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Preview: Playoff Position on the line as Hounds head to Saint Louis

With two games left in the USL Championship regular season, the Pittsburgh Riverhounds can finish as high as first or as low as fifth, depending on the results of the next eight days. A pair of wins, and Pittsburgh will lock up home-field advantage through the playoffs all the way to the final. A pair of draws and they ensure a top-three finish. And two losses could drop the Hounds all the way to fifth – still giving them a home game in the quarterfinals, but putting that conference semi-final and final on the road. Or, as Coach Lilley put it more succinctly, “It’s already essentially a playoff-type moment, because the difference between first and fifth is significant.”

The stakes are higher for eighth-place Saint Louis FC, who are in a three-way scrum at the playoff redline for two spots. Saint Louis has 42 points while rivals Birmingham Legion and Charleston Battery are at 40 points apiece. A home loss this week to Pittsburgh or next week away to North Carolina might be catastrophic for St. Lou.

Take that all together and you get the makings of what will likely be a physical game, played at 1,000 miles an hour, with players banging and caroming around the pitch like protons in an atomic reactor. Sometimes, when you have a game like this, it’s less about tactics, and more about sheer desire and effort. And, of course, not letting the intensity get the better of you and draw you into a rash tackle or poorly conceived challenge. So keep an eye in this game on duels, and on fouls and cards.

One final note for the Riverhounds: the team will have goalkeeper Ben Lundgaard back from Columbus, as the Crew failed to make the MLS Playoffs. The team will not have defender Thomas Vancaeyezeele, who is off with French Guiana on international duty. I think it likely that Lundgaard will get the start this week, but I expect regular keeper Kyle Morton will get the nod throughout the playoffs since he’s the guy who helped get the Hounds to this point.

Here was Saint Louis’ lineup when Saint Louis and Pittsburgh met:

For full midweek Hounds training update, check out Matt Gatjka’s Riverhounds SC Notebook, which is packed full of quotes, notes, and thoughts from the Hounds number one man in the booth himself:

Riverhounds SC Notebook: Post-gauntlet, road to playoffs still a bear

The last time these two teams played, it resulted in a 0-0 draw after a one-hour lightning delay at Highmark. For the recap on that match, click here:

FINAL: Riverhounds SC 0, Saint Louis FC 0

In that match we saw Bob Lilley deploy Mohamed Dabo as an attacking midfielder, a move that helps the team to harass the opponent and produce midfield turnovers. I’m still not totally sold on this tactic, personally – I like the midfield of Velarde, Mertz, and Forbes best, but there’s no doubt that Dabo really contains opponents and takes them out of their game. For tactical analysis and player grades from that match, click here:

Analysis and Player Grades: Pittsburgh Riverhounds vs Saint Louis FC

Match Information

Date: Saturday, October 12

Time: 8:30 p.m.

Location: West Community Stadium, Fenton, MO

Streaming: ESPN+

Live Statistics: USL Championship Match Center

Live Updates: Twitter at @RiverhoundsSC and #STLvPIT

Photo c/o Saint Louis FC via twitter

Mark Asher Goodman is a writer for Pittsburgh Soccer Now, covering the Riverhounds, the Pitt Men's and Women's teams, and youth soccer. He also co-hosts a podcast on the Colorado Rapids called 'Holding the High Line with Rabbi and Red.' He has written in the past for the Washington Post, Denver Post, The Athletic, and American Soccer Analysis. When he's not reading, writing, watching, or coaching soccer, he is an actual rabbi. No, really. You can find him on twitter at @soccer_rabbi

PItt MF Michael Sullivan

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