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Preview: Reeling Riverhounds desperately seeking a result in road rematch with North Carolina FC

The reeling Riverhounds will play its third match in eight days, and for the second time in four days, when they travel to take on North Carolina FC, at WakeMed Park in Cary, NC on Saturday night (7:30 p.m. kickoff).

The club is currently mired in a seven match winless streak, having lost the last two matches in the past week, at Hartford last Saturday, 2-0, then at home, to Louisville City FC, 1-0, on Wednesday.

A team with strong veteran leadership with plenty of success together in recent seasons, they’re not going to press the full-blown panic button just yet.

Still, as team captain Danny Griffin pointed out after Wednesday’s loss, what they’ve done to this point this season has been below standards.

“When we look at those games, we know it’s not good enough,” Hounds captain Danny Griffin said.

“It’s definitely not to our level or our standard that we know we can play at. I think some of the games we’ve been in have been a lot closer than the final score, but you can say you played a good game, but what do you have to show for it if you don’t have the points?”

This team has gone where no Bob Lilley coached Riverhounds’ squad has gone before — remaining at the bottom of the Eastern Conference table as they near the halfway point of the season, sporting a 3w-7L-5D record and remaining stuck on league low goal scoring output of 11 goals.

However, with a result on Saturday, against a North Carolina FC squad that sits three points ahead of them in the standings and right on the playoff line, the Hounds can pull themselves back up and in a positive direction.

The only way they can turn things around is if they start to find the back of the net — and with the addition of Enoch Mushagalusa to the roster, on loan from Hartford — the Hounds have added another player who could provide a spark at the top of the attack.  Lilley didn’t waste any time inserting Mushagalusa into the lineup, but the Hounds still couldn’t find an answer against Louisville on Wednesday.

These two teams played last month to a 1-1 draw at Highmark Stadium, with with Evan Conway‘s second-half header cancelling out the opening goal by Edward Kizza.

Neither team has a player with more than three goals on the season. Kizza, Kazaiah Sterling and Danny Griffin share the Hounds lead, while Conway and Oalex Anderson top the chart for North Carolina. But while the Hounds are trying to snap a winless streak, North Carolina has been in better form with a 3-1-2 record over their last six, one of those being the draw in Pittsburgh.

The scoring reflected a shift in play, as the Hounds were dominant in the first half before North Carolina gained momentum after halftime, and after the match, Lilley expressed his frustration the Hounds hadn’t put the visitors down multiple goals given their control over play.

North Carolina FC: Another Closer Look

Neither team has a player with more than three goals on the season, as Conway and Oalex Anderson top the chart for North Carolina.

But while the Hounds are trying to snap a winless streak, North Carolina has been in better form with a 3-1-2 record over their last six, one of those being the draw in Pittsburgh.

For a closer look at North Carolina’s squad which includes a number of veterans, as they returned to the USL Championship this season, after being in USL League One for the previous four campaigns, check out our extensive scouting report ahead of the first match between the squads.

Preview and Scouting Report: Riverhounds face veteran-laden North Carolina FC for first time since 2019

Hounds Lineup Projections / What To Expect

Expect multiple changes to the Hounds’ lineup with the team having played Wednesday night and facing a predicted kickoff-time temperature of 89 in Cary.

The Hounds will look to pressure the back line and try to rattle Bryce Washington, Paco Craig and former Clemson Tiger Justin Malou — or whoever else NCFC’s John Bradford puts back there.  The Hounds will look to neutralize and limit the wingers Rafa Mentzingen and Ezra Armstrong from operating in space and look to deny and keep their touches out on the fringe.  In the first match — it was a tale of two halves — as Pittsburgh owned the wide spaces in the first 45 minutes then NCFC had their way up the channels in the second half to turn the match in their favor.

As they typically do, the Hounds will look to come up with the best possible tactical match-ups and formation to not only punish NCFC, but also dictate terms of the match in terms of quality possession and creating more consistent chances.

The Hounds got some positive team news Thursday, as center back Pat Hogan was able to train and demonstrated no concussion symptoms after having to leave the match against Louisville with a gash on his head. Hogan being available is important for a back line that will be missing Luke Biasi, who is suspended after being sent off Wednesday.

With three matches in eight days, and heavy squad rotation expected, here’s a look at the starters from the past two matches.  Even Fox Chapel rising senior Pablo Linzoain, on USL Academy contract, made his second appearance with the club, coming on in second half stoppage time against Louisville.

June 15: @Hartford Athletic (L, 0-2)

  • GK Jacob Randolph
  • Illal Osumanu (Dani Rovira 82’)
  • Pat Hogan
  • Sean Suber
  • Junior Etou (Pierre Cayet 70’)
  • Jackson Walti (Bradley Sample 46’)
  • Danny Griffin
  • Robbie Mertz (Kenardo Forbes 46’)
  • Langston Blackstock
  • Edward Kizza (Emmanuel Johnson 46’)
  • Kazaiah Sterling

June 19: Louisville City FC (L, 0-1)

  • Jacob Randolph
  • Luke Biasi (sent off 76’)
  • Pat Hogan (Pierre Cayet 38’ [c] )
  • Sean Suber
  • Junior Etou (Langston Blackstock 90+1’)
  • Danny Griffin
  • Bradley Sample
  • Kenardo Forbes (Robbie Mertz 66’)
  • Dani Rovira (Pablo Linzoain 90+1’)
  • Enoch Mushagalusa (Kazaiah Sterling 67’)
  • Emmanuel Johnson (Edward Kizza 66’)
    [c] – denotes extra substitute for head injury

John K’s Projected Hounds Lineup at North Carolina 

Riverhounds (3-7-5) vs. North Carolina FC (4-5-5)
Date: Saturday, June 22
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Location: WakeMed Soccer Park, Cary, N.C.
Odds: Hounds +200 / Draw +240 / North Carolina +110 (FanDuel)
Streaming: ESPN+
Live statistics: USL Championship Match Center
Live updates: @RiverhoundsSC on Twitter/X
Match hashtags: #NCvPIT 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

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Riverhounds MF Kenardo Forbes

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