Pittsburgh and Indianapolis are often spoken of in the same regard in the USL: reliable, north-centrally located teams that end up top of the table in their division.
So far this year, none of that really applies.
It’s still early, but so far, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC sits sixth out the eight teams of the USL Championship Atlantic Conference on a 2-2-3 (WTL) record. Indy are an equally uninspired fifth out of eight teams in the Central Conference with a 3-1-3 record. Additionally, Indy have yet to win a game in the month of June, going 0-1-2 in their three outings; two of which were at home.
This match is between two teams playing on a Tuesday-after-a-Saturday, so bench depth will be of great value. Additionally, the two teams now play in different divisions of the USL, so as much as I sort-of used to feel that there was some sort of artificial rivalry with Indy, currently there really isn’t. I don’t really like this team, but in a midweek-Tuesday game, early-ish in the year, against someone who isn’t directly a threat to making the playoffs in the same way as an in-division foe, this one is kind of low stakes if you ask me. Sure, we want to win, but a draw would be just fine.
Indy Eleven – The Broad Strokes
The former NASL club has become a steady competitor in the USL, and especially against the Riverhounds. Indy Eleven made it to the USL Playoff Semi-finals in 2019. The Hounds have a 3-3-2 record against Indy.
They’ve also been bouncing around a bit as of late. Hounds fans will generally remember playing against them in cavernous, soulless Lucas Oil Stadium, an indoor throwball field with turf and all the wrong kind of lines, which for us soccer diehards is painful on the eyes. But in their NASL days, they played at IUPUI’s soccer and track stadium. The Eleven return there for the 2021 season while they await completion of their soccer specific stadium, a $550 million ‘mixed-use development’ called Eleven Park (naming rights clearly still negotiable). It’ll be nice if Indy get a proper field – they have a solid fan base and often put an entertaining product on the pitch. It’s just been the case that the actual pitch they played on was hot garbage.
Tactics and Personnel
Indy rolled out in a 4-2-3-1 in their last match against El Paso Locomotive and looked like they would do the typically road match thing: absorb pressure, stay compact, and maybe strike on the counter. Except, two minutes into the match, they conceded on a crossed ball from wide right in which nobody marked the winger, or the striker who flicked on the pass, or the other winger at the far post. There were a lot of guys standing around, and it bit them. They nearly conceded again on a cross in the 6th minute; and they eventually did concede to start the second half, losing 2-0. Indy looked really befuddled on both offense and defense. It could have been the 100-degree heat, or the travel, or that El Paso are better. Or it could be that perhaps Indy Eleven are not very good this year.
They have a lot of familiar names – a lot of veteran USL guys – some of whom may be *too* veteran, if you know what I mean.
Neveal Hackshaw, the man with the best hair in the league, is a defender for Indy, although he was away starting for Trinidad and Tobago in World Cup Qualifiers last week. The Soca Warriors were *eliminated* last week in a 0-0 draw against the Bahamas on June 5, but they play in the Gold Cup starting in July, so it’s possible but unlikely that Hackshaw returned to Indianapolis in the meantime. If he is there, he tends to play left back or center back.
Karl Ouimette is a capable defender and former MLSer who has settled into his fourth year with Indy on the backline. He will forever be associated with the Riverhounds, though, due to an infamous incident with former Pittsburgh striker Romeo Parkes that was a great example of how not to go viral on the internet.
Midfielder Gershon Koffie had a long and prosperous MLS career, playing in 178 games spanning a total of 13,888 minutes. He then went off to Israel to spend 2019-2020 with Hapoel Kfar Saba, who finished six points clear of relegation. Against El Paso last week, he looked capable in possession and less-than-stellar on defense, and was removed at halftime for a sub.
Jordan Hamilton leads the team in goals with 3. The Canadian international is a proven winner; he was with Toronto FC when they won the double of MLS Cup and the Supporters Shield in 2017, and he won it all again with Columbus Crew in 2020. Full disclosure: he played just 142 minutes in 2017 and only 13 minutes in 2020, but hey, there are no small parts in a play, only small actors. And maybe he’s in USL to show MLS what they’ve been missing all these years by sitting him on the bench.
This is a veteran team – the average age on the squad is 27.1 years, and the oldest player, Ayoze Garcia, is turning 36 this year. The advantage they carry is poise and craftiness. The disadvantage is that midweek games are hell on old beat up bodies. That gives the Riverhounds the upper hand for this one, I think.
Last Saturday’s Lineup
Date: Tuesday, June 15
Time: 8 p.m.
Location: Carroll Stadium, Indianapolis, Ind.
TV: ESPN Deportes
Live Statistics: USL Championship Match Center
Live Updates: Pittsburghsoccernow.com; Twitter at @RiverhoundsSC and #INDvPIT