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Preview: Revenge against Loudoun?

Preview: Revenge against Loudoun?

It feels like a lifetime since the Riverhounds last played soccer, but of course, it’s only been 10 days. And it’s been just 18 days since the last time Pittsburgh played Loudoun. Since that time, the Riverhounds won a match over Charlotte and worked a draw against Charleston. Loudoun, true to form, lost their last two matches: 2-0 to Hartford, and 4-1 to The Miami FC. Loudoun has one win in their last *eight* matches, and it was against … the Riverhounds.

The Hounds didn’t play particularly well that night, and as a result, got a customary … and epic … ass-chewing from Head Coach Bob Lilley.

You really haven’t lived until you’ve seen the Riverhounds gathered in a circle at the center of the field after a loss, watch Bob Lilley dress them down for what sees like forever. Bob gets results. When Bob doesn’t get results, Bob filibusters. And I don’t mean the way the filibuster works today – when the Minority Leader just informs the parliamentarian by email ‘My 40 senators filibuster’. I mean the old school, ‘Mr Smith Goes to Washington’ way, where Bob talks until everybody on the Hounds feels like ‘Jeez, I better play better next time, or I’ll be stuck listening to one of these rants and I’ll miss the opening to Puccini’s La Boheme.’ (Note: I suspect the Riverhounds are not big Puccini fans. I imagine if I asked the players, they might fancy Mozart’s Magic Flute or Wagner’s Der Ring Des Nibelungen more. I’ll ask at training.)

In other words, I think this is kind of a must win game for the Riverhounds. Loudoun used a mix of aggressive midfield pressure and deep-bunkered defending to frustrate them again and again last match. Meanwhile the passing was sloppy and there wasn’t really a semblance of a plan going forward – one errant pass led to an emergency back pass led to a slow, ineffective recycling across the field. Pass better, and you can do what you want. Succumb to pressure, and you end up taking what they give you, at best.

We have to talk about the other thing that happened yesterday in Riverhounds world.

Chik-Fil-A has affiliated with soccer clubs, predominantly in MLS, for years now, and many soccer fans have pushed back in every instance. Chik-Fil-A and their owner, Dan Cathy, have long been associated with charities that have a history of discriminating against LGBT individuals. Just recently, it was reported that Cathy had donated to the National Christian Charity Foundation, who are funding efforts to defeat the Equality Act – federal legislation that would add LGBT folks as a protected class to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, giving them lots of federal protections they currently do not have.

I have seen this fight before. When I was in Colorado, the Colorado Rapids did a running promotion with Chik-Fil-A. Many fans; particularly the hardcore supporters who trend younger, were angered. Another chunk of fans were either indifferent or simply like their chicken sandwiches.

This incident was not a great look for the Riverhounds and their new club president, Vic Gregovits. The team has been moving in the direction of greater financial stability and even expansion throughout the Tuffy Shallenberger era, as Tuffy has invested in expanding the stands, cut a deal with Highmark over a new Coraopolis training ground, and purchased the parking lots from Station Square to give the team options to expand if they so choose. Gregovits is certainly part of the process of making the team more financially successful, but in this instance ‘hey we can sell a lot of chicken sandwiches!’ was really not thought through.

It is laudable that the team listened to Steel Army and discontinued this deal quickly – other MLS teams like the Rapids and FC Dallas drew ire for their decision, but never reversed it or apologized. However, you don’t really score points for reversing course after you screw up. You screwed up. Hopefully, it was a lesson learned.

Finally, it’s supposed to rain tonight, and lightning and thunder. Could be a late one, kids.

Tactics and Personnel

(reprinted from my June 2 & June 30 2021 Loudoun previews.)

Just before Loudoun’s match against Charleston, DC United loaned MLS rookie Kimarni Smith to Loudoun. Pitt Men’s Soccer fans will remember Kimarni from the many epic Clemson-Pitt battles of the past few years: he’s an explosive, technical, and dangerous striker who was the number four overall pick in the 2021 MLS Superdraft. He played all 90 minutes against Charleston at Right Wing but was kept off the score sheet. He’ll be a handful for the Hounds left-sided defenders Shane Wiedt and Dani Rovira.

Loudoun play three at the back in either a 3-5-2 or a 3-4-3, depending on your perspective. With a formation like this and with their relative inexperience as a team and a squad, the questions are really about fullback usage and getting back in transition, and about if the central midfield, which might just have two players, will be overrun if the Hounds use three midfielders.

Based on last years play, Loudoun’s problem is typically that they are young and aggressive and physical, but sloppy and error prone. With a rotated squad, I expect a lot of that. If the Hounds can pounce on unsecured receptions in the midfield, they will win this match going away.

I really like 20 year-old forward Kailou Amoustapha – dude can flat out fly. A legitimate tactic for Loudoun might just be boring boring long diagonals over the top to him to outrun everyone. In fancy soccer parlance ‘his product in the final third is sometimes lacking’.

I wrote about 19 year old midfielder Ted Ku-DiPietro last year. He’s very good, but of course, at one of the hardest positions to break through at in professional soccer. If the DC United academy product really wants to progress to the next level, he will need to start blowing up in the minors, and become an automatic first-eleven selection for his manager, Ryan Martin.

The captain of this squad is 25 year-old elder statesman Timmy Mehl, a defender for the very talented Indiana University college team, where he went to two NCAA College Cup final fours.

Finally, bench defender Robby Dambrot graduated from Pitt in 2018.

Last Week’s Loudoun Lineup

Match Information

Date: Saturday, July 17
Time: 7 p.m.
Location: Highmark Stadium, Pittsburgh, Pa.
Tickets: Ticketmaster
TV: 22 The Point
Streaming: ESPN+
Live Statistics: USL Championship Match Center
Live Updates: PittsburghSoccerNow.com; Twitter at @RiverhoundsSC and #PITvLDN

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

Pittsburgh Division I College Soccer Schedule (Spring 2021)

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