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Pittsburgh Riverhounds

Preview: Winless Hounds look to ‘go after it’ as they face revamped rival Louisville City FC in search of goals

Here’s something you may not have imagined a few weeks ago: the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC are facing the prospect of starting the season 0-3.

After two weeks, the Hounds have yet to score a goal, despite two very different performances to start the season.

Last week, at home they threw everything at Orange County SC, but failed to convert despite dominating possession, corners and crosses.

Now, the Hounds head to a place where they’ve found success in recent years – playing on the road against one of the club’s perennial Conference rivals, Louisville City FC.

“Nothing’s going to come easy for us with our early schedule this season,” Riverhounds’ Head Coach Bob Lilley said after last week’s loss.

“But it’s going to push us into better form, as long as we go after it.”

Making things even more interesting, two members of Hounds’ Players Shield winning squad, are now with the Purple and Gold: the reigning USL Championship Defender of the Year, Arturo Ordonez and Tola Showunmi.

USL Championship’s Defender of the Year, former Pitt standout, Arturo Ordonez, will not be returning to Riverhounds

Despite Louisville City FC’s massive success in their first nine seasons in the USL Championship, under Bob Lilley’s guidance, the Hounds have had a lot of success in the past six years in matches in the Derby City.

Since 2018, the Hounds have done more than any other USL team is find ways to win at Louisville. The Hounds are 4-2-1 overall at Louisville since 2018, including 4-1 in five regular-season matches.

Last season, after a lackluster effort in the first match between the rivals at Highmark Stadium, 12 days later, led by Albert Dikwa’s 10th goal of what would become an award winning season, Pittsburgh outlasted Louisville at Lynn Family Stadium, 1-0. 

Plan and simple, Pittsburgh need to find the back of the net to get back in gear.

Despite a second straight loss last Saturday, Lilley took a pragmatic approach to his squad’s development.

To get another road win this year, the Hounds will have to find their finishing touch after being shut out in their first two matches in 2024. But while the opener at New Mexico was a lackluster outing, last week against Orange County saw the Hounds do everything right but find the net.

“It was nice to see us pass the ball a lot better than week one. We played with confidence, the players wanted the ball, nobody was hiding. We just have to build on it,” Lilley said.

“I thought we were miles ahead better than last week, we possessed the ball better than we did last year. I think we’ll continue to get better. The good thing is we got chances, I’m confident that creating those kinds of chances will get goals.”

Look at Louisville

Louisville and Pittsburgh have been the two most consistent teams in the USL Championship’s Eastern Conference in recent years, and they know each other all too well.

Louisville has reached the playoffs nine straight years and the Hounds having qualified for the postseason six straight times. The past five seasons, each team has finished atop the Eastern Conference standings twice — Pittsburgh in 2019 and 2023, and Louisville in 2020 and 2022.

The Purple and Gold are coming off a season opening 1-0 win at El Paso last Saturday.

Minutes after Louisville City FC’s season-opening victory last weekend, coach Danny Cruz credited the effort, in part, to some groundwork.

“We started preseason by teaching the group about our history here at the club,” Cruz said. “…I felt it was important that everybody understands what it means to play for this team and what it means to play for Louisville.”

On the Louisville side, the home team is just one match into their season, a 1-0 win at El Paso Locomotive. Two former Hounds made their debut for Louisville in that match, as Arturo Ordóñez took his usual spot at center back, and Tola Showunmi was used in a similar fashion to his time in Pittsburgh; the Englishman was deployed as a late substitute up front for goal scorer Wilson Harris, who is back as the top scoring threat for Louisville.

It is Harris, who has become the youngest player in USL Championship history to reach 50 goals, who will be a player that Hounds will have to watch.

Last week, against El Paso, he scored the match’s lone goal.

At 24 years, three months and 17 days old, Harris became the youngest player in USL Championship history to hit 50 league goals last Saturday when he headed in Sean Totsch’s 57th-minute cross at El Paso. Half of those goals were scored in purple since he arrived to the club in 2022 following a pro start with the Sporting Kansas City organization.

Ordonez and Showunmi were among nine newcomers who made their debut with the club in last week’s win — as there are a lot of newer faces that the Hounds’ will have to contend with for Danny Cruz’s squad, as six of them earning spots in the starting lineup. That included the pro debuts of starting winger Jansen Wilson from Elizabethtown, Kentucky, and midfielder Evan Davila, a recent University of California graduate.

Of course there are some familiar faces that the Hounds will face.

Anchoring the backline is perennial All-USL Championship defender Sean Totsch and like Pittsburgh has transitioned to having Danny Griffin wearing the captain’s armband, Louisville’s newest captain is defender Kyle Adams.

And one of Louisville’s stellar homegrown products, Elijah Wynder, anchors the midfield at just 21 years of age, but having more than three seasons of experience with the squad.

Against an El Paso side last week that was playing from behind and on the front foot for large portions of the match, Louisville’s back line didn’t break.  Goalkeeper Damian Las — on loan from Major League Soccer’s Austin FC — racked up six saves to preserve the clean sheet. Totsch numbered a game-high five clearances, and Adams had four.

Adding Ordóñez to that mix makes the Purple and Gold one of the most formidable back lines in the USL Championship.

Here’s how they lined up last week to start the match.

Projecting the Hounds Starting XI and Bench

It’s possible that Bob Lilley could tweak the lineup a bit this week.

Especially if some players back to full health or become available.  Kazaiah Sterling, who has not been part of the Hounds’ lineup selections, should be ready soon and center back Pat Hogan has been playing limited minutes.

Lilley stated that all three goals the Hounds have surrendered this season have been preventable.  Does that mean lineup changes are coming?

It’s possible.

Danny Griffin, a midfielder for most of his career, has been playing in the center part of the back line this season, and last week he was quite effective leading the way with eight clearances, four defensive actions — and tons of touches on the ball in helping the Hounds build out of the back.

It did help that Griffin, Luke Biasi and Kenardo Forbes had tons of time on the ball as Orange County SC opted to sit very deep most of the match as they jumped out to the early road lead in that match.

Expect a different match this week as long as the Hounds don’t allow an early goal.  Pittsburgh has trailed for 133-plus minutes this season — and have not held a lead at any point.

Getting on the front foot early may be something we’ll see the Hounds try to do at Louisville, where they’ve had success.

Against Louisville in recent years, Pittsburgh has been able to use its high press at times to disrupt the Purple and Gold’s ability to play out of the back, and finding goals in countering situations.   One interesting match-up to watch will be which team will be able to dictate terms through the middle of the field.

While the Hounds struggled to connect through the middle in the opener at New Mexico, last week showed marked improvement, and they have been successful against Louisville in matching possession.


For the second time in three matches — but the last time this season — the Hounds will play an afternoon kickoff with the 4 p.m. start time. This match will also be the first to be aired live on SportsNet Pittsburgh, one of eight that will be shown on the flagship station of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Pittsburgh Pirates. Fans also can watch it streamed live across North America on ESPN+.

The match will later re-air on SportsNet Pittsburgh at 5:30 p.m. Sunday, after the Penguins’ game against the Colorado Avalanche.


Match Info

Riverhounds vs. Louisville City FC
Date: Saturday, March 23
Time: 4 p.m.
Location: Lynn Family Stadium, Louisville, Ky.
Odds: Hounds +230 / Draw +230 / Louisville +105 (FanDuel)
TV: SportsNet Pittsburgh
Streaming: ESPN+
Live statistics: USL Championship Match Center
Live updates: @RiverhoundsSC on X (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).

Glory on the Grass

Riverhounds MF Kenardo Forbes

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