The Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC may have already captured the Players Shield as the USL Championship’s top team in the regular season, but they still have to complete the task of closing out the 34-game campaign on Saturday (4 p.m. kickoff) on a positive note, sharpen things up and look to spoil Detroit City FC’s aspirations to clinch a playoff spot to play them next week in Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh face DCFC at Keyworth Stadium in Hamtramck, MI, which will provide an uncomfortable and hostile environment against a team that has everything to play for.
Bob Lilley told Pittsburgh Soccer Now earlier this week that this match is far from a ‘throwaway game’.
“The energy’s been good for the last six to eight weeks. We’ve been playing well, training well, happy to see even after the win on Saturday, we came this week back to work. Obviously, we have another target we’re going after, so it’s important. We’re going to try to keep our momentum this week.”
“There will be some changes, but not wholesale changes. Our intent is to go to Detroit, try to win the game and hopefully be able to carry that into the playoffs. It’s not a throwaway game for us.”
A five-game winning streak is on the line for the Hounds, but the stakes are significantly higher for the home team, which must get a better result Saturday than Miami FC to claim the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference — a placing that would book a date at Highmark Stadium to open the postseason in eight days.
Lilley made it clear after last week’s win at Tampa Bay that the Hounds would be out to keep their momentum going, and while some players will get extra rest, many of the team’s regular starters will be in their usual spots from the opening whistle.
Among those expected to see action are Championship leading scorer Albert Dikwa, who will aim to leave no doubt in the league’s Golden Boot race, and midfielder Marc Ybarra, who can claim the distinction of being the only player to appear in all 34 league matches for the Hounds this season.
The one lineup change already known — out of necessity — will be the return of Christian Garner in the Hounds’ goal and Jonathan Gomes on the bench.
Jahmali Waite started Thursday night in a 4-1 win for Jamaica at Grenada in the Concacaf Nations League, and he will be away until after the Reggae Boyz match Sunday night against Haiti.
Grenada 1-4 Jamaica! We Press On! 🇯🇲🇯🇲🇯🇲 pic.twitter.com/MkMwTMIz9o
— Official J.F.F (@jff_football) October 13, 2023
Detroit will pull out all the stops to try and get a result and keep their season alive, and they have been an impressive defensive club all season with just 39 goals allowed in 33 matches and goalkeeper Nathan Steinwascher still among the league’s best.
It is the attacking end of the field that has been the struggle for Detroit in their second season in the Championship, as they rank last in the league with just 30 goals. Ben Morris leads the side with seven, and Maxi Rodriguez has two goals in three matches for Detroit against the Hounds, so Le Rouge still poses a threat despite their shortcomings this season.
One Riverhounds’ player who will likely see action, is Tola Showunmi, who has scored four goals and had three assists, including one big assist on the second goal in the club’s Players Shield clinching win at Tampa Bay.
Earlier this week’s PSN’s newest contributor, Matthew Baldwin caught up with Showunmi, who’s looking finish his first campaign as a professional on a strong note, and has been doing so by making an impact in last week’s match.
“Unreal, I would say just kind of shows the process, coming to a top team, fighting for your place, fighting every day and to be able to be in a moment like that, you almost have to be thankful that you get opportunities like that to win the league away,” Showunmi said.
The elements could play a factor in the match, as heavy rain is forecast for Michigan overnight and through the afternoon, and temperatures aren’t expected to rise beyond the low 50s.
PSN On-Site Coverage: Matt Gajtka ( Twitter/X: @MattGajtka )
Riverhounds (19-5-9) vs. Detroit City FC (11-15-7)
Date: Saturday, Oct. 14
Time: 4 p.m.
Location: Keyworth Stadium, Hamtramck, Mich.
Odds: Hounds +115 / Draw +220 / Detroit +210 (FanDuel)
Radio: SiriusXM FC, Channel 157
Live statistics: USL Championship Match Center
Live updates: @RiverhoundsSC on Twitter
Match hashtags: #DETvPIT and #HOUNDTAHN