The Riverhounds fell to North Carolina FC, 2-1 on Saturday. A game recap will follow. .
Gameday File / Preview
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (9-2-7, 34 points) at North Carolina FC (6-8-5, 23 points)
Saturday, July 28, 7 p.m.
WakeMed Soccer Park, Cary, NC
Pittsburgh CW / ESPN+
Twitter: @PghSoccerNow | #NCvPGH
Stats: USL Match Center
Weather: High: 90 degrees, Low: 71 degrees
• This will be the second and final meeting between the two Eastern Conference sides this season. The Hounds won their first-ever meeting in league play, 2-0, during a Fourth of July showdown at Highmark Stadium earlier this month.
• For only the second time this season in league play, the Hounds will take the pitch after a loss. Pittsburgh will try to replicate the success it had last time following a defeat, as it overpowered the Richmond Kickers, 2-1, and set a season-high mark of 20 total shots.
• The Hounds’ shutout streak came to an end last time out against the Charleston Battery, as Pittsburgh’s surrendered the game-winning tally in the 88th minute of a 1-0 final. The Hounds blanked opponents in their previous five matches before the Battery slipped one in late.
• The Hounds’ strikers are in a bit of a slump. Over the past five games, Pittsburgh has not registered a goal from one of its forwards. The last time the Black and Gold logged a goal from a striker came in its 3-0 home victory against New York Red Bulls II on June 16, when all three tallies were scored by forwards (Neco Brett notched two goals and Romeo Parkes added one goal). Despite this slump, the Hounds have fared well over this stretch, holding a 3-1-1 record in their past five games. Brett is listed on the Hounds injury report as doubtful, so even if Parkes gets the nod, look for either Dennis Chin and/or Kay Banjo, who’ve been seldom used this season to this point, to potentially have a chance to have an impact in this game.
• Although this streak is over, the Hounds are still well on their way to setting a club record in goals-against average. The team is allowing just 0.44 goals per game, which is nearly half as much as its 0.85 mark it set in 2004. Pittsburgh shut out North Carolina FC in their first meeting this season, and will look to lower its goals-allowed-per-game statistic with another clean sheet this weekend.
• This will be the Hounds’ second ever visit to WakeMed Park, and first in official USL league play. This facility has regularly hosted major tournaments such as the NCAA College Cup, the ACC Soccer Championships, and the NCHSAA high school state soccer finals. It’s also the home to the North Carolina Courage, the front-running team in NWSL, and selected matches for North Carolina State Wolfpack men’s and women’s teams in ACC play.
• With an undefeated road record of 4-0-4, the Hounds are on pace for perhaps their best season in club history in this department. Only two other times since the team began play in 1999 has it recorded a winning record on the road – 2003 (8-3-3) and 2004 (8-2-0).
• Parkes’ career success on the road could work in the team’s favor, as it looks to break this slump. Seven of the striker’s 11 career goals with the Black and Gold have come on the road, including two road tallies this season (at Richmond Kickers and at Tampa Bay Rowdies)
HOUNDS INJURY REPORT
Neco Brett – Doubtful (Neck)
Kyle Morton – Out (Lower-body)
MORE ON NORTH CAROLINA FC
Since dropping this match to Pittsburgh, North Carolina FC has gone unbeaten in its past three games. The USL newcomer has posted a 1-0-2 record over this stretch. Its win – a 3-1 victory against Toronto FC II – came last time out.
North Carolina, which joined the USL this off season after competing in the NASL, previously as the Carolina Railhawks, have been led by the same coach for the past six years — Irishman Colin Clarke. The veteran coach also had a pretty impressive playing career, representing Northern Ireland in the 1986 World Cup and experiencing a twelve-year playing career in England.
Thus far it’s been an up and down first go in its new league for North Carolina. They’re currently sitting 13th in the Eastern Conference, but only trail the eighth and last playoff spot by four points.
Playing to its strength — they like to possess the ball, and have a strong attack led by Daniel Ríos, who is third in the league with 10 goals on the season, and Kyle Bekkers, second in the East with seven assists. Rios, a 23-year old Mexican, is on loan from C.D. Guadalajara of the Liga MX.
