KEY STORYLINES / WHAT’s AT STAKE
The end is finally here for the 2016 Pittsburgh Riverhounds campaign.
The Hounds have shown some positive form of late — picking up a pair of ties in the last two games a home against Cincy and at Bethlehem Steel FC, after an embarrassing 4-0 loss at Charlotte.
FC Cincinnati is locked into the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference as it closes the season on the road against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds.
With the final result not affecting FCC’s position in the standings, however, the side may look to give forward Sean Okoli all the chances he needs to claim the USL Golden Boot, with the standout striker sitting tied for the league lead on 15 goals with the LA Galaxy II’s Jack McBean.
There’s also the chance for the Hounds to move up in the Eastern Conference table, while the Hounds, though eliminated from playoff contention, have a chance to move up from No. 13 to No. 12 with a win or tie and Toronto FC II loss.
Pittsburgh will also look to capture points in its fourth-straight home match on Saturday, which would be the club’s best streak since the 2015 team also ended the season on a four-game unbeaten streak at Highmark Stadium.
Saturday’s match presents the final opportunity for the Hounds to pick up a win against a team with a winning record this season.
The club currently holds a 0-12-3 record against the top seven in the East. · With his 13th goal on the season this past weekend, Corey Hertzog sits at sixth in the USL in goals scored and two behind Okoli and McBean.
The Hounds forward will also crack the top-10 in franchise history in goals scored with his next tally – tying himself for 10th with Justin Evans and Michael Butler – while two tallies will bump him up to tied for eighth with Said Ali and Gary DePalma.
TACTICS & STRATEGIES
My only suggestion to Riverhounds Head Coach Dave Brandt might be to give former Central Catholic, and Robert Morris standout, Brendan Alfery a start in goal.
After all, if the Hounds are celebrating “Pittsburgh Pride” (see below) on Saturday at Highmark, then maybe it would be nice to give the Pittsburgh native a start or some action in goal in the season finale.
On the other side of the coin, I wonder how many will be playing their last game with the Hounds tonight. There was a lot of roster movement this year — and I fully expect to see a lot more in the off season.
That being said, something can and should be said to have some continuity if Brandt is going to return — he’ll need some building blocks.
Players that appear that will be likely with the team in 2017 will be Chevaughn Walsh and Kevin Kerr. Beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess. It would be nice to see Hertzog, Sergio Campbell, Willie Hunt all return for the sake of continuity. The partnership with Columbus has been much better than the one the Hounds had with Houston two years ago and that’s another discussion item in the coming weeks (by the way — I’ll be joining Mon Goals podcast crew, and former Pittsburgh Riverhounds president Richard Nightingale for season wrap-up show this coming week).
On the field Saturday, the Hounds should continue to keep doing what they are doing.
The last few matches, the Hounds have shown to be pretty solid on the back line — and Hertzog and Walsh have combined to provide enough in the attack that keep other team’s defending units aware of them — and it’s also given Kerr a chance to find his spots and free lance a bit more. It was Kerr getting into the box with the ball that set up the goal in the Bethlehem Steel FC game that set up Hertzog’s PK.
CELEBRATING ‘PITTSBURGH PRIDE’ ON SATURDAY
While this is completely an off-the-field event — the Hounds are going all out to celebrate Pittsburgh — and mark the special Bicentennial year.
Fans are encouraged to deck out in their favorite Black and Gold attire, whether it is Hounds, Penguins, Pirates or Steelers.