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Preview and Scouting Report: Traveling Hounds looking for road goals in ‘clash of styles’ match-up vs underachieving Indy

File Photo courtesy Indy Eleven

The Riverhounds SC found out on Thursday that they’ll add another road match to its schedule, when the U.S. Open Fourth Round draw placed them for an away contest against the New England Revolution, on Tuesday, May 9, at 7:30 p.m.

Following Tuesday’s Open Cup win vs Maryland, the Hounds will now have three straight road matches, including a West Coast trip next weekend to beautiful Monterey Bay, followed by a quick turnaround, and likely hopping on the red-eye to from coast-to-coast to New England for a Tuesday night Open Cup clash with the Major League Soccer outfit.

In the short term, Bob Lilley and his coaching staff have to leave next week’s travel itinerary concerns to the team’s assistant travel secretary or who ever handles those arrangements, as they have a more pressing matter at hand: facing the Indy Eleven on Saturday night.

The Hounds will once again be without the services of two players who land on the injury/inactives report:  Dani Rovira (out – knee) and Junior Etou (out – arm).  When talking with Rovira before the Tuesday night match, he said he’s “doing much better” but didn’t say what the timetable would be for his return.

Heading into the season the Eleven were touted as a team to watch, as they made numerous off season additions that provided them with a handful of talented midfielders and attackers, but to this point, it hasn’t materialized.

Meanwhile, the Hounds went very deep into its roster to give numerous players first-time starts and other role players into the first eleven in the Open Cup win on Tuesday.  This allowed Lilley to rest some of his key players, especially veteran captain Kenardo Forbes, who didn’t even dress for the Open Cup contest and the team’s leading scorer, Albert Dikwa, who did dress but didn’t get in the game.

The problem ailing the Hounds as they get back into important league competition, is they’re having a hard time scoring goals on the road.  This was addressed in my Takeaways & Player Grades, following their second consecutive shut out loss, 2-0, away from home to El Paso last week.

Both teams used regular starters sparingly in Open Cup matches earlier this week, though Indy had to face MLS’ Columbus Crew (losing 1-0), while Pittsburgh played a day earlier and took down NISA’s Maryland Bobcats, 2-0.

Pittsburgh Soccer Now’s Midwest contributor, Dan Angell, will be providing on-site coverage.  We will see if the Hounds (and Pittsburgh soccer teams’) remarkable streak of picking up red cards when Dan is covering matches for Soccer Now networks continues.  Dating back to 2021, when Pittsburgh defeated Indy Eleven, 2-0, the Hounds have played down a man in two matches at Indy and another at Louisville City,

We are always very happy to have Dan’s first-rate reporting, but we have to wonder though, if a rather unique jinx is real or a massive coincidence.

In the last five matches Dan has covered for Pittsburgh Soccer Now, and in the last case, on the same night he was covering a Union-FC Cincy match for Philadelphia Soccer Now, the Riverhounds or Pitt men’s soccer have seen at least one (or more) player be sent off with a red card.

Ironically, the Pittsburgh teams still won three of the five matches.

Looking Closer at Indy Eleven 

When pointing out that the Eleven made significant upgrades in the offseason, they went out and added two of the most dynamic scorers in the league in recent years, Soloman Asante and Sebastian Guenzatti.

Asante is still looking to become the first player in USL Championship history to notch 50 goals and 50 assists (46G/49A) in regular season play (Asante sits on 51G/48A) – while Guenzatti came to Indy as the Tampa Bay Rowdies club’s all-time leading goal scorer with a total of 65 goals across all competitions for the club. The Uruguayan led Tampa Bay in goals across four consecutive seasons from 2018-21 and played a vital role in the Rowdies’ success in recent years.

And yet, the Eleven has struggled mightily this season to score goals under second year Indy coach, and USL veteran, Mark Lowry.  They’ve scored four goals in six league matches (1-3-2, 5 points), as they sit near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.

In fact, other than an Open Cup second round win, April has been especially harsh for Indy, as they’re on a four-match winless streak in USLC play, including three straight losses heading into the weekend. With three of those four contests coming at Carroll Stadium.  They will likely be a very desperate team, as Saturday provides one last opportunity for a league win at home before they hit the road for five of its next eight matches across May & June.

The good news, of sorts for Indy, which has played primarily in a possession-based 4-3-3 this season (although they have switched over to 4-4-2 and 3-4-3 at times), has been that both Asante and Guenzatti both picked up their first goals of the season in last week’s 3-2 loss at home vs upstart Monterey Bay FC.

