By Richard Nightingale
“The price of greatness is responsibility” – Winston Churchill
The outcome of most soccer games are determined by a few brief passages of play.
This game was no exception and while the record books will show a draw, must have felt like a defeat to players, coaches, and fans alike. The Keystone Cup was lost by Pittsburgh, and City Islanders while lifting the silverware all but ended any outside chance of scraping into the playoffs. As they have most games this season, Pittsburgh displayed the work rate but lacked the quality and cutting edge to beat a resilient but very mediocre rival. For all the post game “spin” by coach and players, the stark reality is that this game mirrored the entire season and week-to-week is like watching re-runs of old TV shows. Saturday night’s outcome hinged on two moments.
A counter attack mid way through the second half with the game scoreless, Kerr sold the whole team with a misplaced pass to the advancing Moloto. Ball went quickly wide left to the City Islanders’ Benbow who turned Green inside out and delivered a deft cross into the six-yard box. Ball would probably have found it’s way into the net without Foster’s touch and just like that, sixty four minutes in, the gridlock was broken. Hunt who was marking Foster initially got drawn to Benbow after he beat Green and Steffens in goal was stranded by the quality produced. As the City Islanders celebrated Kerr brushed his hands through his hair, held his head dejectedly knowing what his unforced error had resulted in. Responsibility, the seasoned Pro knew.
Earl’s tackle in the seventy fifth minute was reckless and dangerous. Left ground, studs up, over the top and lucky he didn’t break the lad’s leg. Then he put his hands on the ref, pushing him, which will bring additional disciplinary action from the USL. While broadcast of the game was abysmal, they got enough close ups of the incident to condemn Danny. Will get an automatic game for the red but wouldn’t surprise me to see him get a minimum two game suspension. Game was in the balance at 1 – 1 and while we should always admire the passion that Earl’s plays with that tackle and subsequent conduct was a moment of madness and naivety from such an experienced professional. His dismissal cost Pittsburgh any chance of victory. There was still a good fifteen minutes to play and having equalized the momentum was with Pittsburgh, a winning goal not beyond their reach. Personal responsibility was lacking in the moment, but Danny realized the enormity of his action as he trudged back to the locker room. The old Pro knew.
The first half was both teams feeling each other out, cautious in their play and content to enter half time on level terms. Needing to win by a goal to retain the Keystone Cup it became imperative that Pittsburgh took the initiative and they did. Credit to Brandt who clearly knew that Barril in the City Islander’s midfield was the creative danger and ensured that he didn’t get time and space on the ball. Yet at the same time nobody emerged on the Pittsburgh side to take the game by the scruff of the neck and boss the proceedings. Glory was to be had and the chance to steal the win fell to the new signing, Walsh. On as a substitute he snatched at a shot late in the game with his left foot that went harmlessly wide of the left post. When, if he had let the ball just run another yard ahead of him and fired at the far right post, the end product may have been so different. Outside of Campbell’s toe poke equalizer from Earls cross on seventy minutes when Broome in the City Islanders net showed his indecisiveness there were not really any clear cut chances that fell to Pittsburgh. Cat and mouse in midfield for much of the second forty five, plenty of possession for Pittsburgh but no cutting edge. Moloto who looked bright and busy in the first half just fizzled out as he is prone to do. Nobody could deliver, produce when it counted and put the enemy away.
Clubs are built and forged on rivalries. What may not be important to ownership groups and pencil pushers is important to Fans. On Sunday, I will watch the Portland Timbers face the Seattle Sounders and this is a good a spectacle as any local derby in the EPL. Including Vancouver Whitecaps in the Cascadia Cup with Portland and Seattle has been great for fueling, elevating soccer in these local communities and adding Bethlehem Steel to the Pittsburgh – Harrisburg dynamic next year is wise.
Oh, and why didn’t Pittsburgh wear the city’s famed Gold?
With responsibility comes accountability. You don’t build on a season like this, as a club you evolve.