The Riverhounds SC are probably hoping that they’re getting the roughest patch of the season behind them soon.
Since a 4-0-1 start to the season, the Hounds have posted a very pedestrian 3-3-2 record.
It won’t be easy.
They’re in the midst of a stretch that includes four of five matches on the road. In the lone home match during this time, last Saturday, the Hounds couldn’t hold on for a win after taking a first half lead, settling for a 1-1 draw against Detroit City FC.
Now, they’ll head back on the road for more games when they visit Old Guard rival Charleston on Saturday, then head west for a first-ever trip to take on Rio Grande Valley Toros the following weekend.
The match vs Charleston is the renewal of a series that goes way back to 1999. The Battery are the Hounds’ longest running rival and the only other club in the USL Championship still remaining from the A-League days and from the early years of the USL, prior to the most recent version of the league, which officially re-formed in 2011. There’s been one major changing of the ‘old-guard’, for the first time in more than two decades, Charleston has a new coach, former USMNT and MLS forward Connor Casey.
In this edition of the Notebook, we have a lot more on the series and history between the two clubs.
The Hounds will train on Friday at home before getting on the road, where they’ll face Charleston with a 7:30 p.m. kickoff at Patriots Point Soccer Complex.
It will be their only trip to the Holy City this season.
Not the Response Lilley’s Looking For
Before we take a closer look at the Battery, following Saturday’s match vs Detroit, Pittsburgh’s Head Coach Bob Lilley shared his frustrations about a number of facets of his team’s play, including his club’s inability to convert scoring chances, a significant defensive lapse and he also had a few chance words for the officials, who disallowed a potential second Hounds’ goal in the match.
But, what may have bothered Lilley the most was his team’s lack of response to giving up a second half goal, even as 20 minutes plus stoppage time remained.
“We had 20 minutes, and I would’ve liked to have seen us ferocious in those last 20 minutes,” Lilley said of his team’s response, or lack thereof, to Detroit’s equalizer on Saturday.
“There has to be more energy. We have to find it from somewhere to put an all-out press in those last 20 minutes to force something over the goal line. We got a couple balls in the box, but we didn’t get a clear look during that time. That’s not the response we’re looking for late in the game, home or away.”
As the Hounds chased for a go-ahead goal on Saturday, one thought raced through my mind. After a 13-game regular season sample size, through the approximate one-third mark of league play, I wonder why the Hounds haven’t scored too many goals late in matches this year.
There have been second half goals, and in the previous week at Miami, the Hounds showed plenty of resolve by equalizing twice after going down 1-0, and 2-1, and looking like the stronger team in the second half.
But they couldn’t finish the deal in that game.
And, they couldn’t respond after taking a hard punch to the gut at home against Detroit.
Looking through the most recent stretch of games, they have not been very productive in the final 20 minutes. Through the entire season, the Hounds have only scored four goals scored four goals after the 60th minute, and none after the 76th minute.
Here’s a game-by-game look at when the Hounds scored in each match (with goal scorer and assist man):
HOUNDS GOALS SCORED
3/12: @MEM – Dane Kelly 45+3’ (Alex Dixon)
3/12: @MEM – Russell Cicerone 64’ (Dane Kelly)
3/12: @MEM – Albert Dikwa 76’ (Alex Dixon)
3/19: HFD – Robby Dambrot 12’
3/19: HFD – Kenardo Forbes 51’ (Dane Kelly)
3/26: @DET – Albert Dikwa 18’
4/2: LDN – Dane Kelly 65’ (Albert Dikwa)
4/2: LDN – Dane Kelly 73’ (Kenardo Forbes)
4/5: MD – Toby Sims 37’ (Luis Argudo)
4/5: MD – Toby Sims 55’ (Wyatt Borso)
4/9: @TUL – Albert Dikwa 6’ (Kenardo Forbes)
4/9: @TUL – Alex Dixon 14’ (Albert Dikwa)
4/9: @TUL – Dane Kelly 47’ (Dani Rovira)
4/9: @TUL – Albert Dikwa 60’ (Nate Dossantos)
4/23: ATL – Dane Kelly 20’ (Alex Dixon)
4/23: ATL – Luis Argudo 29’ (Nate Dossantos)
4/23: ATL – Dane Kelly 56’ (Kenardo Forbes)
4/23: ATL – Russell Cicerone 76’ (Kenardo Forbes)
5/7: BHM – Danny Griffin 4’ (Nate Dossantos)
5/14: ELP – Russell Cicerone 46’ (Alex Dixon)
5/21: @TBR – Alex Dixon 10’ (Russell Cicerone)
5/28: @MIA – Russell Cicerone 38’ (Alex Dixon)
5/28: @MIA – Alex Dixon 54’ (Russell Cicerone)
6/4: DET – Albert Dikwa 30′ (Luis Agudo)
HOUNDS GOALS SCORED BY GAME TIMES
- Early going (0′ – 15′) 5
- Mid-1st Half (15′ – 35′) 4
- Late 1st Half (35′ – 45’+) 3
- Early 2nd half (46′ – 60′) 8
- Mid 2nd half (61′ – 80′) 4
- Final charge (81′ – 90′ ++) 0
First half total = 12 goals
Second half total = 12 goals
In addition, lets take a look at when in games the Hounds have surrendered goals this season.
