The Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC are past the halfway point of the season, which means they’re getting into the second go-around with many Eastern Conference foes.
The latest rematch will take place on Saturday night in Charleston, South Carolina, as they’ll face longtime, Old Guard rivals Charleston Battery in a pivotal match for both sides.
If the Hounds can come away with road points, they’ll keep the Battery at a safe distance. Currently, the first place Hounds (38 points) lead the third place Battery (33 points) by five points in the standings, with both sides having played 20 matches.
However, if the Battery can turn the tables, they can reverse the momentum that the Hounds have been building in an impressive season to this point.
Battery Head Coach Ben Pirmann was giving Bob Lilley and the Hounds plenty of praise leading into the match this week.
“They’re the best team, not only in the Eastern Conference but in all of the USL, probably by a significant margin. In the last 17 matches, the only game they’ve lost is an Open Cup game on the road to Cincinnati,” Permann said.
“We have to be very good and excellent to compete, we know how good Pittsburgh are and that they’re tough defensively. We also know they create chances and they’re physical but they move the ball well, it’s a well-balanced opponent.
In their first match at Highmark Stadium in early June, Pittsburgh scored immediately, as in getting a goal in the first 21 seconds of the match, as Junior Etou finished off a Kenardo Forbes cross coming right after kickoff. The Hounds sat back for large portions of that match, but did find a second goal late to seal the deal, and jump into sole possession of first place that evening.
While the Hounds enter Saturday’s match in the midst of an impressive 13-match unbeaten streak, having not surrendered a goal in its last four and a half matches (408 minutes to be precise), Charleston’s form has been a little bumpy of late, coming away with a pair of draws against meddling Miami FC and Indy Eleven. The Battery did defeat Loudoun United FC prior to that in convincing fashion, 3-0, but dropped all three points to Memphis back on June 24.
In this week’s edition of Hounds Notebook, we took a deeper dive at both the Eastern Conference race — exploring the need for Pittsburgh to play with a sense of urgency now to build on their lead — and the Hounds’ historic defensive run through its first 20 matches.
With the Hounds entering another busy stretch that will include three matches in the next eight days, look for more of the same in terms of squad rotation.
Pittsburgh has two players on its injury list this week, defenders Nate Dossantos (ankle) and Illal Osumanu (ankle) are listed as questionable.
More on the Battery
Ahead of the match in June, we provided a scouting report for the Battery and went into more depth on the ‘Old Guard’ rivalry.
With Pirmann, the 2022 USL Championship Coach of the Year with Memphis, now leading Charleston, the storied club has gone from a bottom of the table finish in 2022 to a strong contender near the top of the standings in 2023, even as they’ve had some up-and-down form of late.
Their most recent result came in a 1-1 draw at FIU Stadium last Saturday against The Miami FC.
Returning to his alma mater, Charleston’s Andrew Booth, coming on as a second half sub, scored the dramatic equalizer in the 97th minute to salvage one point.
Goalkeeper Trey Muse came up with a big save early in the match, stopping Miami’s Kyle Murphy’s penalty kick attempt. Miami would take the lead in the 83rd minute, coming off a Ben Mines second effort in the box.
Pirmann’s no-frills approach to what he likes to call an aggressive, defensive style of play, and as a team that will outwork its opponents and do all the little things. Often times, you’ll see the Battery go with two holding midfielders in front of a back four, and they’ve used 4-2-3-1 in their most recent matches.
In the match vs the Hounds in June, Charleston didn’t exactly look dangerous, but they lived up to that billing, and making things difficult for the Hounds.
Charleston carried 65 percent of the ball for the rest of that match.
Pittsburgh were pinned back at times for long stretches, which Lilley wasn’t happy about, especially as Charleston, playing down a goal, were looking to be aggressive, playing through the midfield lines and sending pressure (although only one shot on frame), mostly with crosses and efforts to get the ball to dangerous striker Augustine Williams.
The Hounds, coming off its loss to FC Cincinnati a few nights earlier, showed plenty of grit and defensive resilience in that match, with solid marking in the box, while goalkeeper Jahmali Waite was on top of his game when tested on a couple of shots.
Despite the chaos, the Hounds kept Charleston at bay in terms of quality chances, even as the match ended with Charleston posting 13 shots, with just two on frame. The Hounds defending included 24 clearances, 13 interceptions and 21 tackles — along with Waite’s two saves.
In the rematch, Charleston are looking to flip the script, and make the most of their chances this time around. Battery are no easy out in the humid conditions at Patriots Point, where they have only lost twice all season — once in a stunning blowout against defending champ San Antonio, and the other against Indy in a match where the Battery picked up a fluky first-minute red card.
It feels really good to be back home, we got something to prove. We’re trying to perfect the little details, the small details and just get after it,” Pirmann said.
“The first time we played them, it was a different formation for us. I think it will be the same intensity from them. Here is way more humid [than Pittsburgh], a bit hotter than over there compared to the first game. It’s a good team that we’re going up against, very defensive and very strong in the back.”
— Charleston Battery (@Chas_Battery) July 21, 2023
The Hounds first concern will be marking Williams, who is now hot on the heels of Albert DIkwa for the league lead, as the Charleston striker has nine goals this season. Nick Markanich is also a threat, with seven goals in league play, while defender Deklynn Wynne has made 99 appearances with the club. Battery keeper Trey Muse has been a mainstay between the pipes, as he is nearing 300 career saves in the USL Championship regular season. He has made 294 saves entering this weekend.
The only player showing up on the inactive list for Charleston, is Arturo Rodriguez, who will be unavailable for Saturday’s match after receiving a red card in Miami from the bench.
How Charleston Lined Up vs The Miami FC last week
John K’s Projected Hounds Starting XI
Riverhounds (10-2-8) vs. Charleston Battery (9-5-6)
Date: Saturday, July 22
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Location: Patriots Points Soccer Complex, Mount Pleasant, S.C.
Odds: Hounds +175/ Draw +230 / Charleston +135 (FanDuel)
Live statistics: USL Championship Match Center
Live updates: @RiverhoundsSC on Twitter
Match hashtags: #CHSvPIT and #HOUNDTAHN