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Riverhounds fall to Wigan in friendly

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Hounds play host to F.A. Cup Champions in front of sold-out crowd

The Pittsburgh Riverhounds hosted the current F.A. Cup Champions, English side Wigan Athletic F.C. in an international friendly, losing 4-1 before a sellout crowd at Highmark Stadium on Friday night.

After a lightning delay pushed the start of the match back about 15 minutes, RIverhounds forward Jose Angulo didn't waste any time striking first.

The Riverhounds leading scorer made a nice individual run on the left side and drilled a shot past Wigan goalkeeper Nicholls Lee in the 2nd minute.

"I got past a few guys, things opened up and I got it off," said Angulo.

Wigan manager Owen Coyle knew his team may have been a little complacent after a 6-1 win against Dayton on Wednesday.

"It was a great play and an unstoppable shot. They really came out, played well from the start," said Coyle.

"The place went crazy. That's why we came here. We needed a good experience and there's some talented players here."

On the other sideline, Riverhounds coach Justin Evans chuckled, "I wish we had another lightning delay after that."

That's because eventually Wigan would settle down and take control of the match, getting into a rhythm controlling possession and creating opportunities after the initial goal. Hondurian Roger Espinoza scored the equalizer in the 11th minute on a low lining shot from about 35 yards that squeaked through the box and past Riverhounds goalkeeper Hunter Gilstrap. In the 28th minute, after a questionable foul call, Wigan defender Emmerson Boyce knocked a header past Gilstrap from a free kick off the foot of midfielder Ben Watson.

"We were able to knock the ball around a little bit, have some possession," said Angulo.

"It was about coming out and getting a good 45 minutes of hard work. These guys have played against the best, in the EPL (English Premier League). But I thought we stayed with them."

At the half, it was 2-1, but Evans stuck with his plan for the friendly, by bringing on his 11 guys from the bench to start the 2nd half, while Coyle kept most of his starters in the match.

In the 48th minute Wigan would not waste any time on a counter attack with lots of space, as Jean Beausejour sent a cross that Grant Holt was able to put past Riverhounds keeper Greg Blum.

"You can see the difference in quality of what we were playing against tonight. They are about two levels higher than us. Rarely do you see them play more than one or two touches and there service of the ball was outstanding," said Evans.

"But I thought we played well overall. Playing in a game like this is going to help us."

Even Riverhounds CEO Jason Kutney, who's playing status has been limited this year due to injuries and his executive duties, got into the match in the 81st minute.

"It was an awesome experience. It was cool to be able to step on the field tonight. A lot of hard work went into this. When Jose scored, that was the culmination of all of it," said Kutney.

In front of a packed house and lively atmosphere at Highmark Stadium, Coyle and his crew felt like they really enjoyed the final leg of their U.S. tour in the Steel City.

"It's such a scenic setting. When we saw this setting it was like - wow this place is nice.  We really enjoyed Pittsburgh," said Coyle, who now has to fly back to England and prepare his team for the likes of league play in the English Champions League (2nd division) as well as being participants for the first time in Europa Cup against other clubs from across Europe.

"Overall it was a fantastic exercise for us.  We will use this experience to help us. It's going to be tough this season. We want to get back to the (English) Premier League.  We want to do well in the Europa Cup too."

Wigan will begin league play on August 3rd and they also have a match with Manchester United on August 11th in the Community Shield match at Wembley Stadium.

The Riverhounds, fighting to stay alive for a playoff spot, have a very important USL PRO league match against Wilmington Hammerheads on Sunday.

"These type of matches don't come around very often," said Evans. "For once I didn't have knots in my stomach. It was fun. It was a good experience, but now we have to get back after it on Sunday.

Every Riverhounds player got in the match tonight.

In comparing the level of play that the Riverhounds usually face compared to what they saw tonight, Kutney's evaluation was:  "The difference is that they (Wigan) are playing at 99 percent.  Our league is about 70 percent."

Evans also made light of Angulo's superb goal by suggesting that "maybe now we can sell him to Wigan."

There was a sellout crowd, who mostly stuck around after the match for the Fireworks show.

Wilmington's game tonight at Rochester was postponed. It appears they will make up the game tomorrow and will have to travel to Pittsburgh immediately after for Sunday's critical USL PRO league match. Currently the Riverhounds are one point ahead of Wilmington. The match, originally scheduled for Saturday, will kick off at 3 p.m. on Sunday afternoon.

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