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Preview and Scouting Report: Detroit City FC sputtering but ready for a fight with the Riverhounds

The Riverhounds SC are intent on keeping their positive momentum rolling as Detroit City FC sputters into town for a Saturday night clash at Highmark Stadium.

Both teams will lace it up on a short turnaround, each having played on Wednesday night.

As struggling Detroit played Loudoun United to a 1-1 draw in their midweek encounter, which extended their streak without a win to five games, Pittsburgh returns home after a successful road trip to Louisville, earning a 1-0 victory. It was a match the Hounds mostly dictated terms, even as they conceded 61 percent possession to the home side.  The result also marked a successful return to the starting lineup for the Hounds leading goal scorer, Albert Dikwa, and midfielder Robbie Mertz, who were both out with injuries for much of early July and June.

This is clearly a match of two teams going in different directions. The Hounds are 9-0-3 in all competitions at home and have a 13-match home unbeaten streak dating back to last season. And with only one goal allowed in the team’s last 724 minutes of play, the Hounds also have seven clean sheets in their past eight matches.

A year ago, these two clubs faced off twice in the first half of the season, playing each time to a 1-1 draw, both in Keyworth Stadium last March, and at Highmark Stadium in June.

Detroit, with a rabid fan base were a surprise playoff team in their inaugural campaign in the USL Championship in 2022 when they moved up from NISA.  It’s been a different story for Trevor James’ club in their sophomore season in the league, with just four wins in 19 league matches, they are a club are teetering on the fringe of playoff position and in desperate need to pick up points to climb out of the depths of the Eastern Conference standings.

The Hounds though, are happy to have their regular starting goalkeeper, Jahmali Waite, back after his stint with the Jamaican National Team during the Gold Cup. Waite returned to Pittsburgh on Thursday after traversing the country while taking part in Jamaica’s run to the Gold Cup semifinals.

Luis Zamudio, who started the past five matches in goal for Pittsburgh, was recalled a few days early from his loan — which was scheduled to end after Saturday’s match — and is back with D.C. United.

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh’s injury/inactives report lists one player, Nate Dossantos, who is listed as questionable, as has been working his way back from an ankle injury.

More on Detroit City FC

The Burgundy and Gold started off the season in abysmal fashion, winning just once in their first ten games. There wasn’t any Open Cup magic for DCFC this season either, as they lost to Minnesota United at home by conceding three goals in a six minute stretch of the second half.

Despite its struggles, City have been competitive in just about every match (a blowout loss to Tampa, aside) as one very interesting statistic to digest on the club is that they’ve been involved in 24% of USL Championship’s 1-0 matches (11 to be precise — but they’ve been on the losing end of most of those). Detroit are currently four points out of playoff position, posting a goal difference of minus-7 as they’re sixth in the Championship with only 20 goals allowed by the club and standout goalkeeper Nathan Steinwascher, has played all 19 matches.

Their low position on the ladder is a result of the offense misfiring with a league-worst 13 goals. Le Rouge is not without threatening players, however, as Dario Suárez came over from Tulsa in a midseason trade, and suddenly  leads DCFC with three goals, after scoring 30 goals in three and a half seasons and 90 appearances in Tulsa.  Maxi Rodriguez — who scored in each of the 1-1 draws with the Hounds last season — remains influential in Detroit’s lineup too.

When it appeared DCFC started to show signs of improvement, going unbeaten in a four-game stretch in late May-early June, they’ve since gone five matches again without a win, including two draws (0-0 vs Memphis and Wednesday night’s 1-1 draw vs Loudoun United FC when they were playing a man up for the last 23-plus minutes).

On Wednesday night, Suárez sent Keyworth Stadium into a frenzy when he scored from midfield in the second half, sending a ball over former Hounds Academy keeper Dane Jacoman.

But, an equalizer came from Loudoun United FC, then playing with a man-advantage for nearly 30 minutes (as former Hound Tommy Williamson was sent off), and a last-second bicycle kick from Suárez that fell short ultimately ended the game in a 1-1 draw.

For Suárez, it was his first start for Le Rouge.

