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Hounds Notebook: Old Guard Shield rivalry lives on

Hounds Notebook: Old Guard Shield rivalry lives on

With the Riverhounds SC set to face it’s longest-running opponent, Charleston Battery, this week’s Notebook was focused on taking a deeper look at the renewal of the USL Championship’s longest standing rivalry between two clubs which began playing matches in the 20th Century.

But that was before a few updates that came along on Tuesday afternoon.

First, let’s get the updates out of the way, then we can have some fun looking at the Old Guard Shield Rivalry.

Elsa causes shift in game time: Wednesday’s match moved up to 4 p.m. 

The USL Championship announced the Hounds scheduled match at Charleston would be moved up to 4 p.m. on Wednesday (from previous 7:30 p.m. kickoff) due to the impending weather due to hit the Holy City and South Carolina coastal region. The match will be played with no fans in attendance, but it will still be shown live on ESPN+.

Nashville SC rookie defender Tom Judge comes to Pittsburgh on loan 

Tom Judge (Photo Courtesy James Madison University)

In need of some defensive depth due to having one player on international duty and other uncertainty due to injuries, the Riverhounds SC acquired defender Tom Judge on loan from MLS club Nashville SC, the team announced Tuesday.

Judge, 22, was Nashville’s second-round pick in the 2021 MLS SuperDraft in January. After being selected, the 6-foot-1 defender chose to remain at James Madison University for his senior season in the spring, where he was named a United Soccer Coaches First-Team All-American and was a semifinalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy, awarded to college soccer’s top player.

“Tom is a versatile defender who has good pace and technical ability. We are grateful to the Nashville organization for trusting us with Tom, and we look forward to helping him develop during the 2021 USL season,” Riverhounds head coach Bob Lilley said.

During his time at James Madison, Judge helped lead the Dukes to three consecutive Colonial Athletic Association titles and three straight NCAA Tournament berths, which included a run to the national quarterfinals in 2018.

A native of Freehold, N.J., Judge signed his first pro contract with Nashville on June 17 after completing his time at JMU. He has joined the Hounds in training this week.

Judge will be eligible for selection beginning with the Hounds’ next home match, July 17 against Loudoun United FC.

Injury/Inactives Report

The Old Guard Sheld: Hounds & Battery renew acquaintances in 2021

Long Standing USL Supporter Groups Introduce Old Guard Shield

Along with the Riverhounds, the Battery are the lone other ‘Old Guard’ USL club remaining in the USL Championship. Now that they’re back in the same division, the clubs will be able to renew the series to play for the ‘Old Guard Shield‘ created by the supporters groups of both teams.

Old Guard Shield

In 2020, the clubs were placed in different divisions and for the first time since 1999, they didn’t face each other.

The first meeting between the teams was a 2-0 Hounds win on July 30, 1999 at their original Bethel Park High School home.

Turn the page to 2021, and one of the best things about the Atlantic Division set-up in 2021 will be that the old rivals will have plenty of time to get caught up.  With Atlantic Divisions rivals set up to face each other four times, the rivalry will have a great opportunity to be reignited in a series of matches.

This also means that two long-time USL Hall of Fame coaches, Bob Lilley and Mike Anhaeuser, get to match wits a bunch more times.  They’ve been competing against each other for more than 20 years — if you go back to Lilley’s stints with other clubs including Hershey, Montreal and Rochester.

Through all those years, there might be no-one more associated with one club in North American soccer than Anhaeuser is with the Battery.

A former player who joined the club in its second season in 1994 before injury curtailed his career, Anhaeuser remained with Charleston first as an assistant coach before taking over the Head Coaching role in 2004. The Coach with the most regular-season wins in the Championship’s history, Anhaueser always finds a way to get the best out of his team.

As Lilley alluded in his preseason thoughts when measuring up the Atlantic Division, he felt the Battery will be a tough out, as they were a step-for-step contender to the Tampa Bay Rowdies in 2020, losing 1-0 in the Eastern Conference semifinal in a match that could have gone either way.

Currently, the Riverhounds SC are on the losing side of the series which has spanned 33 total games, as they hold a 7-13-13 overall record versus Charleston. Success has been even harder for the Hounds to come by in South Carolina, where they are 3-7-7 against the Battery.

