After all of the games this past weekend, here’s where the Riverhounds, now in a tie with idle Bethlehem, their next opponent, stand in the playoff race for the final spots in the Eastern Conference.
The Hounds (35 points), after a 1-1 draw vs Rochester on Saturday, have four games remaining, starting with a match against Bethlehem Steel FC, who they’re tied with, on Sunday, September 24 at Lehigh University.
PAST WEEKEND UPDATES:
FC Cincinnati beat NY Red Bulls II, 4-1, before a USL-record crowd of more than 30,000 fans in its last home game of the season to jump forward in the standings. FCC will close out its season with the last four games on the road.
Orlando City B currently have a tenuous hold on the eighth and final playoff spot after a 2-0 loss on the road to Saint Louis, who suddenly are only one point behind Pittsburgh. According to Mane Land, OCB has lost a number of key players, many who are now with Orlando City’s first team.
Bethlehem Steel FC earned a 2-2 draw against front-running Louisville City FC on Friday. Now tied with the Hounds, the teams will play for the third, and final, time this season in a game that may swing things either way if there’s a victor. Bethlehem has not won since August 13, when beating last place Toronto FC II. With Steel FC owning two games in hand over the Hounds, it will be imperative that the Hounds pick up a positive road result.
SEVEN TEAMS FOR FINAL THREE PLAYOFF SPOTS:
In summary, here’s how it looks for the seven teams battling for the last three playoff spots:
6. FC Cincinnati – 39 points, four games remaining: at St. Louis (Sept 23), at Charlotte (Sept 29), at Ottawa (Oct 8), at TFCII (Oct 14).
PghSoccerScribe’s Forecast – all road games remaining for a team that has not fared well on the road this season. Still, if you take out Charlotte, I’d day they pick up a win and two draws (5 points) in at least two out of three of those matches, bringing them to 44 points.
7. NY Red Bulls – 38 points, four games remaining: vs Pittsburgh (Sept 30), at Tampa Bay (Oct 4), at OCB (Oct 7), at Rochester (Oct 14).
PghSoccerScribe’s Forecast – like FCC, NYRBII finish with three straight road games. Having been very up and down this year as well, and defensively vulnerable, I don’t see that changing very much. I say they’re good for a win, a draw and two losses — bringing them to 42 points.
8. Orlando City B – 36 points, four games remaining: vs Charleston (Sept 23), at Richmond (Oct 1), vs NYRBII (Oct 7), Tampa Bay (Oct 12)
PghSoccerScribe’s Forecast – having lost some very important players to the Lions’ first team, it will be tough for them to repeat the level of play during 12-game unbeaten string. But, such is life for an MLS-owned team in the USL. Richmond has been playing better, Charleston will be playing to stay in top four and NYRBII and Tampa for playoff positioning makes for a very tough schedule down stretch. I’m going to say they draw twice and lose the other two — stumbling in for a 38 point finish.
9. Bethlehem Steel FC (35 points, six games remaining: vs Pittsburgh (Sept 24), vs Tampa Bay (Sept 27), at Tampa Bay (Sept 30), at TFCII (Oct 6), at Rochester (Oct 10), vs STLFC (Oct 15).
PghSoccerScribe’s Forecast – Steel FC have to be encouraged by last week’s 2-2 draw vs Lou City despite riding a six-game winless streak. Match vs Pgh will be very important for both sides. Then they have a home-home vs Tampa Bay, then finish with three games in an eight-day stretch. I’m going to give them wins over Tampa Bay at home, at TFCII and at home vs STLFC on last day of season (9 pts!) — and draws vs Hounds and road losses at Tampa and Rochester, which has them finishing with 45 points.
10. Pittsburgh Riverhounds -35 points, four games remaining: at Bethlehem (Sept. 24), at NY Red Bulls II (Sept. 30), vs Rochester (Oct. 7), vs Ottawa (Oct. 14).
PghSoccerScribe’s Forecast – the match versus Bethlehem is super critical in the race for the Hounds. I think the Red Bulls II game could be a dandy — and another high scoring affair (six or seven goals!) — and another dog-fight vs Rochester at home and then probably a must win vs Ottawa to close out season at home should be a win. Conservative outlook tells me they draw the next three, then win in home finale vs Ottawa. Though, with one road win in the next two (at Bethlehem or at NYRBII) — and four points in the final two at home vs Rochester/Ottawa likely gets them in. But my projections have them with 41 points.
11. Saint Louis FC (34 points, four games remaining:
PghSoccerScribe’s Forecast – Preki always seems to have flair for the dramatics and this team has shown plenty of fight this season. That being said, prior to beating struggling OCB, they had gone winless in four games going back to a 2-1 win over Tulsa. They are home to Cincy and Richmond, and travel to Harrisburg and Bethlehem. I’ll say they pick up four points at home (draw FCC, beat Richmond), and three on the road (beat Harrisburg, lose to Steel FC), and they finish with 41 points.
12. Ottawa Fury (32 points, five games remaining:
PghSoccerScribe’s Forecast – this is another team that hasn’t won since Aug. 12, a surprising 3-0 win over 2nd place Charlotte. They travel to Harrisburg this week, then host Charleston and Cincy before a season finale here in Pittsburgh on Oct. 14. With a lot to play for, I believe they draw Harrisburg on road, split with Charleston and Cincy, and lose at Pittsburgh in the finale — good for five more points — giving them 37 for the season.
PghSoccerScribe’s Forecast Projections:
Of course, I’ve been known to be wrong (many times) before, and that’s why they play the games, because anything can happen.
It should be a fun final four weeks!
If you combine my forecast totals, here’s my projections.
6. Bethlehem Steel FC – 45 points
7. Cincinnati – 44 points
8. NY Red Bulls II – 42 points
9. Pittsburgh Riverhounds – 41 points
10. St. Louis FC – 41 points
11. Orlando City B – 38 points
12. Ottawa Fury – 37 points