The Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC players and coaches have had plenty of time to regroup, as the last time they had a competitive match was Saturday, August 26, in a match with the league’s defending champion, San Antonio, they played to a 0-0 draw between two clubs pushing to finish at the top of the table.
“I am struggling to think of a more intense one that we’ve played this year,” Riverhounds SC midfielder Marc Ybarra said on Sounding Off on Soccer podcast this week.
“Both teams knew how much that game meant. Both teams have ambitions to finish first in our conference. Ambitions to go very far in the playoffs. We both knew that giving three points to the other team would be a blow. So, the intensity and fight from the start, was difficult there, but we were up for the fight.”
Head Coach Bob Lilley gave his troops a few extra days off last week, but they did return to training late in the week, and are putting in a full week of training this week ahead of its home match vs Loudoun United FC, on Saturday at Highmark Stadium.
Heading into this match, the Hounds (51 points) remain one point ahead of Tampa Bay (50 points), and two points ahead of Charleston (49 points) in the standings. Despite Loudoun’s 11th place standing out of 12 teams, the Riverhounds are not taking any matches too lightly.
“Every game is very pivotal now,” Lilley said.
“We’ve done a lot of good things to get in this position. We’ve played well against the top teams in the East(ern Conference). (We’ve) gotta get points now. There’s a big difference if you finish in one of those top spots, and getting home games in the playoffs. That’s the challenge now, to keep grinding out results.”
Lilley added: “Our biggest game right now, is Loudoun. We need to maximize our points at home.”
Looking at Loudoun
Much like the Hounds, Loudoun comes into this match with a week off. The Virginia-based club comes into the match with a five match form of one win (against Western Conference last place Las Vegas), three losses and one draw.
They still have a chance at post-season play, sitting in 11th place with 24 points. The Red-and-White are five points behind the playoff line.
Since Loudoun came into the USL Championship in 2019, originally as an affiliate of Major League Soccer’s DC United, the Hounds have mostly dominated the series, losing one match (a 2-1 defeat) in 2021, but since that loss, they’ve won five straight in the series, including a 1-0 victory at Loudoun in late May, thanks to a set piece goal.
Ahead of that match, we took a closer look at the Loudoun roster, which has numerous connections to Pittsburgh, with former Pitt Panthers Bryce Washington and Yanis Leermanon the squad, former Allderdice and Hounds Development Academy keeper Dane Jacomen and former Hound Tommy Williamson.
Loudoun, meanwhile, will be without the services of ball-winning midfielder Houssou Landry, as the Ivorian serves a suspension for yellow card accumulation. The visitors should be close to full strength otherwise, which includes former Hounds striker Tommy Williamson, former Hounds Academy goalkeeper Dane Jacomen and newly acquired defender Harvey Neville, the 21-year-old son of former England international Phil Neville.
Despite some continuity, there has also been an influx of new additions to the Loudoun roster beyond Neville, who is on loan from Inter Miami.
United welcomed on loan through the end of the 2023 season defender Jacob Greene and midfielder Chris Hegardt.
Greene returns to Loudoun on loan from D.C. United. The defender joined the Black-and-Red on Nov. 25, 2020 as the 15th Homegrown Signing in D.C. United history. In total, he has appeared in 16 matches for D.C. and scored one goal across all competitions. Greene made his professional debut with Loudoun on July 29, 2019. He has played a total of 72 matches for Loudoun, scoring three goals and recording one assist.
Hegardt joins Loudoun United on loan from Charlotte FC. Hegardt featured eight times for the Crown in all competitions this season adding one assist in the Club’s 4-1 win over South Georgia Tormenta in the 2023 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The midfielder is not new to the DMV area, Hegardt signed with Charlotte FC from Georgetown University.
Ready to make an immediate impact 👊@LoudounUnitedFC has acquired midfielder Chris Hegardt on loan from Charlotte FC for the remainder of the season.
— USL Championship (@USLChampionship) September 7, 2023
— USL Championship (@USLChampionship) September 5, 2023
A 𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘀𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗹𝗲 addition to the defense.@LoudounUnitedFC has acquired Harvey Neville on loan from Inter Miami CF 🔴⚪️
— USL Championship (@USLChampionship) August 24, 2023
Against one of the hottest teams in the league, Indy Eleven, who handed Pittsburgh its only home loss this season, Loudoun got off to a good start, when Williamson struck early.