Since Lilley has arrived in Pittsburgh, the clubs have faced each other four times (in 2018 and 2019) resulting in a split (1-1-2) in those meetings.

With the exception of 2-2 result in the first match between the two sides in 2019, when these two sides get together, not much separates them as both coaches are known to put organized and strong defensive teams on the field. In the past four meetings, they’re deadlocked in total goals (3-3) with each team earning a 1-0 win.

This pregame quote from Anhaeuser, ahead of July 2018 showdown, can pretty much be plugged into any Charleston-Pittsburgh game preview as long as these two coaches are facing each other.

“They’re tough to break down. They defend with 11, but they’re dangerous on the counter attack. They would leave two up and catch us two-v-two, so we need to be ready for the counter. They’re playing on their turf that they train on every week, so they’re going to be more comfortable on the ball than they were at our place.

“We need to be ready for the counter, we need to be ready to defend, but I think we need to turn them and put pressure on them as well.”

On that night, Charleston handed Pittsburgh a loss at Highmark Stadium. The Hounds would not lose another home regular season match until 2020.

After poor starts to the 2021 season (by both teams’ lofty standards), each are starting to come around to more typical form as July has arrived.

While we’re well aware of the Riverhounds SC’s recent resurgence to second place on the strength of four wins in its last five and just one loss in its last seven, the Battery have won three of its last five matches to pull back into contention.

This season’s series should pick right up where the teams left off in 2019.

Look for more from PSNon matchday with a detailed scouting report/preview of the current edition of the Battery.  

In 2017, the supporter groups from five original USL franchises came up with the concept to create a competition between the teams that had been around the longest in the United Soccer League (and other simliar leagues).

Only a year later, the group of five came crumbling apart and supporter groups and Old Guard Shield organizers, particuarly Dan Yost from the Steel Army, were left with keeping things going despite Rochester Rhinos taking a sabbatical prior to the season.  By the end of the year, Penn FC (formerly Harrisburg City Islanders) would halt operations and the Richmond Kickers made the decision to move down to USL’s League One (in the Third Division).

This left the Hounds and Charleston to carry the mantle and keep competition for the Old Guard Shield going.  They were able to do that in 2019, as the Hounds took the Shield by eeking out a 1-0 win in September at home.

How hard fought was that win for the Hounds that night?

Kenardo Forbes may have said it best.

“Charleston over the years, they’re hard to break down,” Forbes said. “They’re a pretty good defensive team. They come in and they sit. We had to be patient in and around the box, try to wait for an opening, and try to get them on the counter. Just like that, we got the goal. That was the game plan all week.”

For now, the Hounds are the current shield holders.

Post-game reaction: A changing of the ‘old guard’

The Steel Army are hoping that it stays that way — but they’ll probably have to endure a four-game series that will test the resolve of both clubs and their veteran coaches.

Old Guard Shield History

Charleston captured in 2017 when five original USL teams — including Rochester, Richmond and Harrisburg — competed through the season; Hounds won the Shield in 2018 & 2019)

Most Memorable Riverhounds Moment:  Wins against Charleston on the road were so rare, so when Kevin Kerr and Corey Hertzog combined in the 90th minute to pull out a road win in 2017 with a late game-winner, it was a feat worth celebrating for Riverhounds’ fans.  The Hounds would take the season series vs Charleston that season, 1-0-1.

John Krysinsky has covered soccer and other sports for many years for various publications and media outlets. He is also author of 'Miracle on the Mon' -- a book about the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, which chronicles the club, particularly the early years of Highmark Stadium with the narrative leading up to and centered around a remarkable match that helped provide a spark for the franchise. John has covered sports for Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, DK Pittsburgh Sports, Pittsburgh Sports Report, has served as color commentator on Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC broadcasts, and worked with OPTA Stats and broadcast teams for US Open Cup and International Champions Cup matches held in the US. Krysinsky also served as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach at his alma mater, Point Park University, where he led the Pioneers to the first-ever winning seasons and playoff berths (1996-98); head coach of North Catholic boys (2007-08), associate head coach of Shady Side Academy boys (2009-2014).

Pittsburgh Division I College Soccer Schedule (Spring 2021)

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