Perfect strike delivers victory for Riverhounds

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From a basic standpoint, Niko Katic sees soccer like a chess match. There's a certain methodical quality to it that rewards a tactical mind, and though not every opportunity needs to be fully seized, enough do in order to win the game.

Friday night at Highmark Stadium, the Riverhounds' interim coach saw that comparison play out.

His team was largely controlling the game and getting chances, yet it had nothing to show for it. He preached to his players at halftime that a decisive moment would come -- they just had to remain patient.

Quickly enough, it unfolded just as he had hoped.

A goal in the 54th minute from Mike Green gave the Riverhounds a 1-0 victory against Orange County Blues FC, earning them a crucial three points as they try to keep their postseason hopes alive with five games remaining in the season.

"We're on a roll and, hey, let's give us a chance every single game," Katic said. "Let's give us a chance, that's what we're looking for."

The win was the team's fourth in the past five games, a surge that has kept them in contention for a playoff spot, something of a feat for a squad that didn't get its first win until the 11th match of the season.

The Riverhounds (7-11-5) entered the game one point behind Orange County (8-14) in the USL Pro standings, with the victory temporarily hoisting them into a three-way tie with the Charleston Battery and Wilmington Hammerheads FC for the eighth and final playoff spot. However, Charleston (one) and Wilmington (five) have played fewer games than the Riverhounds.

After a first half highlighted by no fewer than four good scoring chances, a single strike from Green in the second half made such a position in the standings possible. After a shot from Danny Earls was deflected by the goalkeeper, Earls regained control of the ball and passed it back to Green. From there, the 5-foot-10 forward, who is listed as a defender on the team's roster, hit it in the upper right corner from near the penalty spot.

"Mike Green was unbelievable tonight and we always believed in Mike Green," Katic said. "We said he's a forward and tonight, he showed what he can do on the ball, off the ball, closing defenders down, taking guys on one on one. He scored a wonderful goal."

The shutout was the third of the season for goalkeeper Michael Lisch.

"If you put the work in, you're going to get the result," Lisch said. "That's kind of our mindset going into each game. "

The Riverhounds were without leading scorer Jose Angulo, who is bothered by a high ankle sprain. Katic said he's hoping to have his star striker back for their next match Aug. 16.

Regardless, Katic and his team were able to leave the field Friday with a win during a point in the season in which their margin for error is almost nonexistent.

"Every game for us is a must win," Katic said. "We're against the wall and we're going to try to win every single game we have left."

Craig Meyer: cmeyer@post-gazette.com and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG.


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