The Nightingale: Richmond
By Richard Nightingale
Legendary F1 driver Ayrton Senna said “Being second is to be the first of the ones to loose”.
Pittsburgh lost to Richmond and will surely look back and scream “How?”
Been years since Pittsburgh would have gone to City Stadium in Richmond as favorite. Having lost three games on the bounce and not scored in either of those games Richmond were ripe for the taking.
It was never going to be a showcase with the game being played in atrocious conditions but Pittsburgh started brightly and Richmond looked nervous and tentative. With good possession during the first fifteen minutes Pittsburgh controlled the midfield and Richmond settled into a defensive shell. Been the same scenario each game for Pittsburgh as they take the game to the opposition but fail to sustain the momentum.
Kevin Kerr the Pittsburgh captain was inspiring, ran his socks off and lead by example from the first to last whistle. Pittsburgh could do with cloning Kerr. Issue became that as the clock ticked down Kerr had to drop deeper and deeper to collect the ball as he desperately tried to take the game by the scruff of the neck and make something happen. Kerr couldn’t get any service and anything that did develop was with him as the catalyst. He was needed on the end of any buildup. Best player on the pitch by a mile.
Pittsburgh had enough chances to win this. They lost giving up two soft goals. Richmond were anemic going forward, very little creativity. The first Richmond goal came courtesy of a Gonzalez cross that found Sekyere alone and unmarked on the six yard box. The two Pittsburgh center halfs, Greenspan and Jack looked apologetically at each other as Sekyere ran to the Richmond ‘Red Army’ to celebrate the goal that broke their scoring drought. The second was a bit of a mix up in the box that saw Kamara the burly Richmond center forward be the first to react to a loose ball and stab home. Two down after forty seven minutes. How?
Sadly the biggest impact Mitchell in the Pittsburgh net made all game was when coming for a high cross he clattered into Jack the reliable center half for Pittsburgh who as a result had to leave the game. Balchan moved from right back into the middle to partner Greenspan at the back.
Someone needs to explain to me why ‘The Boss’ who was on the bench didn’t come on to replace Jack? If you’re on the bench I presume you have passed a fitness test and can play if needed? Did he injure himself in the warm up? Bizarre.
Also no Earls or Walsh on the bench. What’s the back story there?
Hollingsworth buried a great left foot drive from twenty plus yards to give Pittsburgh a ray of hope on fifty nine minutes but this one moment of brilliance was accompanied by some poor efforts from his teammates on the Richmond goal.
Richmond with twenty or so minutes left went to a back five employing three center halfs and were content to pack it in tight and kill the game off. They did that. They were helped by Pittsburgh’s tactics that kept trying to slot the ball through a narrow channel in the heart of the Richmond defense. Instead they should have worked the ball wide on either flank and got behind the fullbacks. Drawn the center backs out of the middle and pulled the ball back from the touchline while flooding the box with bodies. Too simple. Pittsburgh became frantic and started lobbing balls into the Richmond box where the Richmond center backs had the height advantage and aerial superiority. I don’t know where the breakdown was with getting the right tactics from the bench to the players on the field but it was so naive, frustrating to watch.
With this loss Pittsburgh arrive at a ‘dangerous intersection’. Two home games next. Islanders in the league on Saturday and then a TBD opponent at home in the US Open Cup. Where does public opinion stand if Pittsburgh loose both games? Is the Brandt ‘experiment’ over? You can build a great locker room and culture but the USL is about ‘wins’ period. Coach and Players are all accountable and it might be that the lack of experienced USL starters on this Pittsburgh team will come back to haunt them. Brandt deciding to go with youth that he can mould and who have no preconceptions may have gone a bridge too far.
Pittsburgh need to find a way to start Banjo, he has to be in the starting lineup. I would even consider playing him right side midfield and tell him to run at, take players on. Could see him arriving on the far post for crosses delivered by Thompson or Hollingsworth from the left side.
Approaching Islanders as a ‘Cup Final’ I would play a 4 – 4 – 2 and providing everyone is fit this would be my starting eleven:
My big and bold move would be to play Jack in center midfield.
Balchan, Greenspan, Agbossoumonde, Hollingsworth
Banjo, Green, Jack, Obinwa
Kerr (C), Hertzog
Subs: Broome, J Thompson, Earls, Souto, Howell
Should be a cracking game against Islanders and I hope that the Pittsburgh soccer community comes out in force to help the team get this season on track. All said and done, providing Brandt heeds my advice on the starting lineup, I can see Pittsburgh winning 3 – 1.