Riverhounds SC forward Neco Brett loves to cook meals for his teammates.
As things stand, thanks to an impressive run of play, the Hounds will have plenty of opportunity to enjoy the club’s leading scorer’s home cooking when they reach the postseason. On Tuesday, the Hounds jumped into sole possession of first place with a come-from-behind, 2-1 win at Loudoun United.
Now, they have to seal the deal to get the home field advantage.
Some combination of six to seven points in its final three matches (total of nine possible points), should clinch home field advantage for Pittsburgh through the Eastern Conference playoffs that include three rounds (Conference quarterfinal, semifinal and final). Look for more on the race and the latest standings and matches of note below.
Pittsburgh is looking to be the first team since both Rochester and Richmond completed its home schedules unbeaten in USL in 2015, to go through a season without a loss at home. Ironically, that Rochester squad was coached by none other than Hounds coach Bob Lilley.
The Hounds look to stay unbeatable at home, coming into Saturday on a 24-game regular-season home unbeaten streak. Pittsburgh is 10-0-6 at Highmark Stadium this season and has outscored its opponents 29-9 during that stretch.
Shut out streak ends
The Hounds’ impressive shutout streak ended but not before nearly reaching 700 minutes. The impressive run of play without giving up a goal reached more than seven and a half games, and exactly 698 minutes.
In the modern USL, this is the third longest streak of its kind.
The Hounds have been very stingy, reaching the top of the USL defensive statistical categories, including tops in shutouts (15), and
More on Atlanta United 2
We’ll have more in the match day blog posted on Saturday, but Atlanta United 2 are playing better of late, and as we’ve seen in recent matches against teams below the playoff line, the Hounds will be in for a test.
Sure, the Hounds completely dominated Atlanta 2 in its first meeting this season in Georgia, but its younger players are showing signs of improvement and maybe more importantly, better chemistry.
Atlanta’s season as a whole has been a bumpy ride, but the club has found success in its recent games. While United 2 has only earned 31 points on the year, they are 3-0-2 in their last five outings.
In that five game stretch, United 2 has buried 10 goals while allowing just five.
Atlanta’s 19-year-old midfielder Bienvenue Kanakimana has a buried a team-high six goals through 14 appearances. Kanakimana has posted a 22 percent conversion rate on shots this season, with five of his six goals coming from inside the penalty area.
Midfielder Andrew Carleton and striker Jackson Conway are right behind Kanakimana with five goals each.
Gavin McInerney added to Hounds coaching staff
The Hounds announced that they’ve hired Gavin McInerney as an addition to its coaching staff for the remainder of the 2019 campaign.
First of all, lets get this out of the way now — for those wondering about Hunter Gilstrap, the former Hounds remains with the pro team, but has also numerous responsibilities as the Director of Goalkeeping with the Riverhounds Academy, and will remain with the pro team through this season.
McInerney will, for lack of a better word, be more ‘hands on’ with the pro team.
McInerney most recently served as the goalkeeper coach with the Sporting Kansas City Academy and Swope Park Rangers (2017-19) and previously worked with head coach Bob Lilley with the Rochester Rhinos (2015-16).
“Gavin was a big asset for our staff in Rochester and will provide that here as well,” Lilley said. “He is a talented coach who has already helped develop many top-end young goalkeepers and will add value to the entire group with his insight on the game.”
In 2015 with the Rhinos, McInerney was a coaching staff member of the USL Cup-winning team, which also won the regular season title with a record of 17-1-10. During this season, the Rhinos set a league record-low goals conceded mark at 15 goals allowed in 28 regular season games. He later made it back to the championship game with the Swope Park Rangers in 2017.
Before joining Lilley with the Rhinos, McInerney suited up for the Rochester Lancers, an indoor soccer squad, from 2011-14. The Dublin, Ireland native also previously played professionally with St. Patrick’s Athletic FC of the League of Ireland in 2005, and also went on to play for the Bray Wanderers in 2008. Intertwined in these seasons, he began his coaching career as an assistant at the University at Buffalo for two seasons (2007 and 2009).
The goalkeeper originally moved to the United States to play collegiately at the University of Memphis from 2004-05.
More depth coming?
With the conclusion of the MLS season, it’s likely we’ll see a third keeper return to the Hounds roster.
That keeper addition will likely come with the return of Ben Lundgaard, who was with Columbus Crew for the second half of the season, after playing three matches while on loan to Pittsburgh.
Lundgaard has not yet made an appearance for Crew SC this season.
On March 6, he was sent on loan to the Hounds. He made four regular-season appearances (all starts) for Pittsburgh, posting two of the team’s 15 shutouts. He made his professional debut for the Riverhounds (March 23). He registered his first regular-season shutout against Louisville City (April 6). He did not make an appearance in the 2019 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
When the season started, Lundgaard was in competition with Kyle Morton for minutes, but since, Morton has seized the starting role with the Hounds when Lundgaard returned to Columbus as the team’s third and sometimes second keeper.
Both Lilley and Joe Greenspan up for monthly honors
With a successful run through the past few months, and on the heels of its big win last week against Indy Eleven, the Hounds are racking up the honors.
The USL recently honored Hounds midfielder Kenardo Forbes as its Player of the Week. In addition, Kyle Morton and Neco Brett were also recognized, as Morton was on the Team of the Week, and Brett landed on the bench.
In addition, both head coach Bob Lilley and Joe Greenspan are in the running for USL Championship monthly honors for September. Lilley’s is among the candidates for Coach of the Month, while Greenspan’s one of the nominees for Player of the Month.
Hounds’ 2019 team of the week selections
*Kenardo Forbes: Week 30 – Oct. 1
Kyle Morton: Week 30 – Oct. 1
Kenardo Forbes: Week 28 – Sept. 17
*Neco Brett: Week 26 – Sept. 3
Robbie Mertz: Week 23 – Aug. 13
Kenardo Forbes: Week 22 – Aug. 6
Kenardo Forbes: Week 18 – July 9
Robbie Mertz: Week 17 – July 2
Kenardo Forbes: Week 16 – June 25
*Steevan Dos Santos: Week 15 – June 18
Kenardo Forbes: Week 9 – May 7
Ryan James: Week 8 – April 30
*player of the week
Race to first
Heading into Tuesday’s match, here’s what it looks like at the top of the USL’s Eastern Conference standings…
|1||Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC||31||17||4||10||26||61||WDWWW|
|3||New York Red Bulls II||31||17||8||6||30||57||LWLLD|
|4||Tampa Bay Rowdies||31||16||6||9||31||57||WDLWD|
|6||Louisville City FC||30||14||7||9||11||51||DDWWD|
|7||North Carolina FC||31||14||9||8||19||50||LDLLW|
Other upcoming matches of note:
Friday, Oct. 4:
Loudoun United vs Tampa Bay Rowdies
Saturday, Oct. 5:
Pittsburgh Riverhounds vs Atlanta United 2
Indy Eleven vs Memphis 901 FC
North Carolina FC vs NY Red Bulls II
Tuesday, Oct. 8:
Nashville SC vs Louisville City FC
Discipline / Injury Reports
The Hounds’ Robbie Mertz will have to sit out this Saturday’s match due to yellow card accumulation. Jordan Dover has come off the players to watch list for the suspension accumulation for good behavior. Joe Greenspan still remains on the watch list with four yellow cards.
Our coverage plan for Saturday includes Mark Goodman reporting and Ed Thompson providing images from Highmark Stadium.