Okai scores first goal, Hounds draw with Kickers

Okai scores first goal, Hounds draw with Kickers

August 6, 2017 | By Rachael McKriger

Stephen Okai has seen a lot of consistent playing time this season.

He’s appeared in 12 matches for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, starting nine games under head coach Dave Brandt. He filled in the defensive midfield role while Victor Souto was out for injury back in June and July, and has now featured in more of an attacking midfield slot.

Either way, Okai is making the most of his opportunities under Brandt, and on the pitch.

Okai - Mon Goals - BGN
Stephen Okai

He proved that on Saturday night, in front of a large number of Riverhounds supporters at Highmark Stadium. Okai scored his first goal of the season in the 82’ minute – assisted by Souto – giving the Riverhounds a single point against the Richmond Kickers.

“Victor had good vision and I knew he was going to slip me in, so I tried to push forward a little bit,” Okai said. “When I got the touch, I was like ‘wow, I have to do everything I can to put the ball in.’”

The Kickers had made it on the board in the 65’ minute off the boot of Raul Gonzalez. Gonzalez had his shot assisted by Yudai Imura.

“I’m proud of the guys for hanging in there, fighting back. I think we had to get that goal – good goal from Stephen and Victor. I think by the time it came – it was coming, it was about time – and we were all on the edge of our seat,” Brandt said.

The Riverhounds aren’t far away from reaching their goal: the USL playoffs. The Riverhound sit only three points outside of the last playoff slot in the Eastern Conference.

Currently, the Riverhounds hold a 5-8-9 record, and sit at the No. 12 slot with 24 points. Right above them, in the No. 10 and No. 11 slots are the Ottawa Fury and Harrisburg City Islanders, who also have 24 points.

“Still 30 points left on the table for us, but we’ve given away two points in a lot of games – maybe four of the last six with those five draws,” Brandt said. “I think we have the right to expect of ourselves in three or four of those draws easily to say ‘hey, that one was there for the win.’”

Like Brandt, Okai is confident the Riverhounds can make a successful push for the postseason.

“I will tell you guys nothing good comes on a silver platter and every good thing that’s going to happen you have to go through ups and downs,” Okai said. “That doesn’t mean that we should give up. We will keep on fighting. You never know. Anything can happen at any given point. We’re going to keep fighting and we’re going to keep pushing until we get to where we want to be.”

The Riverhounds will put their patience – and practice – to the test when they travel to FNB Field on Saturday to face the Harrisburg City Islanders. The match will kick off at 7 p.m.

Mike Sparks

In addition to watching, coaching, and occasionally playing soccer, Mike also enjoys talking all things soccer over at the Mon Goals podcast. Go give the show a listen and let him know what you think