On Wednesday, the Hounds were putting in the work at Highmark Stadium preparing for this week’s match against the Ottawa Fury FC.
This Friday’s showdown in the Canadian capital will be the second and final match of the season between the two sides. In early June, the Hounds conceded two late second half goals in a match that left an unsatisfying result, a 2-2 draw, that was emblematic of the early part of Pittsburgh’s season.
Currently, after a 9-2-1 surge in its past 12 matches, the Hounds (44 points) have moved past Ottawa (39 points) in the standings.
Still, the Fury are lurking two spots behind in eighth place, and as Head Coach Bob Lilley pointed out after Wednesday’s training session, he’s well aware that Ottawa can be explosive, with former Hound Christiano Francois having a good season along with the recent addition of former Swope Park Rangers and Orlando SC forward Hadji Berry.
Barry spent the early half of 2019 in Israel with first-division Kiryat Shmona, featuring in 14 of 16 games and scoring three goals.
The deal may have been helped by Fury FC head coach Nikola Popovic’s connection to the Swope Park, where he coached for two previous seasons.
Barry spent the 2018 season with Swope Park. He was featured in 33 of 34 league games, plus two playoff contests, and produced 19 goals and five assists. He was named to the All-League Second Team.
Lilley said that the Hounds did a pretty good job of bottling up Ottawa’s attack in that last meeting, but had a few letdowns late in that game. Thomas Vancaeyezeele‘s costly penalty in the box, led to a Wal Fall penalty kick conversion, then Aiden Daniels tied the match up just four minutes later to stun the Hounds and the Highmark Stadium crowd that night.
Lilley’s hoping to avoid late game letdowns this time around. And if you look at their track record of late, he should have plenty of confidence in his squad to hold a lead in a tightly contested match.
Those late game letdowns were prevalent early this season, and they were also happening late last season too.
But, in the stretch of 12 matches since the Hounds have allowed those two Ottawa second half goals, the Hounds have only lost a lead once in the second half (in 1-1 draw at home vs Tampa Bay on July 13).
BOB LILLEY INTERVIEW (8/28/2019)
Here’s the full interview with Lilley from Wednesday’s training session.
JOE GREENSPAN INTERVIEW (8/28/2019)
In addition, despite taking a knock late in the second half of Friday’s 1-0 win against Loudoun United, Hounds center back Joe Greenspan had little or no problems with getting back into training this week.
Greenspan took time out after practice to talk in more detail about what he was up to when he was spending extra time with U.S. Navy Reserve duty in late July and early August, adjusting to various line-ups from week-to-week — and how he’s feeling about his team’s chances as they hit an important stretch playing teams like Ottawa, then Louisville, Charleston and others that are nipping right at the Hounds’ heels.
ROBBIE MERTZ INTERVIEW (8/28/2019)
Our final post-practice interview came with the local native, Robbie Mertz, who added some of his thoughts on the upcoming college season and his beloved Maize and Blue (his alma mater, University of Michigan), the Big 10 — and Pitt’s chances this weekend when playing at the IU Classic in Bloomington. Mertz also talked about increasing fan support in his hometown for professional soccer, and yes we did talk about what’s he’s been doing on the field too, particularly what he can do to contribute as the Hounds enter a challenging stretch of the season.
The Hounds remain the most disciplined club in the league, as they have the least yellow cards (28) in the entire USL Championship.
Greenspan was the only Hounds player that was one game away from suspension for yellow card accumulation, but after playing five game stretch without picking up a card, based on league rules for good behavior, Ensign Joe had one yellow card deducted from his total.
Caleb Smith is back training with club
The good news for Caleb Smith, who’s been nursing a groin injury since being out of action since early April, is that he was finally back with the club training this week, and has been listed as questionable. Smith made only one appearance early in the season (2-2 draw vs Swope Park).
With Smith back, it provide the Hounds with another option at outside back and necessary depth — if needed — for Ryan James and Jordan Dover — who’ve played majority of the minutes in this spot. Dani Rovira and Noah Franke have provided depth and filled in at various times this season in this position.
Prosper Figbe remains out, as he continues to rehab from a knee injury.
USL reaches agreement to extend deal with ESPN through 2022
United Soccer League (USL) announced a new three-year rights agreement with ESPN on Tuesday that features the USL Championship and League One matches through the 2022 season.
The new agreement will see a three-fold rise in the number of games televised annually on ESPN’s networks, including the addition of Spanish-language telecasts on ESPN Deportes, as well as continued expansive coverage on ESPN+, the leading multi-sport, direct-to-consumer video service.
“We are thrilled to continue with ESPN and ESPN+,” said USL Executive Vice President Court Jeske. “USL is an organization that aims to put the fans first and we know that supporters across the country will be very pleased with this new three-year agreement and the exposure it brings.”
The relationship between the USL and ESPN will enter its fifth full year in 2020 as the league celebrates its 10th anniversary season. Under the new agreement, 18 regular-season games from the Championship will air on ESPN2, ESPNEWS, ESPNU or ESPN Deportes annually in addition to the USL Championship Final. All other matches will be streamed live on ESPN+.
In his weekly ‘View from the Booth’ column, Matt Gajtka takes a deeper look how the Hounds, under Lilley, have mixed things up tactically all season long.
Look for our match day blog to be posted with a brief preview along with game day updates on Friday.
Post-match analysis will likely follow on Sunday.