PITTSBURGH – Having gone six games without a goal, there wasn’t necessarily added pressure on Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC forward Neco Brett to find the net and help his side snap its first two-game losing streak of the season, but the Jamaican certainly wanted to make a difference as his side faced the Richmond Kickers.
In scoring the opening goal of the game in just the fifth minute before putting home a fine strike midway through the second half to reach 10 goals for the season, Brett got just the performance he was looking for as the Hounds moved back into third place in the Eastern Conference with a 3-0 victory on Wednesday night at Highmark Stadium.
Despite the goal drought that had stretched back to his two-goal performance against the New York Red Bulls II on June 16, Brett said the belief Hounds Head Coach Bob Lilley had shown in him had made a difference as he looked to find a breakthrough.
“As a player, you always want your coach to believe in you especially when you aren’t doing so well,” said Brett. “Coach believed in me, and that is really important for me. It gave me the extra boost.”
For Lilley’s part, the jump his side showed early set the tone for the contest overall as the Hounds limited the Kickers’ attack for much of the contest. Four of Richmond’s six shots inside the Riverhounds SC penalty area were blocked as Dan Lynd picked up his league-leading 10th shutout of the season without being forced into a save, three punched clearances the major activity for the young goalkeeper as the Kickers tried to take advantage of their set piece opportunities.
Pittsburgh also used its defensive pressure to great effect, earning 33 possession recoveries and interceptions in the Kickers’ half as the hosts harried their guests consistently throughout the night. By contrast, the Kickers managed only seven such instances defensively as they were kept on their heels while suffering a third defeat in a four-game winless streak.
“I think we were ready to press,” said Lilley. “I don't think we were waiting for something to happen. I think we had intent tonight. That's why we got rewarded.”
Brett’s display was matched by a fine cameo appearance by fellow Jamaican Kenardo Forbes, who surpassed 20 regular-season assists for his USL career after providing helpers on the Hounds’ second and third goals on the night following his introduction as a second-half substitute.
With Pittsburgh set to close out its week looking to complete a three-game sweep of its regular-season series with Toronto FC II on Saturday, the side certainly relieved some of the pressure that had come via its first downturn of 2018.
“Everyone comes in knowing it’s business time because we lost two games straight,” said Brett. “There weren’t many guys smiling. Everyone came in working really hard.”