May 23, 2021 (Founders Field, Cheswick, PA) – Despite looking like the better team on the day, the Hotspurs Women had to settle for a 1-1 draw against the Cleveland Ambassadors.
The Hotspurs had several golden chances throughout the course of regulation, but it was not until well into stoppage time that the lady Spurs were able to find a breakthrough.
With time winding down, Pittsburgh earned a free kick on the right side of the field. The ball was played short to outside back McKenzie Hollenbaugh (#10), who hit a dangerous cross into the box. It found a streaking Amanda Miller (#24), who elevated over several defenders and flicked a header beyond the Cleveland goalkeeper, Simon. The goal turned out to be one of the last plays of the game and holds historical relevance, as it is the first score in program history after formerly playing as Steel City FC.
The Hotspurs Women had the better of the play for the majority of the match, with Cleveland mainly looking to counter. The strategy nearly paid off in the early minutes, as a Cleveland forward intercepted a loose pass and broke towards the goal, but the Hotspurs goalie, Jess Neill (#1), made a great save to keep the match level.
Later in the first half, Hotspurs had their best chance of the game to that point, as Katelyn Kauffman (#14) dribbled a couple defenders and lofted a cross to the back post, which came inches away from connecting with winger, Helena Spencer (#37). Kauffman and Spencer both provided an important offensive spark for the Hotspurs, utilizing their pace and skill to cause havoc within the Cleveland backline.
The game began to open up as the first half carried on with Pittsburgh surviving a flurry of Cleveland attempts. Neill and center back, Marissa Salisbury (#34), came up big with a number of saves. The Cleveland offensive ended with Salisbury, who played a huge role in the tie, making an off-the-line clearance.
Pittsburgh continued to look sharp in the first half, especially from set-pieces. The Hotspurs earned two corners late in the first half, which resulted in two shots – one hitting the post and the other being cleared off the goal line by a Cleveland defender.
As the second half got underway, it was Cleveland who came out swinging, forcing goalkeeper DeFabbo (#13) into an early save. Minutes later, Pittsburgh was fortunate to escape harm, as a Cleveland forward shot the ball high over an empty net.
The lady Spurs regained their composure and were able to string a nice spell of possession, which culminated in midfielder Dixon Veltri (#41) beating a defender and firing a shot from the top of the box hitting the post. That proved to be a pivotal break for Cleveland, who broke the deadlock moments later.
Cleveland’s forward, Emme Flick, was played into space and beat DeFabbo low to the far post with 6 minutes left to play. Pittsburgh still continued to dominate possession and had a couple of chances in the dying minutes of the 90 minutes, yet could not find the back of the net.
Regulation time ended with Cleveland up 1-0 with the officials signaling for 4 added minutes. Within the 91st minute, it was again Kauffman who provided the threat, latching onto a cross and heading it against the crossbar. To this point, Pittsburgh had hit three posts and one crossbar.
It was not until the 93rd minute of injury time that Miller’s tally earned Pittsburgh a well-deserved point. “I think it showed a lot about our grit,” said Miller after the match. Kauffman followed up saying, “Our team played well. We had a lot of possession and chances, but just needed to score more.”
Hotspur Women return to WPSL action on June 5th at 6 PM at Founders Field.