Pittsburgh Riverhounds (1-6-3, 6 points) vs Richmond Kickers (4-4-4, 16 points)
5 p.m. Kickoff – City Stadium, Richmond, VA
YouTube / www.USLSoccer.com
KEY STORYLINES / WHAT’s AT STAKE
The Kickers haven’t won a game in the last five, including a loss to last place Montreal.
Something has to give.
Since 2011, the Kickers hold the edge over the Hounds (5-2-5).
However a year ago, the Hounds and Kickers played back-to-back weekends in May — as the Hounds followed up a 1-1 tie at Highmark Stadium to make the most of their only visit to Richmond, beating the Kickers 2-0 in the debut of former University of Virginia goalkeeper Calle Brown.
Dave Brandt (0-2) continues to seek his first win or draw is as the Riverhounds coach since taking over for Mark Steffens.
Former team captain Danny Earls was re-signed by the Hounds last week — and may see some action in this match-up between two teams that have been playing against each other since 1999. The Riverhounds also signed former Charlotte Independence forward Jack Thompson, who played at Brandt’s alma mater Messiah College.
MORE ON THE KICKERS
A few familiar faces make up the Kickers squad, including mainstays Samuel Asante, Yudai Imura (3 goals this season) and two midfielders who had stints with the Riverhounds (Brian Ownby who’s tied with Imura for team lead with 3 goals, and Jason Yeisley).
The team’s biggest loss this season has come from the news that Matthew Delicate, the franchise’s all-time leading scorer (goals, points), was lost for most of the rest of the year. After injuring his back, doctors found a cancerous tumor in his kidney the size of a golf ball in May.
As of now, the 34-year old native of England is listed as being out 8 to 12 weeks after having a successful nephrectomy procedure removing the cancerous tumor.
Delicate hopes to return before the end of the 2016 season in September — or sooner.
“I’m incredibly lucky — no question about it,” Delicâte told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Initially, he said, “I was upset and frustrated that I’d hurt my back. But now…”
He paused to collect his thoughts.
“… Had we not done the ultrasound and had we not found the mass, probably it would have kept growing. It could easily have become a life-threatening situation.”
TACTICS AND STRATEGIES
The Riverhounds look across the field and will see a team that is also struggling in recent weeks to score.
Delicate has traditionally been the Kickers’ most dangerous threat anywhere near the box.
Ownby’s work-rate is often unmatched by few — and the Richmond native will be someone the Riverhounds back line and midfield will have to pay close attention all game long
The Kickers have often been a direct, vertical attacking team — and the Hounds are trying to be like that under Brandt. Therefore this could be a pretty open contest, particularly if goals are scored early.
In last week’s 2-1 loss to Charleston, we saw much of the same from the Hounds in terms of having good stretches of possession, but unable to convert on scoring opportunities with the exception of a Rob Vincent blast from distance.
Earls will likely be someone they can count on to solidify the midfield. However, with not having played this season, it might be a few weeks before we see him play a full 90 minutes.
The Hounds will have to play without the services of Sergio Campbell, who will be sitting out a game due to having incurred a red card for a foul vs Charleston last Saturday.