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BREAKING DOWN THE HOUNDS: Fighting to stay in race

Riverhounds (8-10-11) vs. New York Red Bulls II (11-12-5)
4 p.m.
Pittser Field, Montclair, N.J.
• Video: USL YouTube
• Boxscore: USL Match Center
The optimistic Hounds fans will say that all they have to do is win seven straight games, and they’ll be lifting the USL Cup in early November.
Easier said, then done, of course, but the Hounds still have a fighting chance for a playoff spot, and they must avoid a loss, and really need a win in Jersey to stay alive in the race.
After a 3-2 loss to Bethlehem Steel FC last weekend, and with additional results from teams around them, the Riverhounds are now four points out of playoff position and desperate for a win.
Here are some additional pregame notes:
• Earlier this week, the Hounds recalled defender Joe Greenspan on loan from Minnesota United FC, primarily to provide a reliable replacement for Jamal Jack, who will have to sit out this game due to yellow card accumulation.
• Here’s my Hounds feature story this week, as both Head Coach Dave Brandt and defender Taylor Washington both addressed the importance for the Hounds to respond after last week’s loss, as both believe that the team still has a fighting chance to earn a playoff spot. Brandt hinted at some potential some line-up changes in addition to having Greenspan on the back line. This could potentially mean a rare start for Kenroy Howell as an attacking midfielder and Brandt will have to figure out his best options at the right outside back spot, which has seen a rotation of Shannon GomezJack Thompson and Ritchie Duffie taking turns in the past three weeks.
• The Hounds have yet to drop back-to-back matches this season, going 3-0-6 in such cases to date. The defending USL champs will present a considerable test though, as the hosts have won their past four matches at home. They haven’t played since a 4-2 loss to FC Cincinnati on September 16 in front of a USL-record crowd of 30,417 fans at Nippert Stadium. The defeat in Cincinnati ended the Red Bulls II’s six-game undefeated streak, but the club continued its run of scoring at least two goals to five games. Led by the dynamic French midfield duo of Vincent Bezecourt and Florian Valot, along with Brandon Allen (team leading 10 goals), New York has tallied 14 goals in that span.
• Defensively however, the Baby Bulls have conceded the most goals (50) of the 15 teams in USL’s Eastern Conference, so this has the potential to be another high scoring affair. In their only meeting earlier this year. the Hounds and NYRBII played to an exciting 3-3 season opening draw at Highmark Stadium. Corey Hertzog scored twice, and Kerr added another goal as the Hounds battled back from three one-goal deficits.
• After FC Cincinnati’s 1-0 win at Charlotte on Friday, the Hounds (35 points) are really now only within striking distance of two teams above the playoff line, 7th and 8th place Bethlehem Steel FC and Orlando City B, each with 39 points, while the Red Bulls II, who sit in 9th place are also right in front of them with 38 points. Bethlehem Steel FC play at Tampa Bay on Saturday, while OCB travel to Richmond on Sunday evening. Saint Louis FC (35 points) who are currently tied with Pittsburgh, play at Harrisburg on Saturday.
• Hertzog, who was drafted and played with New York Red Bulls, added two more goals to his team-leading total on Sunday vs Steel FC, as he now has 13 goals for the season. Chevy Walsh is second on the team with five goals, while struggling Romeo Parkes and team captain Kevin Kerr are next with three goals each.

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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