Saint Louis F.C.’s Playoff Status In Doubt After Loss vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds
Photo Credit: Will Bramlett, STLFC
St. Louis, MO- During the club’s record five match winning streak last month, Saint Louis F.C. and their fans were dreaming of potentially hosting a playoff game as a middle to high playoff seed. With just one game left in the regular season, the team is fighting just to make it in.
In front of a crowd of 5,273 people on Saturday night, STLFC lost their third match in a row, falling to the first-place team in the Eastern Conference, Pittsburgh Riverhounds, by a score of 1-0.
The loss leaves a possibility that STLFC could find themselves outside of the playoff picture by the time they kick off Saturday night in their last match of the USL regular season.
“I’m bitterly disappointed, such a tough one to take conceding at the death from a set piece,” said STLFC head coach Anthony Pulis. “I don’t think we were at our best tonight and Pittsburgh made things difficult for us. The guys were made aware that tonight was going to be a battle and that they would have to fight to get something out of it.”
After the disappointing 4-3 loss vs. Loudoun United midweek, Pulis opted for several changes to the starting 11. Jake Fenlason started in goal ahead of Tomas Gomez, while regulars such as Matt Bahner, Kyle Greig, and club captain Sam Fink started on the bench.
Pittsburgh came into the match with only a one point lead over Nashville S.C. for first place in the conference and looked to establish their tenacious style early. In the 24th minute, center-back Joe Greenspan rose highest to meet a corner kick, but his point-blank header rang off the post and was cleared by Lewis Hilton of STLFC.
STLFC’s first chance came in the 34th minute in a move started by Tyler Blackwood. The forward was able to play a ball towards the top of the right side of the box during a transition.
Midfielder Guy Abend beat the oncoming Pittsburgh goalkeeper Kyle Morton to the ball and was able to take a touch around him. Abend would try to at least put the ball in a dangerous area, but his attempt was caught by the retreating Morton.
Both teams were able to lock things down at the back for the final 10 minutes or so until the halftime whistle.
Pittsburgh thought they took the lead in the 51st minute when they headed the ball into the back of the net, but the corner kick had strayed out of bounds first.
In the 58th minute, Pittsburgh’s Steevan Dos Santos let loose a wicked shot from the left side of the box towards the near post, but Fenlason stood tall to make the save.
STLFC would sub on Greig in the 65th minute to chase the opening goal but he would leave the match just 10 minutes later after colliding head-to-head with Pittsburgh’s Todd Pratzner, who also was subbed off.
Dos Santos would continue to wreak havoc in the 80th minute when Fenlason was caught out of his goal after coming for a cross in the box. The forward sent a shot streaking for goal, but STLFC’s captain for the night, Phanuel Kavita, was there to head the ball off the line.
The defensive levee of STLFC would break in the 88th minute when Pittsburgh were finally able to take advantage of their size difference on set pieces. After the initial header was saved spectacularly by Fenlason, the ball bounced around in the six-yard box before it was poked home by Dos Santos for his tenth goal of the season.
STLFC would throw on Fink up top for the final six minutes of the match but it would not be enough to breakdown the Riverhounds’ defense, which walked away with their league leading 16th clean sheet.
“It’s tough because we battled for 90 minutes, but didn’t execute on one set piece, and we got punished for it,” said Fenlason.
STLFC remain in 9th place on 42 points, two points ahead of both Birmingham Legion F.C. and the Charleston Battery. Both teams have two matches remaining on their schedule.
“We haven’t gotten a result in three games, so it’s been tough mentally,” said Kavita. “We have no choice but to bounce back, so we have to keep our head down and keep grinding.”
STLFC will play their final match of the regular season this Saturday when they go on the road to take on North Carolina F.C.