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Preview: Riverhounds, Louisville City FC ready to run it back in search of goals

File photo courtesy Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC

The Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC are currently mired in a current string of tight matches against other high profile clubs which have resulted in playing more than 180 minutes of scoreless action.

In their past two outings against defending Eastern Conference champions, Louisville City FC, and the Western Conference leaders Sacramento Republic, Pittsburgh has failed to put the ball in the back of the net, but also continue to show that they’re one of the best defending units in the league.

The Hounds, who’s unbeaten streak is now at 11 games in league play, travel to Louisville for a return, midweek match at Lynn Family Stadium on Wednesday night (8 p.m. kickoff), in search of goals and looking to pick up more than just another point as things are getting crowded at the top of the table.

The Hounds are 3-1-4 in regular-season matches against Louisville and 3-3-5 in all matches since the start of 2018, and they are the only two USL Championship teams to qualify for the postseason every year in that time frame.  While Louisville has never lost at Highmark Stadium (go figure?), the Hounds have won all of its matches in this hotly contested series in Louisville, including three years ago to this day, when Lynn Family Stadium officially opened on July 12, 2020, Pittsburgh stormed back to win, 3-1, after surrendering an early goal.

Louisville (29 points) are closing in on the Hounds (32 points) and the rest of the conference leaders.  Tampa Bay, by virtue of its impressive win vs Oakland in a send off for coach Neill Collins, the lead (34 points), with Pittsburgh and Charleston (31 points) right on their tails.

The common denominator for Pittsburgh and Louisville heading into the rematch is that they’ve been very strong defensively, and each side is lacking consistency in creating sustained pressure on its opponents of late.

The Hounds are holding steady with the second least goals allowed (12 in 18 matches played) while Louisville has allowed only 18 goals in 17 matches — fourth-best in the Championship despite being skewed by a 5-0 defeat in their meeting with Sacramento early in the season.

In the July 1 stalemate at Highmark Stadium, Pittsburgh Head Coach Bob LIlley was not pleased with his team’s performance and their decision making on the ball, as he felt that Louisville grew into the better team as the match evolved.

The veteran coach lamented that while his players put forth the effort, they came up short in executing in building effective passes and generating quality shots.

Takeaways and Player Grades: Lilley laments his Hounds can’t win on defense and hard work alone following draw vs battle-tested Louisville

Although the Hounds showed some improvement in the next match against a Sacramento side that has surrendered the fewest goals in the USL Championship this season, they still couldn’t convert on its chances.

“We were better this week than last week,” Lilley said.

“It’s tough. We needed to be ruthless…we had the ball in good spaces, over and over and over again, we just didn’t execute. But there were more moments that we can point to that we looked dangerous there. There was a little more energy to go forward. There was some improvement there.”

Part of the reason for slightly improved Hounds attack on Saturday came with the return of two players who’ve been sidelined for a while: midfielder Robbie Mertz and forward Albert Dikwa, each who played in the second half.

“It’s great having them back,” Hounds midfielder Danny Griffin said.

“It’s great to see them back on the field and I’m happy to see them return. They’re key players on and off the field, in terms of what they do on and off the field. So just to see them get those opportunities and we’ll keep clicking with our offense and building with that, but it was good to see some guys in the box creating opportunities. We’ve got to create more in the game to win it, but just having those guys back will help our offense for sure.”

The match will also mark a significant milestone for Griffin, who will be playing in his 100th match for Pittsburgh.

Meanwhile, Louisville City FC, a club filled with a mix of veterans who have won championships for the club and talented young players, under the direction of its Head Coach Danny Cruz, bagged three points on Saturday to inch closer to the top of the standings, with a 1-0 victory vs Loudoun United FC. The Purple and Gold are on a modest four-match unbeaten streak.

It appears that at midseason, they’re working through numerous injuries but two longtime club leaders remain at the forefront.