Michael Harrington is a savvy veteran who has played more than 10 seasons in MLS making more than 230 appearances with Sporting KC, Colorado Rapids, Portland Timbers and Chicago Fire. This year the Greenville, NC native has returned home as the anchor for this team. Featuring at center back, Harrington has played in all 15 league matches and tops on the team with 1,314 minutes.
Austin da Luz is a key play maker for the North Carolina attack which often likes to come out in a 4-4-2. On Saturday, in 3-1 win at Richmond, da Luz scored a goal and played a key part in another. The midfielder has two goals and one assist on the season, while also being second on the team with 21 chances created thus far. He was also named to the USL Team of the Week for his performance.
Even against defending champion Louisville City FC in a match that ended in 2-2 draw as Rios had two goals including a late equalizer on June 23, North Carolina held a 57% possession advantage, with 11 shots from in the box — with five on target.
This hasn’t been a strong defensive team — posting near bottom of the league in shutouts (4) — and allowing 1.4 goals per game, so the Hounds, who scored twice in the previous match against NCFC, will look to capitalize on scoring chances.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
#NCvPGH #RiverhoundsSC #NCFC
Confidence is high for the Riverhounds, even after its second loss of the season last week.
“We’ll be ready to play against North Carolina,” Bob Lilley, Riverhounds coach, said. “There’s a reason why we’ve only dropped two. It’s because we’ve been consistently competing.”
Still, coach Lilley is not going to take North Carolina FC lightly.
“It’s going to be difficult. They are one of those teams who’s are better than there record indicates. They have a lot of quality. At some point, they’re going to get on a run. We don’t want them to get hot at our expense. We’re going to try to make it difficult for them, even tough we’re on the road. They generally have a lot of possession so we’re going to have to chase a little bit. But hopefully we can have enough moments of possession for ourselves and create quality chances, and defend like we usually do.”
North Carolina FC overall record: 6-8-5
North Carolina FC home record: 4-4-2
Pittsburgh overall record: 9-2-7
Pittsburgh road record: 4-0-4
July 4, 2018, at Highmark Stadium
Pittsburgh 2, North Carolina FC 0
PGH – Christiano François 45’ (Ray Lee)
PGH – Kevin Kerr 71’ (Kenardo Forbes)
Goals: Neco Brett (8)
Assists: Kenardo Forbes and Kevin Kerr (4)
Points: Neco Brett (19)
Saves: Dan Lynd (30)
Save %: Dan Lynd (.789)
GAA: Dan Lynd (0.53)
North Carolina FC
Goals: Daniel Ríos (10)
Assists: Kyle Bekker (8)
Points: Daniel Ríos (24)
Saves: Alex Tambakis (60)
Save %: Alex Tambakis (.698)
GAA: Alex Tambakis (1.37)
LAST TIME OUT…
Charleston 1, Pittsburgh 0
CHS – Ataulla Guerra 88’ (Angelo Kelly-Rosales)
Dan Lynd – Ray Lee, Tobi Adewole, Joe Greenspan, Hugh Roberts, Jordan Dover – Kevin Kerr (Kay Banjo 82’), Thomas Vancaeyezeele, Kenardo Forbes, Christiano François – Neco B!rett (Romeo Parkes 82’)
North Carolina FC
North Carolina FC 3, Toronto FC II 1
TOR – Shaan Hundal 20’ (Luca Uccello)
NC – Austin da Luz 28’ (Kyle Bekker)
NC – Daniel Ríos 55’ (penalty)
NC – Kyle Bekker 61’ (Daniel Ríos)
Alex Tambakis – Aarón Guillén, Michael Harrington, Connor Tobin, D.J. Taylor (Peabo Doue 78’) – Austin da Luz, Kyle Bekker, Graham Smith, Steven Miller (Wuilito Fernandes 90’+3) – Ulrich Ewolo (Tiyi Shipalane 24’), Daniel Ríos