HOUNDS GOALS ALLOWED
3/19: HFD – Juan Carlos Obregón Jr. 40’ (Prince Saydee)
3/26: @DET – Maxi Rodriguez 73’ (pen.)
4/9: @TUL – Kevin Silva 19’ (own goal)
4/9: @TUL – J.J. Williams 80’ (Rodrigo da Costa)
4/9: @TUL – Rodrigo da Costa 85’ (Ronald Rodríguez)
4/16: @LV – Danny Trejo 27’
4/19: @CIN – Álvaro Barreal 95’ (pen.)
4/19: @CIN – Álvaro Barreal 99’ (Alvas Powell)
4/30: @LOU – Wilson Harris 20’ (Amadou Dia)
4/30: @LOU – Enoch Mushagalusa 39’ (Wilson Harris)
5/21: @TBR – Jake LaCava 36’
5/21: @TBR – Leo Fernandes 57’ (Lewis Hilton)
5/21: @TBR – Lucky Mkosana 90+4’ (Laurence Wyke)
5/28: @MIA – Junior Palacios 24’ (Aeden Stanley)
5/28: @MIA – Adonijah Reid 45+2’
6/4: DET – Maxi Rodriguez 72′
What does all of this mean?
The high number of eight goals scored in the early stages of the second half means they’re making solid halftime adjustments, and responding early in the second half.
LIlley’s concerns about his club’s lack of energy late in matches is legitimate.
They have not scored a goal past the 76th minute. And, if you include Open Cup competition, they’ve allowed five goals in 80th minute or later in matches.
This is a team that is clearly lacking a strong finishing kick in its matches.
It will be interesting to see, as how they respond and play in the final stages of matches with another two-thirds of the season yet to come.
LIlley’s Thoughts on Charleston
Heading into Saturday’s match, Charleston sit near the bottom of the USL Championship’s Eastern Conference Standings, which is a very unusual place for them. They have just one win this season (1-9-2 overall record – W-L-T).
Still, Lilley is not underestimating this opponent.
“They were very direct early, and lost a lot of games,” Lilley explained. “They’re becoming more possession oriented now. They are getting better and better. They just lost a very tight one to Indy, Solomon Asante scored three goals. They’re tough defensively. I know they’re getting better.”
“Everyone else is finding a way to get points there,’ Lilley added. “We have to find a way to get three points.”
Lilley knows that it’s a bigger challenge considering how his team has been performing of late, and coming off an unsatisfying result at home vs Detroit.
“The challenge is, you don’t take care of your home games, then you go on the road, things can happen. You have to deal with the heat in Charleston. It’s a hostile environment. You don’t know. It’s frustrating. We gave away points tonight. The way to make up for a night light tonight (vs Detroit) is to respond. Maybe we respond with a good week of training, and go on the road and get a big win. We’ve struggled on the road, after we played well on the road early in the season.
Look for more from PSN on matchday with Mark Goodman’s scouting report/preview of the current edition of the Battery.
Old Guard Shield Rivalry Keeps Ticking
Last year, ahead of the renewal of the series between the Hounds and Charleston, we provided a retrospective look back at the long-running series between these two franchises in Hounds Notebook.
The first meeting between the teams was a 2-0 Hounds win on July 30, 1999 at their original Bethel Park High School home. Last season, the clubs played four times, with the Hounds holding the edge, winning twice and earning two draws.
Even though the Hounds were a playoff team, and the Battery struggled in 2021, each match proved to be hard fought battles.
For years, the Battery held the edge in the series, but that has since turned in the Bob Lilley era.
The biggest change this year will be Charleston’s long-time coach, Mike Anhauser, is no longer at the helm.
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.
Currently, the Riverhounds SC are on the losing side of the series which has spanned 33 total games, as they hold a 9-13-15 overall record versus Charleston. Success has been even harder for the Hounds to come by in South Carolina, where they are 4-7-8 against the Battery.
Since Lilley has arrived in Pittsburgh, the clubs have faced each other eight times resulting in the Hounds finally pulling ahead with the upper hand after last year’s series of matches (3-1-3) in those meetings.
Old Guard Shield Series
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. Then they played a series of four matches in 2021, with Pittsburgh finally holding the edge, which also wrapped up Mike Anhauser era.
How hard fought was that win for the Hounds in 2019?
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.”
With its dominance in recent seasons, the Hounds are the current shield holders.
The Steel Army are hoping that it stays that way — but they’ll probably have to endure another tough pair of matches — regardless of the records and places in the standings which that will test the resolve of both clubs.