⏱ 39 SECONDS ⏱
— Loudoun United FC (@LoudounUnitedFC) August 26, 2023
Pittsburgh fans should also remember that Williamson, can be dangerous on set pieces.
Indy did come back to take the three points away from Loudoun, but it was a hard-fought battle, 2-1.
Hounds Squad Rotation and Lining Up vs Loudoun
Bob Lilley came right out on Sounding Off on Soccer podcast to share that with DZ Harmon (Liberia) and goalkeeper Jahmali Waite (Jamaica) both away from the club on international duty this weekend, the biggest impact in the lineup for Saturday’s match will come with back-up goalkeeper Christian Garner being tabbed to get the start.
“Christian deserves this chance. He’s trained really well for us,” Lilley said, of the Hounds keeper, who has only made two starts this season.
The only other player coming up on the Hounds injury report for the match, is Tony Lopez, who’s been ruled out. (knee)
Lilley said that as the team heads into this final stretch of matches, with the last six games taking place over a six week period, he doesn’t expect a whole lot of heavy squad rotation, even pointing out that if they can string together good results, he doesn’t expect to change the lineups all that much.
The Hounds veteran coach also pointed out that he still expects a lot of players to contribute, and wishes that with this squad, sometimes it’s unfair that he has to limit his number to the league requirement of 18 players on the game day roster.
One of our features in our Hounds gameday previews, we typically will like to come up with a projected Starting XI. Taking a look at the most recent trend of playing time from the past four matches, we should have a pretty good indication of the 18 or 19 players who should appear on the line-up card and who will be among the most likely to start.
- GK – Jahmail Waite (four starts in last four matches — though will definitely miss 9/9/2023 due to international duty)
- Arturo Ordonez (four starts)
- Nate Dossantos (four starts)
- Danny Griffin (four starts)
- Albert Dikwa (four starts)
- Marc Ybarra (four starts)
- Dani Rovira (three starts and one appearance off bench)
- Robbie Mertz (two starts, two off the bench)
- Junior Etou (two starts, two off the bench)
- Kenardo Forbes (two starts, one off bench)
- Tola Showunmi (two starts, one off the bench)
- Pat Hogan (two starts)
- Langston Blackstock (two starts)
- Joey Farrell (one start, two off bench)
- JC Obregón (one start, three off the bench)
- Luke Biasi (one start, three off the bench)
- Edward Kizza (one start, two off the bench)
- Illal Osumanu (one start — prev three matches on injury report)
- Trevor Zwetsloot (two off the bench)
With that data, and knowing Waite and Harmon (who didn’t even crack the lineup in the past four matches) are out of selection, here’s our projected starting lineup for the Loudoun match.
- GK: Christian Garner
- DEF: Arturo Ordonez, Nate Dossantos, Pat Hogan,
- MF: Kenardo Forbes, Danny Griffin, Marc Ybarra, Junior Etou, Dani Rovira
- F: Albert Dikwa, Tola Showunmi
- Most Likely Available off Bench: Robbie Mertz, JC Obregón, Joey Farrell, Luke Biasi, Edward Kizza, Jonathan Gomes (GK), Langston Blackstock
- Players who haven’t been in recent rotation: DZ Harmon, Tony Lopez, Burke Fahling, Mike DeShields
Pittsburgh vs Loudoun: Match Info
Riverhounds (14-5-9) vs. Loudoun United FC (7-18-3)
Date: Saturday, Sept. 9
Time: 7 p.m.
Location: Highmark Stadium
Odds: Hounds -370 / Draw +430 / Loudoun +800 (FanDuel)
Streaming: ESPN+ (national), KDKA+ (local)
Live statistics: USL Championship Match Center
Live updates: @RiverhoundsSC on Twitter
Match hashtags: #PITvLDN and #HOUNDTAHN
"It's a great privilege and an honor to be there"
— Pittsburgh Soccer Now (@pghsoccernow) September 8, 2023