The Pittsburgh Riverhounds made club history on the field and in the stands Wednesday night at Highmark Stadium with 1-0 win against the Columbus Crew in the Round of 16 of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

A record crowd of 6,107 cheered and sang the Hounds to the team’s second consecutive upset of an MLS team in the competition. Pittsburgh defeated the New England Revolution, 1-0, on the road on May 9.

The Riverhounds largely stifled Columbus throughout the early stages of Wednesday night’s game. And while the Crew controlled possession, the visitors failed to create any gilt-edged chances on either side of Albert Dikwa’s 22nd-minute goal.

Columbus committed to building attacks through its back line in the face of a committed press led by Tola Showunmi. But when the Crew turned the ball over in its own defensive third, Upper St. Clair alum Robbie Mertz played Dikwa in to slot past Crew goalkeeper Evan Bush.

Between choruses of “Go Back to Ohio” the Hounds only grew further into the game throughout the first half. A series of one-touch midfield flicks confirmed what traveling Crew supporters and players already knew: Pittsburgh was deeply undaunted by its first-tier opposition.

Although Columbus would bring on regulars Malte Amundsen in the 59th minute as well as Mohamed Farsi and Aidan Morris in the 77th, Bob Lilley’s Pittsburgh side was broadly comfortable soaking up pressure. The Crew hardly mustered more space or inspiration than what they used to repeatedly cross into the arms of Hounds goalkeeper Jahmali Waite.

Dikwa, the scorer of the game winner, limped off with a hip flexor injury in the 57th minute. His knock, combined with a 95th-minute red card for Edward Kizza, made for the home team’s only disappointments on the evening.

Kizza will miss the Hounds’ June 5 quarterfinal visit to FC Cincinnati as a result.

Cincinnati knocked Pittsburgh out of last year’s Open Cup in the Round of 32 with a pair of extra time goals in Cincinnati.

The Hounds’ victory gives them their deepest run in the U.S. Open Cup since 2001, when they went out to the Chicago Fire in the quarterfinals. The Cup, which is open to teams across all levels of competition in the U.S., was the second-longest running annual cup competition in the world until 2020, when it was canceled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Pittsburgh is just one of two non-MLS teams advancing to the quarters. The Birmingham Legion also scored an upset, of MLS opponent Charlotte FC, Wednesday night.

If the Riverhounds beat Cincinnati in the quarterfinals they will face the winner of Birmingham and Inter Miami in the semifinals. No non-MLS team has won the Open Cup since the Rochester Raging Rhinos lifted the cup in 1999.

Fans celebrate the Riverhounds’ victory. (Video by Jacob Klinger)
Jacob Klinger