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Playoff scenarios start to clear as Hounds embark on ‘difficult’ final week

Photo by Ed Thompson

It’s been monumental regular season for the Riverhounds SC — but the rigorous 34-game schedule still has a another week to go.

The Hounds wrap up with a two-game road swing as they still try to finish as high as second place in the USL’s Eastern Conference standings.

Pittsburgh will play two games in a five day period, starting against Atlanta United 2 (5-17-9) at 7 p.m. on Wednesday at Coolray Field. This match will be their second meeting this season, as the Hounds earlier defeated Atlanta, 1-0, on April 28 at Highmark Stadium.

Then the Hounds will travel to New Jersey, for a late Sunday afternoon showdown with the 2016 USL champions, NY Red Bulls II, a team battling for one of the final playoff spots in the USL’s Eastern Conference as they currently sit in eighth place with 46 points.

“It’s not going to be an easy week for us,” Lilley said on Saturday night after a scoreless draw against front-running FC Cincinnati. “If we don’t go get results these last two games, we’re going to finish fourth. And then you go potentially on the road even if you win your second game.”

RELATED: Familiar playoff-bound foes, Hounds-FCC play to scoreless draw 

The Hounds (58 points), having clinched a playoff spot a few weeks ago and assured of at least one playoff game at home (USL Quarterfinal on October 20), will focus on trying to overtake Louisville City FC (60 points) for second place.

What Lilley didn’t know after the draw with FCC on Saturday was the Charleston Battery stumbled to stay in contention for second, losing 2-1 to Atlanta United 2 on Saturday.

The lowest the Hounds can finish now is third place.

Louisville City also has two matches in five days, and the Hounds will know where they stand prior to its matches as the week progresses because Louisville City will play on Tuesday and Saturday, while the Hounds will play Wednesday and Sunday.

One big advantage Louisville City will have is that they’ll be home for the final two matches vs two desperate teams battling for playoff spots, North Carolina FC and Indy Eleven, while Pittsburgh has to travel.

What’s really fascinating about the race to secure playoff spots below the top four spots is anything but certain. What we do know is there are six teams battling for the final four spots.

Indy Eleven are in fifth place, but haven’t cliched a playoff spot. A draw vs sixth place Bethlehem Steel on Saturday keeps them ahead of the rest of the pack.

Both Ottawa and North Carolina FC still are hanging around in ninth and tenth places respectively with 44 and 45 points. With NCFC having two games left, things are still wide open.

For the Hounds, Lilley knows that playing in Georgia will be a challenge.

“It’s going to be hot there. It gonna be 81 degrees here, so I can only imagine how warm it’s going to be there. It’s going to be tricky. I am expecting we’re going to see a pretty good Atlanta team,” Lilley said. “New York can beat anybody. Right now, there’s no easy games, and that’s the way the playoffs are, so we should embrace these, line them up, try to figure out how to make sure when three points is out there, we know how to go out and grab it.”





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).

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