“We got the point. We’re not happy with that. We need to get the three points every single game, especially at home,” Suárez said after the match to Detroit News.

“Of course, the goalkeeper saved that one, don’t get the three points, but you know, football’s like that. We come back again Saturday night. We fight.”

DCFC showed some attacking might, peppering Loudoun with long balls over the top with the man-advantage but couldn’t find the go-ahead goal. Le Rouge’s best chance came on a last gasp in injury time, when Suárez put a bicycle kick on net that was saved by Jacomen.

DCFC lined up in a 4-4-2 on Wednesday, but have also altered formations this season, as we’ve seen them in a 3-1-4-2.

How Detroit City FC lined up vs Loudoun United 


Matchups to Watch

Expect a decent level of rotation for the Hounds, as this will be the team’s third match in the past week.  Waite will return as the primary option at goalkeeper, and with Nate Dossantos listed as questionable, that may be a decision that comes closer to game time on that end, but Hounds Head Coach and the training staff may opt to sit out Dossantos another week to get fully healthy.  With Dikwa and Mertz coming back from injury, and having started on Wednesday, it wouldn’t be a surprise that they may be on the bench to start this match. Could this be the first match we’ll see Juan Carlos Obregon Jr., who was signed a few weeks ago, get a start with his new club?

Keep in mind, Pittsburgh will have to deal with another three-games in seven day stretch again, beginning next Saturday at Charleston before returning home for two matches (vs Indy and Memphis).

Detroit is a struggling team but they do defend well.  On heavy legs, the Hounds will have to make them chase the match.  Bob Lilley’s been trying to preach that his team make better decisions on the ball in the final third, and they sure did that at Louisville.  The Hounds put six of their nine shots on frame and brought a good bit of pressure on the road Wednesday.  They eventually solved one of the best keepers in the league, Oliver Semmle, in the second half in the midweek match, and they’ll have to face another keeper who has been exceptional under pressure this season in Steinwascher.

If Detroit attempts to play a possession style, which they do sometimes but not very well (among worst in passing accuracy at 72% and passes attempted), by trying to build it out at Highmark, the Hounds will bring waves of pressure and press them into making mistakes. Seeing that they’ve only surrendered 20 goals this season (better half of the league), they’ll likely keep things tight and try to limit Pittsburgh’s chances too, while looking to strike on the counter.  Under Trevor James, Detroit remains a team that tries to finds moments by building out on the width — and that’s how they hurt Pittsburgh last year in a match that the Hounds seemingly had under control, but one long direct, diagonal ball in getting behind the Pittsburgh back line which equalized that match last June. Unfortunately this season DCFC haven’t hit on too many final ball chances in the final third, with league lowest goal total (13) and goal conversion rate of 8.8% (on 148 shots, 56 on target and 13 goals).

The Hounds have been the league’s best club in denying shot chances both overall and on frame.  In the win vs Louisville on Wednesday, Pittsburgh only allowed one shot on frame.

If the Riverhounds want to take the top of the table, these are matches, against teams not playing well, that they have to seize the full three points and control from start to finish. Without a loss in 12 home matches this season, Pittsburgh will continue to feed off the energy of the Highmark Stadium crowd. The longer this match stays scoreless, Detroit City will have a chance, especially since they’ve played in so many 1-0 matches this year, so there’s no doubt that Bob Lilley will want to be on the front foot from the start.

John K’s Riverhounds’ Starting Lineup Projection 

Pittsburgh Soccer Now

Look for coverage to come from Highmark Stadium, as Nate Breisigner (follow on Twitter: @NateBreisinger) will be making his Pittsburgh Soccer Now debut covering the match, as yours truly will be out at Founders Field for the Steel City FC-Cleveland NPSL Great Lakes Conference Final match.

Riverhounds (9-2-8) vs. Detroit City FC (4-10-5)

Date: Saturday, July 15
Time: 7 p.m.
Location: Highmark Stadium
Tickets: Ticketmaster
Odds: Hounds -210 / Draw +280 / Detroit +550 (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: #PITvDET 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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Riverhounds MF Kenardo Forbes

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