This is the quintessential midweek game. The mother of all midweek games. The most midweek-en-est midweek game that ever midweeked a game. You get the picture. The Riverhounds sit atop the Group F table with 19 points, solidly in cruise control to the USL playoffs with a 10 point lead over third-place Red Bulls II. Sure, they want to stay ahead of second-place Hartford, because winning Group F will give them home-field advantage in at least the first round of the playoffs. But the determinant for that to happen will predominantly come from the two games they have against Hartford later this month.
The Hounds played away to Hartford on Friday, and are away to New York this coming Saturday, meaning that over these eight days, they will have logged around 28 hours on the bus to and from and to and from the Eastern seaboard. Reminder: road travel during Covid is brutal. To me, that screams out ‘squad rotation’. You want to keep your guys healthy and rested, and that means letting your regulars rest.
So, yeah, it’s always important to win, but this game’s not *so* important. We are likely to see a lot of Hounds bench guys starting tonight; perhaps Anthony Velarde, Dakota Barnathan, Mark Forrest, or Patrick Bunk-Anderson. Maybe we even get to see Anthony Mwembia‘s debut at goalkeeper.
One player I think we might expect to see is Albert Dikwa. The 22-year-old Cameroonian forward played for Saint Louis FC in 2018 and 2019. According to reports, he can offer the Hounds something they don’t seem to have a lot of: speed.
We also get to see what the Hounds will do tactically without Kenardo Forbes, who is out indefinitely with a quadriceps injury. The Hounds have relied on Kenny’s ability to sit deep and accurately swing-or-ping the ball to the wings. They also rely on him as a midfield safety-value; a guy who, when under pressure, you can give the ball to and know he will not lose it. It’s an understatement to say that nobody can equal Forbes in that role for the Riverhounds. In past years, you could slot Mouhamed Dabo in there and feel good about it. This year, the best options are someone playing out of position as Forbes’ fill-in: a deep-lying Robbie Mertz, Jordan Dover, Ryan James, or Thomas Vancaeyezeele might do it. Still, this team will look profoundly different without Forbes quarterbacking it.
Tactics and Personnel
Last game, I was impressed with Loudoun’s young, pacey Nigerian winger Abdoul Amoustapha. His speed created some breakaway opportunities for Loudoun on the counter, and if it weren’t for some great emergency defending from the Hounds, that game could have turned out a lot different. Jeremy Garay also impressed me in central midfield – he has a lot of poise for a 16-year-old. Alioun Ndour is tall and fast, but the first touch and the final product weren’t there for the 19-year-old from Senegal the last time they played the Hounds. Maybe this week will be better? These three players are all representative of what troubles Loudoun: this team has sent it’s A-list prospects to DC United, and what’s there right now is still young and unpolished.
This team is about raw speed, and good for picking off a pass and hitting on the counter. They’re going to cede possession to the Hounds and try and defend, and maybe nick that one goal. Last game, the Hounds were able to absolutely rip through their soft defense, and especially hit them in transition. If they do more of that this game – and if DC United Junior allows them to do that – this match will quickly turn in favor of the Hounds.
Last Lineup for Loudoun
— Loudoun United FC (@LoudounUnitedFC) August 29, 2020
Date: Tuesday, Sept. 1
Time: 7 p.m.
Location: Highmark Stadium in Pittsburgh, PA
Live Statistics: USL Championship Match Center
Live Updates: pittsburghsoccernow.com ; Twitter at @RiverhoundsSC and #PITvLDN
Image of Alioun Ndour care of Loudoun United via twitter