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Riverhounds Notebook: Top of Eastern Conference looking stacked amidst early season scoring bonanza

Photo courtesy Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC

For the first time this season the Riverhounds are in the midst of an extended homestand, as they will follow up their triumphant return home — a 2-0 dominant win vs Detroit City FC last Saturday before 6,099 fans — with their first match of the season vs another Eastern Conference rival, The Miami FC.

The Hounds are preparing for a tough match-up this week, with The Miami FC coming to Pittsburgh following a pretty impressive performance in beating typically tough Western Conference club, San Antonio FC, 2-1, on Saturday night.

Hounds vs The Miami FC — On CBS Golazo Network

United Soccer League announced this week bumper selection of 11 games selected to appear on CBS Sports Golazo Network in the month of May with Highmark Stadium on full display on Saturday night.

Launched last April, CBS Sports Golazo Network is available free on connected TVs and mobile devices through the CBS Sports app and Pluto TV, and on CBSSports.com, as well as on Paramount+, bringing fans action from across the world including UEFA club competitions and top leagues in Europe, South America and Asia.

The match-up vs The Miami FC should be a fascinating one — as former Serie A and Orlando City SC standout player, Antonio Nocerino, has taken over that club in his managerial debut.  It’s a team that has a lot of turnover from recent years, when they were a veteran-laden squad, to a more youthful group this season.  Apparently all of the 30-somethings playing soccer in Miami are playing for that other club in the Magic City.

Look for a more detailed preview and scouting report of The Miami FC to drop later Friday/early Saturday.

Expect Heavy Squad Rotation

Roster management becomes a concern for the first time starting this week, as the Hounds are entering a stretch of three matches in eight days that includes their U.S. Open Cup debut for 2024 against FC Tulsa on Tuesday. The good news for Pittsburgh, they continue to have a very bare injury report with no players popping up on the report again this week.

Below we have a look at the team’s playing time the past three matches.   Danny Griffin (630) and Illal Osumanu (629) lead the squad in minutes played, while Eric Dick, Junior Etou and Robbie Mertz are the only other players to start every match this season.

April 13: @Rhode Island FC (D, 0-0)

Eric Dick
Junior Etou (Sean Suber 90’)
Luke Biasi
Pat Hogan
Illal Osumanu
Langston Blackstock (Dani Rovira 75’)
Kenardo Forbes (Bradley Sample 75’)
Danny Griffin
Robbie Mertz (Babacar Diene 75’)
Edward Kizza
Kazaiah Sterling (Emmanuel Johnson 46’)

April 20: @Phoenix Rising FC (W, 3-1)
Eric Dick
Junior Etou
Luke Biasi
Pat Hogan
Illal Osumanu
Sean Suber (Langston Blackstock 74’)
Bradley Sample (Aidan O’Toole 89’)
Danny Griffin
Robbie Mertz (Kenardo Forbes 74’)
Edward Kizza (Dani Rovira 89’)
Kazaiah Sterling (Babacar Diene 74’)

April 27: Detroit City FC (W, 2-0)
Eric Dick
Luke Biasi
Pat Hogan
Illal Osumanu
Langston Blackstock (Dani Rovira 67’)
Bradley Sample
Danny Griffin
Junior Etou (Sean Suber 66’)
Robbie Mertz (Nate Dragisich 90’)
Kenardo Forbes (Mike DeShields 82’)
Kazaiah Sterling (Babacar Diene 82’)

How Stacked is the Eastern Conference?

We’ll have more on the match-up vs Miami to come, but in light of some of the results we’ve seen across the Championship over the past couple of weeks, including Pittsburgh’s big win out West against Phoenix, then last weekend’s dominant wins for Charleston (6-0 over Las Vegas) and Tampa Bay (3-0 over New Mexico), while Miami also turned some heads by beating perennial Cup title and Players Shield contenders, San Antonio, begs the question — is how stacked is the Eastern Conference this season?

The Riverhounds, who started off with three straight losses to start the campaign, have been fighting their way back up the table methodically over the last four matches, going unbeaten, with two draws and now two wins in the row.  But looking at the top of the standings, some of the Eastern Conference teams ahead of them are showing some serious goal scoring firepower, with Louisville City FC and Charleston Battery both winning in a very big way on Saturday — are showing little signs of slowing down.

Louisville’s ridiculous current run of goalscoring continued with a 6-0 romp of Hartford.  LouCity, who defeated the Hounds, 3-1, in late March, have racked up the most goals by a team through seven games of a Championship regular season. The club’s 23 goals in seven games surpassed the 21 goals recorded in the opening seven games of the season by Orlando City SC in 2013 and Phoenix Rising FC in 2020.

Charleston also impressed with a 6-0 win of its own — crushing Las Vegas — with Nick Markanich scoring four goals in that match!

Louisville (18 points) and Charleston (21 points) sit atop the standings, but right behind them are Detroit City FC (15 points) and Tampa Bay (13 points).

How impressive have the top four been?  Here are some things that point in that direction…

  • If you look closer, the Eastern Conference top four have just two losses in 29 matches played.
  • One of those two losses came when Charleston beat Louisville, 3-2, on April 9
  • The other loss came last week, when the Hounds made a statement, beating third-place and previously unbeaten Detroit, in dominant fashion
  • The top four clubs have a combined goal differential of +46!!!!
  • Against Western Conference teams, the top four are:  Charleston (3-0-1 with +13 Goal Differential), Louisville (1-0-0, +1 GD), Detroit (2-0-0, +3 GD), Tampa Bay (1-0-2, +3 GD)
  • If you look at average total goals per match stats (per FootyStats.org, the top seven teams come from Eastern Conference!!!

It’s still early in the season.  The Western Conference has some good clubs — especially Sacramento (with former Hounds’ Russell Cicerone, Danny Vitiello and Shane Wiedt), who are also off to an unbeaten start (5-0-3), and Orange County (4-1-3) — who came to Highmark Stadium and defeated the Hounds.

But, it’s very clear that the Hounds, who are playing much better in the last four matches and seem to be back in solid form, will have their work cut out to finish in the top four this season in the Eastern Conference.

Former Hounds in USL News

Memphis 901 FC announced on Thursday forward Neco Brett underwent successful surgery to repair a right shoulder injury. Brett, who played collegiately at Robert Morris and had two breakout seasons in Pittsburgh, in 2018-19, will likely miss the remainder of the 2024 season with an approximate six-month recovery time.

The Jamaican forward currently ranks second on the USL Championship’s all-time regular season scoring list with 81 goals in the league prior to joining 901 FC ahead of the 2024 season.

Another recent former Hounds pick-up — Luis Zamudio — who filled in admirably last season when primary keeper Jahmali Waite was on international duty — has been loaned to another USL Championship club, the struggling Colorado Springs Switchbacks.

Hard to Believe — It’s Been 25 Years Since first Riverhounds match

Twenty-five years ago this week, on May 1, 1999, the Hounds made their debut at Bethel Park Stadium, playing Cincinnati in an A-League match that went to a MLS-style (at the time) shootout.  The match was played in front of a standing-room-only crowd of 5,639, who were witness to the beginning of a professional soccer club that has endured and thrived longer than any other in the city’s history.

To celebrate this, we posted an excerpt from my book, ‘Miracle on the Mon’ this week, which chronicles the development of the club under owner Paul Heasley, along with quotes from some of the coaches and key players, including Justin Evans, Gene Klein, David Flavius and more.

On This Date: First Match in Riverhounds History (excerpt from ‘Unleash The Hounds’ in Miracle on the Mon)

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

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Riverhounds MF Kenardo Forbes

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