Penn FC still had a chance to do something memorable with their season if they had managed to defeat the Pittsburgh Riverhounds Wednesday night. Because they had managed to draw Pittsburgh twice earlier in the season, a win would have given Penn FC the Keystone Derby Cup over their playoff bound rivals. Taking a trophy away from a team that’s poised to make a big playoff run would have been quite the feather in their cap for 2018. But it was not meant to be as Pittsburgh took care of business to take the 2-0 win and the cup.
With so much on the line, both sides must have put a lot of effort into planning and anticipating the moves of their opponents. How frustrating it must have been, then, when it was all thrown out the window because of a heavy downpour prior to the match.
It was 5:12 when the rain started and the heavy stuff persisted for about forty minutes. The game was immediately delayed due to a lightning strike in the area, but even after that time had passed both teams needed to wait to take the field. The already saturated FNB Field had some standing water that needed to slowly drain off first. Ultimately the 6:30 match didn’t start until after 8:00 and the field was much muddier than both sides would have liked.
Penn FC went with pretty much their typical strating lineup, with a few exceptions. Sean Lewis once again got the start in goal over Romu Peiser and Aaron Dennis, who has routinely started or subbed into most matches later in the season, was nowhere to be seen. Pittsburgh experimented a bit as well as they too went with their backup goalkeeper, Mike Kirk. Kay Banjo also got the start at striker as their top scorer, Neco Brett, stayed on the bench.
You’ll notice that we’re most of the way into this “recap” and there’s been no mention of actually playing any soccer yet. Well that’s because once the match actually started, the playing conditions lead to some ugly, sloppy soccer. Every player had difficulty with their balance and most players ended up on their butt once or twice. A sliding defender would allow an attacker past, but then the attacker would lose the ball after they slip while redirecting the ball. This happened again and again.
Penn FC maintained a majority of possession during the first half, but things were shaping up too much like some of their recent losses. They’d have possession in their half, but when they launched the attack things would quickly fizzle out. The midfielders would pass it back to the defenders and everything would begin again.
Pittsburgh finally broke through in the 39th minute with a tap in goal by Kay Banjo. Pittsburgh attacked up the right side and the slick conditions paid off for them this time. A Penn FC defender broke up a low pass toward goal, but the ball squirted out and Banjo was there to run in and finish. It was the first goal scored between these two sides this season.
Penn FC attempted to switch things up in the second half by bringing on Isaac Osae for Calvin Rezende. Jake Bond was substituted out as well in favor of Sal Barone. That substitution may have been brought on by Bond bumping heads with a Pittsburgh player during the first half.
Unfortunately for Penn FC, these changes didn’t bring many new goal scoring opportunities. They managed to put three shots on goal during the half, but none were able to trouble Kirk very much and most of those came off of set pieces. Lewis had an amazing half in the Penn FC net and he pulled off several early saves to keep things close.
Tensions began to rise as time was running out for a Penn FC comeback. Both sides made appeals to the referee that seemed to really get under his skin. He eventually blew a gasket after Pittsburgh’s Joe Greenspan complained one to many times. It was an unusual visual to see the 6’ 5” Greenspan being dressed down by a much shorter man.
With Penn FC running out of chances late in the match, they started to leave gaps on defense and Pittsburgh went in for the late dagger. It was ultimately the former Harrisburg City Islander Andrew Lubahn who tucked away another rebound in the 90th minute to secure the win for the hounds.
The win gave Pittsburgh the Keystone Derby Cup, the Old Guard Shield, and it allowed them to clinch a playoff spot. With their current position on the table, they will most likely host a home playoff match this season.
Penn FC is not official eliminated from the playoffs, but they can only reach 7th or 8th place. They would need to win out and for the teams in those positions to lose out in order to make the playoffs.