Pittsburgh Riverhounds (4-3-3, 15 points) vs. Saint Louis FC (3-3-3, 12 points)
Saturday, June 6, 2015
1 p.m. ET, Highmark Stadium
In the first ever USL match in St. Louis on April 12 at World Wide Technology Park, the Riverhounds battled back for a 1-1 draw, thanks to a 2nd half goal by VIni Dantas and some pretty big saves by Ryan Thompson.
At the time, Riverhounds Head Coach Mark Steffens came away pleased to get a point, as it was his team’s first real test playing on the road in hostile territory.
“We’re not sure of who we are yet and we’re still trying to figure it out, so this was a really big point for us on the road.”
In a game where the Riverhounds were really struggling to keep possession, Steffens brought Stephan Okai off the bench, and that seemed to help the team keep the ball for longer stretches. It was one of the better games played by Okai as well as Dantas, who was causing all kinds of problems for the St. Louis back line — as he was fouled four separate times in the second half.
It was also another game in which began a season long trend in which the Riverhounds would battle back – and outplayed their opponents in the second half.
A Closer Look: St. Louis F.C.
Actually, this St. Louis team has emulated the Riverhounds in the record column.
They’ve been consistently inconsistent.
After nine USL matches, they carry the same record that Pittsburgh did last week with a soccer’s three-of-a-kind (3-3-3) record. They’ve also moved into the fourth round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup with two wins, including a nice win over a tough NASL opponent – the Minnesota United.
But that’s about where the similarities end.
While the Riverhounds have scored 25 goals in league play, St. Louis has relied on a strong defense and played all close games — scoring a total of 11 goals in nine games. Their last seven USL matches have either ended in a draw or one goal difference.
In their most recent outings in league play, they have faced their Kings Cup rivals, Louisville City FC, in consecutive games played all-square – with 1-1 and 3-3 ties. The 3-3 tie, while not quite as wild as the Keystone Derby matches, still showed that St. Louis can have dangerous goal scoring capability. They scored three goals against a Louisville team that hadn’t given up a goal in a string of matches prior to that. But, like their tie with the Riverhounds, they couldn’t hold the lead each time, and settled for the tie.
Bryan Gaul has led St. Louis attack with three goals and an assist, playing all nine games.
What’s At Stake:
The Pittsburgh Riverhounds will aim to solidify their spot in the USL’s playoff zone. The Hounds moved up to fifth in the Eastern Conference standings last week with their incredible 6-5 win over the Harrisburg City Islanders in the Keystone Derby. St. Louis can pull level with the Hounds this weekend if Dale Schilly’s expansion team picks up the win.
This is the second and final meeting between the teams in this year’s USL regular season.
“Saint Louis is a very dangerous attacking team,” said Riverhounds head coach Mark Steffens.
“They’ve got two big strikers that hold the ball well. “They pressed us well too in the first game and we couldn’t get a rhythm.
“We expect the same again.”
Last week’s drama against Harrisburg saw the Hounds regaining the USL’s best offensive record with the 25 goals in 10 games. Rob Vincent leads the league with eight goals and also heads the points, points-per-game and goals-per-game categories.
Vincent was named as the USL’s Player of the Week after following up his Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup game winner against the Tampa Bay Rowdies with two goals against the Islanders. Hounds captain Danny Earls joined the English midfielder on the league’s Team of the Week.
Kevin Kerr sits second on the assists chart behind Raul Mendiola of L.A. Galaxy II. Kerr has set up five of the Riverhounds’ league goals while scoring five of his own to rank third overall in points behind Vincent and the Sacramento Republic’s Rodrigo Lopez.
South African playmaker Lebo Moloto became the first player to register three assists in a USL game this year during last week’s win over Harrisburg.
But for all of the accolades, Steffens and his coaching staff still must find a way to shore up the Riverhounds defensive woes. They have given up the most goals in the league (20), and they were trailing most of the night against Harrisburg, and in their three losses, have been undone by defensive lapses and mistakes.
Steffens has a near full roster to choose from this weekend. Goalkeeper Ryan Thompson is unavailable after leaving Thursday to join the Jamaican national team in Chile for this month’s Copa America tournament.
Matt Dallman is the only other expected absentee as he recovers from a tweaked hip flexor.
Other Match Data:
Referee: David Mon
Assistant Referees: Democratis Pashalidis, Greg Irwin
Fourth Official: Lucas Feathers