Pittsburgh Riverhounds (2-11-4, 10 points) vs Charlotte Independence (7–6–4, 25 Pts)
Kickoff 7 p.m. – Saturday, July 23
Broadcast – YouTube / Match Center.
KEY STORYLINES / WHAT’S AT STAKE
One of these two teams are in the thick of a playoff race in USL Eastern Conference standings — and the other is trying to get back on track in a season that has seen things go from bad to worse.
This is an important game for Charlotte who are fighting to stay above the playoff line as they’ve lost two straight games and they probably view this as an opportunity to pick up three points on the road against a team that can’t score goals and has been mistake-prone on defense.
The Riverhounds are that team.
On Sunday, they finally broke through to end a scoreless streak that reached four games, but that one goal by Kevin Kerr wasn’t enough to defeat Keystone Derby rivals, Harrisburg City Islanders in a 2-1 loss.
This is the first meeting between the two teams this season.
Last year, the Riverhounds didn’t fare well against the Independence in their inaugural season — as they lost both meetings by score of 2-1 in North Carolina — and settled for a 1-1 draw at Highmark Stadium.
Despite coming out on the wrong side of their series with the Indpendence in 2015 — the Hounds got the last laugh – edging them for one of the final six playoff spots on the final weekend of play when they won at Harrisburg.
One of the Riverhounds newest players, Jack Thompson played for the Independence in 2015 — where he started in 10 of 19 games played for the Independence. He racked up two goals and an assist including scoring the first goal in franchise history against the Charleston Battery on March 27, 2015.
The Riverhounds picked up a new player who might be able to help in the final third. Costa Rican forward Alejandro Aguilar, is playing in the United States for the first time and will be eligible to play after signing with the team on Monday. He will be wearing number 37.
MORE ON CHARLOTTE
With a pretty mixed roster of veteran and young players, the Independence now sit seventh in the tightly packed USL Eastern Conference standings, where three points separate the teams in fifth and 10th position.
Charlotte welcomed a sellout crowd earlier in July as the club hosted its first international exhibition against the Premier League’s Swansea City A.F.C.
They are a team with balanced attack — featuring four players (veteran Jorge Herrera, Enzo Martinez, Caleb Calvert and Brian Brown) who lead the team with four goals apiece.
The Independence are one of only two teams in the USL to not have a player sent off so far this season, alongside FC Cincinnati
This is a team that notched the only win over USL Champions Rochester in their championship season last year, and this year, they have the only win against the USL Eastern Conference’s first place team — NY Red Bulls II.
THEY SAID IT:
“The only thing this team can do right now to keep fighting. It’s a group of guys who want that, no one wants to stop fighting. Everybody has to step up.” — RIVERHOUNDS Head Coach David Brandt
TACTICS & STRATEGIES:
The Riverhounds’ Brandt has admitted to tinkering with the line-up and various formations until they can produce results.
The latest look that the Riverhounds implored on Sunday vs City Islanders was a basic 4-4-2 that seemed to work well for some stretches.
Still, they also had periods where they were pretty sloppy, giving some balls away at midfield — and back line blunders and inability to clear the ball – cost them in the first half against Harrisburg.
Bottom line here is that the Riverhounds have to minimize mistakes to produce positive results. They’ve posted only one shutout this season.
With the addition of Aquilar, and their inability to finish in the final third this year, it’s likely the Costa Rican will make his U.S pro debut- possibly even be in the starting eleven.