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Preview: Riverhounds SC vs Charleston, 7 p.m.

USL Championship Atlantic Division – Old Guard Shield 

Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (15-8-6, 51 points) vs Charleston Battery (10-12-7, 37 points)

Saturday, October 23 |  7 p.m. |  Highmark Stadium
TV: 22 The Point | Streaming: ESPN+ | Live Statistics: USL Championship Match Center

Preview / Key Storylines 

The Hounds are in must-win mode as they’re focused on catching the Charlotte Independence for second place in the Atlantic Division, as they now have an opportunity to earn a maximum of nine points in the next week, thanks to getting news on Friday that their controversial result in Miami last Saturday will now see the match resume this coming Wednesday, back in Miami, from the 67th minute with the Hounds holding a 1-0 lead.

First up though for Pittsburgh, is Old Guard Shield foe Charleston Battery.

The Hounds and Charleston have been battling it out for more than 20 years, and this is the first time that Charleston will miss the postseason since 2007. This is only the fourth time in the team’s 29-season history that they’ll miss the postseason.

Still, Mike Anhauser’s been leading the Battery for a long time and has faced Hounds coach Bob Lilley many times. When these two teams face each other — you can throw out the records.

Case in point, last month’s crazy match when the Hounds took a 3-1 advantage into the latter stages of the second half, only to allow Charleston to come storming back with two goals to for the second draw of the series this season between the rivals.

The unique thing about this year’s matches between Pittsburgh and Charleston, and in particular, Lilley and Anhauser, known first as defensive minded coaches — has been the amount of goals scored.  In the last two matches between the two, there have been a total of 11 goals tallied (Hounds won the last match at Charleston, 3-2). The first match of the season back in early June ended in a 1-1 draw.

Despite missing out on the playoffs, the Battery are coming to Pittsburgh with plenty of confidence after 3-1 win against Los Angeles Galaxy II — a team still battling to clinch a playoff spot.

The Hounds lineup will remain mostly unchanged with so much to play for and having not had a midweek match to deal with since early September. Jump-starting the offense will be a priority, as the team has not put a ball into the opponent’s net in 204 minutes — although some of those minutes officially were wiped out and an own goal was awarded with USL’s decision to order a replay to the end of the last match against Miami.

We’re not expecting many changes to come from Pittsburgh in terms of personnel, but of course, tactics could change and adjust because, well, that’s what Bob Lilley likes to do.

The Hounds have shown defensive improvement if you look at the last few matches, as Pittsburgh has not yielded a goal in more than 200 minutes (going back to win vs Tampa and if you count the 90-plus minutes vs Miami.

Lilley has gone with a four man backline in most of this time, moving some players around, but Shane Wiedt, Mekeil Williams have been the primary anchors, and they went bigger against Tampa by using Wiedt and Preston Kilwein at outside back, with Williams and Jalani Peters in the middle. Then, against Miami, Williams and Wiedt were in the middle, with Jordan Dover returning to start at outside back (though he was replaced by Dani Rovira in the second half) and Peters at left back.

Charleston has been particularly dangerous in scoring on set pieces against Pittsburgh this season, as three of the Battery’s six goals scored in this series in 2021 have come from corners/free kicks.

Here’s the Hounds lineup from last match:

Russell Cicerone (15 goals, seven assists) and Alex Dixon (nine goals, eight assists) remain the Hounds’ top weapons, though Kenardo Forbes has been the team’s top finisher since Sept. 11 with four goals, and both forward Tommy Williamson and midfielder Todd Wharton have a pair of goals in that stretch.

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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).

Riverhounds MF Danny Griffin

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