Pittsburgh Riverhounds (5-15-5) vs Orlando City B (8-9-8)
Kickoff 7:30 p.m. – Eastern Florida State College
Click HERE for the Riverhounds’ full game preview.
Live Stream at United Soccer League’s Match Center.
KEY STORYLINES / WHAT’s AT STAKE
It’s been a long season for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds.
The latest set back was seeing the team’s veteran midfielder Danny Earls receive an eight-game suspension from the league after his incident in last week’s game at Harrisburg which he was sent off after a hard tackle and a subsequent push of the game official.
So — maybe a trip to Florida might be just what they need.
The Riverhounds are on a little two-game undefeated streak after a draw at Harrisburg (although coaches and players alike would say that felt like a loss) and a win a home against Wilmington. Pittsburgh can play the role of spoiler for the first year Orlando City B squad that makes their home on Florida’s central east coast — the Space Coast in Melbourne, Florida.
OCB won the first meeting between the two teams in April – 2-1 at Highmark Stadium.
OCB (32 points) holds a five-point edge on the eighth and final playoff spot in the USL’s Eastern Conference, with Harrisburg, Bethlehem Steel FC and Wilmington tied for ninth place with 32 points.
Time is running short for the teams trailing OCB. And believe it or not, the last place Hounds are still mathematically alive sitting at 20 points.
The Hounds are 2-1-1 in their last four, and have shown some areas of improvement and continuity. OCB have been winless in their last four games.
One thing we’ll be watching closely is if Corey Hertzog can get back on the score sheet. The Harrisburg game was the first game in five that forward he didn’t score a goal.
The forward has now scored more goals in a single season than any other Hounds player save for Rob Vincent (18) and Jose Angulo (13) since 2013 and is only the eighth player in club history to have hit double-digits in goals in a single season.
Hertzog trails Los Angeles’ Jack McBean for the league lead in goals and points by four goals (15) and six points (32), respectively.
TACTICS & STRATEGIES
This game might provide Riverhounds Head Coach Dave Brandt to take a good look at some players that can contribute in 2017 — primarily Chevaughn Walsh — the team’s new signing and current MVP of PDL.
Walsh signed his first pro contract with the Hounds a few weeks ago, and had a chance to play in the final 20 minutes or so in a tightly contest match at Harrisburg with the Keystone Derby Cup at stake.
In the first game between the teams, OCB’s high pressure really rattled the Hounds back line – and Hounds captain Kevin Kerr was sent off late in the first half .
With 25 games under their belt and Brandt now having settled on what has been essentially the same group – the back line should be prepared to counter OCB’s young, athletic players attempting to bring high pressure.
With Earls out of the line-up for the remainder of the season, it would probably be wise for Brandt to put the underused veteran Stephen Okai back in the starting eleven at holding midfield.
While Tyler Turner scored two of his four goals this season in the game against the Hounds, OCB’s most dangerous player has been Michael Cox. The Canadian has had an excellent season with OCB – scoring 10 goals. The 6-foot-2 striker should provide a good battle with Hounds center back Sergio Campbell.