As part of the midfield grouping,Lowry brought over one of his former players in El Paso, Jack Blake, who has been one of the best box-to-box midfielders in the USL Championship for several years now. Originally from England, Blake turned pro with Nottingham Forest but has since made his way to the States, with stints with Minnesota United, the Tampa Bay Rowdies, the Real Monarchs, Jacksonville Armada and the San Diego Loyal.  Blake is an excellent distributor and two-way player who can win balls back in the box.

When out of possession, Indy will likely defend in a mid-block and trigger the press when the Hounds try to play it out or go through the wider channels.

One player Pittsburgh fans are familiar with for the Eleven, is Robby Dambrot, and former Pitt standout who played part of last season in Pittsburgh before being traded to Indy Eleven.

Since arriving in Indianapolis, the son of Duquesne men’s basketball coach, Keith Dambrot, has made 14 starts in 17 appearances as a left outside back and at center back.

Key Match-ups:

This is one of the more interesting ‘clash of styles’ type match-ups the Hounds will have thus far this season in league play.

Indy enters the contest first by a country mile in the Championship with a 64% possession rate and third in passing accuracy at 82%, while the Riverhounds place third from the bottom of the league in each category at 43% and 72%, respectively.

In its last four road matches, Pittsburgh’s possession numbers flat out show how much they’re willing to concede having the majority of the ball (at Memphis 36%, at Tulsa 31%, at Colorado Springs 33% and at El Paso 40%).

When it comes to the two stats that ultimately count, the Hounds have made no bones about trying to slow down every opponent they face, leading the USL Championship with 115 fouls committed – while producing better result in goals for (1.00/game for PIT versus 0.67 for Indy) and goals allowed (0.86 for PIT versus 1.33 for Indy).

While possession battle in this match appears to favor the home side, the Hounds will need to value and keep possession enough while being more patient on the ball when they have opportunities both on the counter and when things are not there right away.  Having a well-rested Kenardo Forbes should help in this area, as the Hounds will turn to its venerable captain to help manage the game in the middle, while Albert Dikwa, who also sat out Tuesday’s match, should be ready to work by covering a lot of ground on the press and looking to add to his team goal scoring lead (four goals thus far this season for Dikwa).

Always one to watch the central midfield battles, especially among the veterans in this league, it will be a treat to watch Forbes and Aodhan Quinn both looking to impose their will in trying to dictate terms for each side in this match.  The battles between these two teams, and these players in recent years have been very tight.

The veteran midfielder, Quinn, may be 31, but like his counterpart Forbes, his 675 combined minutes in regular season continues to show that he has not slowed down one bit. While the Hounds will swarm and challenge everything, the savvy veteran Quinn will relish the opportunity to bang away and draw fouls to set up set pieces for the home side – which he’ll also likely stand over as a dangerous free kick option. For an Indy team that is still learning to put things together, they’ll be tested once again.

The other match-ups to watch will be how the Hounds will mark the formidable front line attackers, Asante and Guenzatti. The Hounds have been typically up-to-the-task this season, especially in limiting opponents’ shots allowed (15!), but last week’s disappointing road trip to El Paso, Pittsburgh was exposed a few times on direct play, which is something we may not expect the Eleven to do, but El Paso were a heavy-possession based group too who couldn’t break through Pittsburgh’s lines, and found a solution when playing it long a few times.  One of those broke one of those lines, and the other was a quirky, weird scenario when Hounds keeper Jahmali Waite completely misplayed the ball.  Guenzatti has just three shots on frame this year in 12 attempts (scoring just once), while Asante has a goal and an assist, while just registering only eight total shots (two on target).

If the Hounds make mistakes like that again on the road, especially with two of the all-time USLC strikers at the top, Indy could finally get back in the win column.

John K’s Hounds Projected Starters 

Riverhounds (2-2-3) vs. Indy Eleven (1-3-2)
Date: Saturday, April 29
Time: 7 p.m.
Location: IU Michael A. Carroll Track & Soccer Stadium, Indianapolis, Ind.
Odds: Hounds +135 / Draw +220 / Indy +185 (FanDuel)
Streaming: ESPN+
Live statistics: USL Championship Match Center
Live updates: @DanAngell11 on Twitter
Match hashtags: #INDvPIT and #HOUNDTAHN

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 Kenardo Forbes

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