While Danny Griffin’s milestone is impressive, Louisville’s Sean Totsch made his 200th Louisville City FC appearance in Saturday’s win, making him only the second player in club history to join the 200 club following teammate Paolo DelPiccolo.

For three straight years a member of the USL Championship All-League First Team, Totsch is looking like a candidate to extend that streak in 2023. He’s played every minute of City’s season, has scored three goals and anchors a back line that has secured a league-leading nine clean sheets halfway through the campaign.

Since our last Preview and Scouting Report on Louisville City posted prior to July 1 match in Pittsburgh, here are some interesting things to note on the boys in Purple:

  • Still regaining fitness from an early season injury, veteran midfielder Niall McCabe made his first start in the Loudoun win since LouCity’s March 11 season opener, nearly going the distance, in 85 minutes leading all players with four chances created. McCabe also completed all 10 of his passes in the final third, looking like a key figure moving forward for the boys in purple.
  • Cam Lancaster is lurking. LouCity’s all-time leading scorer got back on the sheet Saturday when punching in a rebound at the back post in the 53rd minute against Loudoun. It marked the second goal of the season for Lancaster, who has been riddled by injuries in recent years but continues to rank as one of the USL Championship’s top strikers. His 76 regular season league goals position him third on the league’s all-time list. He’s scored a few goals against the Hounds, none more devastating then in the 2019 Eastern Conference semifinal, when he scored in the second half to equalize the match, igniting Louisville’s come-from-behind win in Pittsburgh in Extra Time.
  • Cruz said he’s “hopeful (Brian Ownby) will be back on Wednesday in some capacity.” The game-changing winger has appeared once since June 3, first missing time due to a hamstring pull before more recently slowed by a calf strain. In his one outing, Ownby came off the bench to get the game-winning assist June 24 against Las Vegas Lights FC.

While the Hounds injury situation is getting better (Nate Dossantos remains the lone injury reported on the team’s inactives list — GK Jahmali Waite is still with Jamaican National Team at the Gold Cup), Louisville’s injury list is longer, but they’re hoping to get a few players back into the fold.

Louisville City FC Starting XI (vs Loudoun United FC on 7/8) 

John K’s Projected Hounds Starting XI 

 

What They’re Saying 

Griffin Reaches 100

“I’m excited. It came quick, for sure. Being here the last four years, Pittsburgh has become a home for me, coming up on 100 is a great feeling,” Danny Griffin said, on reaching the 100 match mark, but never losing sight of the team’s goals.

“Looking to stay on top of the table is what is most important for us; we want to have playoff games at home and keep the atmosphere that we have going.”

“It’s definitely the hard work we’ve put in and also the amount that we have in quality,” Griffin added.

“One guy can be out of the lineup, and another guy can step in, and everyone does their job. It’s overall team quality and the depth that we have that is pushing our group.”

Defense Rules 

Defense rules the top of the USL Standings.  Here’s one of John Morrisey’s many charts on USL teams.  This one displays how teams defending in the USL Championship.

Totsch Reaches 200 Matches 

“I’m so proud of him,” coach Danny Cruz added of Totsch’s 200th appearance.

“It’s an unbelievable achievement. He’s been a stalwart at this club — for this community. He continues to grow every single day, and I couldn’t be more proud of the moment for him. He deserves it.”

#LOUvPIT Prematch Tweets 

 


Riverhounds (8-2-8) vs. Louisville City FC (8-4-5)
Date: Wednesday, July 12
Time: 8 p.m.
Location: Lynn Family Stadium, Louisville, Ky.
Odds: Hounds +250 / Draw +230 / Louisville +100 (FanDuel)
TV: Pittsburgh’s CW
Streaming: ESPN+ (national), Pittsburgh’s CW (local)
Live statistics: USL Championship Match Center
Live updates: @RiverhoundsSC on Twitter
Match hashtags: #LOUvPIT 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).

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Glory on the Grass

Riverhounds MF Kenardo Forbes

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