 2-1.
The young Lions are 2-0 at Highmark Stadium with a pair of 2-1 wins in two trips. OCB is back in action again on Wednesday June 7, when the Lions host the Rochester Rhinos at 7:30 p.m.
Starting XI: Earl Edwards, Jr.; Zach Ellis-Hayden, Zach Carroll, Seb Hines, Scott Thomsen; Austin Martz (David Loera — 72’), Jordan Schweitzer, Lewis Neal, Pierre Da Silva, Danny Deakin; Hadji Barry (Albert Dikwa — 77’).
Unused Subs: Jake Fenlason, Conor Donovan, Moussa Sane, Michael Cox, Ryley Kraft.
Goals: ORL — Barry (42’), Ellis-Hayden (53’); PGH — Hertzog (30’).
Yellow Cards: ORL — Ellis-Hayden (37’); PGH — Hertzog (73’), Washington (79’).