Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (12-3-7, 43 points) vs. Charlotte Independence (7-9-7, 28 points)
Saturday, Aug. 18, 7 p.m. – Highmark Stadium
Matt Gajtka will be on site — not only providing play-by-play for the ESPN+ broadcast, but will also provide the game recap for PSN.
Ed Thompson will also be joining our coverage — providing photography from the match.
From Gajtka: Just got off the phone with Hounds coach Bob Lilley regarding tonight’s match — being part of the broadcast crew has its privileges — and the biggest news I could glean from the conversation is that Wednesday’s match against Tampa Bay at Highmark Stadium should have little impact on Lilley’s lineup tonight.
Lilley said that, since the Hounds don’t have a match next weekend, there’s less of a concern about limiting players’ minutes than if this were a three-games-in-a-week scenario. Lilley also said the third day of rest between Saturday and Wednesday as opposed to vice versa is a bigger deal than you might think.
As far as the keeper situation is concerned, Lilley said rookie pro Mike Kirk has gotten more comfortable since Kyle Morton‘s season-ending injury forced Kirk into the 18-man matchday roster on a regular basis. Tonight will be Kirk’s first USL start and just his second as a Hound, following up on his U.S. Open Cup debut against Erie back in May.
Lilley lauded Kirk’s shot-stopping in addition to his footwork, attributes which helped the native of Mechanicsburg, Pa., nail down a three-year starter role at LaSalle University.
To close our conversation, I asked Lilley about his more liberal usage of Mouhamed Dabo lately. The 22-year-old midfielder from Senegal has started the past few games after recovering from a lower-body injury and has been dynamic in a holding position, breaking up counterattacks and winning 50-50 balls with frequency.
“He gives us some steel in the midfield,” Lilley said of Dabo, who played 42 matches over the past two seasons with the franchise formerly known as the Harrisburg City Islanders.
• The Hounds have responded emphatically after losing two games at the end of July, as they’re now on their second three-game winning streak of the year. A win on Saturday night against the one team in the Eastern Conference they’ve yet to face this season would give Pittsburgh its first four-game winning streak since the 2015 season.
• As the Hounds hit the final stretch of the season, their depth will be put to the test. It was reported earlier this week they’re now dealing with significant injuries to two key players — goalkeeper Dan Lynd and veteran midfielder Kevin Kerr. Both might be out for a substantial period of time, as Kerr has torn his calf, and Lynd suffered a facial injury against Bethlehem Steel FC. Up until Sunday, Lynd had played every minute of each league match this season (22 games), until he was replaced by Mike Kirk. On Saturday, Kirk will get the call, and recently, they also signed another keeper, Nathan Ingham, providing the coaching staff with two healthy options. Timetable for each to return is expected to be at least a month.
• Hoping to exorcise some demons of the past, one team that’s owned the Hounds since coming into the USL in 2015, is Charlotte. Pittsburgh is 0-5-2 all-time against their Eastern Conference foe, including a 1-1 draw in North Carolina’s Queen City and a 3-1 loss at Highmark Stadium on the Fourth of July last year. Charlotte has outscored Pittsburgh 16-5 in the all-time series.
• The Hounds will look to the recent hot stretches of play from three individuals in particular to continue their win streak. Forward Neco Brett leads the way, scoring five goals over a three-game scoring streak and is tied for second in the race for the Golden Boot. Midfielders Kenardo Forbes and Christiano François, meanwhile, have been key in distribution, serving up three and two assists, respectively, during this stretch.
MORE ON CHARLOTTE INDEPENDENCE
With just one win in the past two months, the Hounds will meet an Independence team that is struggling to get into contention for a playoff spot (28 points), now sitting six points behind the playoff line. The Independence are a shade of playoff teams from recent years — as they’ve been outscored 10-2 during a recent winless streak of four games.
One of the lone standout performers for the Independence is a notorious Hounds killer, Jorge Herrera. The veteran attacker has scored 11 career goals against the Black and Gold – the second most an opponent has scored against the Hounds in their history. The Columbian striker has scored 10 goals this season, and has been an ironman for the Independance, logging more than 2,000 minutes.
Despite its struggles this season, under coach Mike Jeffries, Charlotte continues to be a possession oriented team that remains among league’s best (4th) in total passes (11,037) and passing accuracy (81%).
Defensively, they’ve especially struggled this season. In the USL’s Eastern Conference, only Toronto FC II, NY Red Bulls and Atlanta United 2 have surrendered more goals this year than Charlotte (37). On loan from MLS affiliate Colorado Rapids, Andrew Dykstra has been in goal for 19 of the Independence’s matches this year, while former USL Goalkeeper of the Year Brandon Miller, who was part of the Rochester Rhinos 2015 championship squad under current Hounds coach Bob Lilley, has appeared in three matches this season.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
#PGHvCLT – #Riverhounds – #USL
Hounds coach Bob Lilley on dealing with injuries and what to expect from Charlotte.
— Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (@RiverhoundsSC) August 18, 2018
Charlotte overall record: 7-9-7
Charlotte away record: 2-7-2
Pittsburgh overall record: 12-3-7
Pittsburgh home record: 7-2-3
HOUNDS INJURY REPORT
Kevin Kerr – Out (Calf)
Dan Lynd – Out (Head)
Kyle Morton – Out (Lower-body)
July 4, 2017, at Highmark Stadium
Charlotte 3, Pittsburgh 1
CLT – Enzo Martinez 40’
CLT – Jorge Herrera 62’ (penalty)
CLT – Jorge Herrera 79’
PGH – Chevaughn Walsh 90’+2 (Corey Hertzog)
April 15, 2017, at Eagle Field
Pittsburgh 1, Charlotte 1
PGH – Kay Banjo 2’ (Joe Greenspan)
CLT – Jorge Herrera 6’ (penalty)
Goals: Neco Brett (13)
Assists: Kenardo Forbes (7)
Points: Neco Brett (29)
Saves: Dan Lynd (35)
Save %: Dan Lynd (.761)
GAA: Dan Lynd (0.58)
Goals: Jorge Herrera (10)
Assists: Cordell Cato, Jorge Herrera, Alex Martinez and Kay Voser (3)
Points: Jorge Herrera (23)
Saves: Andrew Dykstra (43)
Save %: Andrew Dykstra (.606)
GAA: Andrew Dykstra (1.47)
LAST TIME OUT…
Pittsburgh 2, Bethlehem 1
PGH – Neco Brett 35’ (Kenardo Forbes)
BST – Chris Nanco 52’ (Santi Moar)
PGH – Neco Brett 79’ (Christiano François)
Dan Lynd (Mike Kirk 74’) – Ray Lee, Tobi Adewole, Thomas Vancaeyezeele, Joe Greenspan, Jordan Dover (Noah Franke 66’) – Ben Zemanski (Hugh Roberts 88’), Mouhamed Dabo – Kenardo Forbes, Christiano François – Neco Brett
Bethlehem 3, Charlotte 0
BST – James Chambers 7’ (Faris Pemi Moumbagna)
BST – Omar Holness 74’ (Olivier Mbaizo)
BST – Drew Skundrich 89’ (Santi Moar)
Andrew Dykstra – Sam Vines, Je-Vaughn Watson, Bilal Duckett, Joel Johnson – Kevan George – Alex Martinez, Kay Voser (Caleb Calvert 56’), Yann Ekra (Éamon Zayed 76’), Jake Areman (Mutaya Mwape 56’) – Jorge Herrera