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BREAKING DOWN THE HOUNDS: Game Day Preview – Pittsburgh Looking To Stay On Course For Playoffs

20150527 - US Open TBR-IMG_6622
Pittsburgh Riverhounds (4-4-4) vs. F.C. Montreal (1-8-2)
Highmark Stadium
Saturday, June 20 at 7 p.m. EDT
First Year in USL
Head Coach: Philippe Eullaffroy
F.C. Montreal (1-8-2, five points) travels south of the border on a 5-game winless streak and with the poorest offensive record in the USL. The Canadians prop up the Eastern Conference although results have not been as bad as a cursory glance at the standings suggests.
Philippe Eullaffroy’s young team held the Richmond Kickers to a scoreless tie in Virginia last weekend.
They handed the Charleston Battery its only loss of the year on May 14 and have twice been edged by a single goal by the league leading Rochester Rhinos.
With the exception of Fabio Morelli (Switzerland), the entire roster is made up entirely of Canadian born players.
The Hounds remain inside the playoff positions with a 4-4-4 record (16 points) despite failing to win either of the two previous league games this month. Saint Louis F.C. scored a late equalizer at Highmark Stadium on June 6 to nick a 1-1 tie before Charlotte Independence toppled Mark Steffens’ side last Saturday by 2-1.
The Riverhounds continue to lead USL in goals scored with 27 from 12 games while still looking for a first league shutout of the year at the other end. English midfielder Rob Vincent leads the individual goals, goals-per-game, points and points-per-game categories with nine goals and four assists.
Vincent also scored in each of the three U.S. Open Cup games played by the Riverhounds this year including his penalty kick conversion in Wednesday’s 3-1 loss to D.C. United.
Former Sampdoria youth player Alessandro Riggi leads Montreal’s offense. The 21-year-old midfielder has scored three of his team’s seven league goals.
Saturday’s game marks the first contest between the teams since F.C. Montreal entered USL this year. The Hounds travel to Quebec next month for the return game on July 12.
South African playmaker Lebo Moloto will likely miss the game after straining his left hamstring at Charlotte last weekend. Matt Dallman and Amara Soumah are also likely to miss out as they recover from their respective hip flexor and ankle injuries.
Captain Danny Earls is absent through suspension after being dismissed for deliberate handball during last weekend’s loss.
Physical and mental fatigue could be a factor for the Hounds to overcome after pushing Major League Soccer franchise D.C. United to extra time in Wednesday’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup fourth round meeting.
Montreal did not play during the week, and they’ve shown fight against some of the top teams in the USL Eastern Conference recently.   This will not be an easy one for Pittsburgh.
The Riverhounds were in this position a year ago.  Despite their poor record, they began to turn their season around with inspired performances — and a road win at Rochester.  Montreal will be playing with the same type of desperation.
Without regulars Moloto and Earls, the Hounds midfield will have different look. It will be up to Stephen Okai to have a strong game at central, holding midfield.  Coach Mark Steffens has also utilized the team’s leading scorer Rob Vincent in the holding midfield role previously, so that might be a possibility.   Kevin Kerr is also playing at a very high level right now — as one of the best players on the field on Wednesday night.
Mike Green continues to answer the call which ever position he lines up.  Last game in the Open Cup vs D.C. United, he filled in an attacking role in Moloto’s absence.  He has also played numerous games at outside back as well.
Calle Brown’s strong performance in goal in the Open Cup loss to the D.C. United will likely merit the nod in goal for this game.
Kerr said on Wednesday after a hard-fought effort in the 3-1, extra time loss to MLS D.C. United, the Riverhounds must carry over the same effort into league play:
“It gives us the confidence we need.  It can only help.  We showed how good we can be.    We must come out with the same intensity, same desire in every game.  We have the potential to do very will in the league,” said Kerr.
The Riverhounds are the only team in USL this season to not post a shut out in league play, and despite their poor record, F.C. Montreal have two clean sheets.
Referee: Charles Murphy              Assistant Referees: John Safar, Jimmy Brooks
Fourth Official: Eric Proctor

John Krysinsky has covered soccer and other sports for many years for various publications and media outlets. He is also author of 'Miracle on the Mon' -- a book about the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, which chronicles the club, particularly the early years of Highmark Stadium with the narrative leading up to and centered around a remarkable match that helped provide a spark for the franchise. John has covered sports for Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, DK Pittsburgh Sports, Pittsburgh Sports Report, has served as color commentator on Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC broadcasts, and worked with OPTA Stats and broadcast teams for US Open Cup and International Champions Cup matches held in the US. Krysinsky also served as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach at his alma mater, Point Park University, where he led the Pioneers to the first-ever winning seasons and playoff berths (1996-98); head coach of North Catholic boys (2007-08), associate head coach of Shady Side Academy boys (2009-2014).

Riverhounds MF Danny Griffin

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