BREAKING DOWN THE HOUNDS – WEEK 8 PREVIEW

Riverhounds Rob Vincent (pictured here) is currently among the USL leaders in goals, with six in seven games. (Photo courtesy of Paul Wintruba)
Riverhounds Rob Vincent (pictured here) is currently among the USL leaders in goals, with six in seven games. (Photo courtesy of Paul Wintruba)

Pittsburgh Riverhounds (2-3-2, 8 points) vs Richmond Kickers (4-1-3, 15 points)

Saturday, May 16, 2015

7 p.m. Kickoff – Highmark Stadium

About the Richmond Kickers

Head Coach: Leigh Cowlishaw (16th season – 238-112-96)
Home Field: Richmond’s City Stadium

Another one of USL’s mainstay franchises who have been a common Riverhounds league foe and opponent for the good part of their existence. Founded in 1993, Richmond franchise is one of the longest tenured pro soccer clubs in the United States. They have enjoyed success throughout the years in both second and third tier divisions of United States soccer, winning two USL Championships (2006, 2009).

Last Week:
Both teams are looking to bounce back after setbacks last weekend. The Riverhounds are returning home after consecutive road losses. Last week, the Charleston Battery took advantage of defensive lapses in a 3-1 victory over Pittsburgh. The Kickers lost their first game of the season last Friday, as the expansion Charlotte Independence stunned them 3-0. Richmond’s Alex Lee was sent off with a red card in the first half, and will have to sit out the match against the Hounds.

Series History and Recent Matches:

Overall the Kickers own the series with a 17-7-8 advantage since the teams began playing in 1999.

Last year, the rivals played twice in three weeks, in Richmond in April, with 3-1 Kickers win and a 2-2 tie in two entertaining matches. In fact, current Kickers player and Virginia native, Brian Ownby played for the Riverhounds (on loan from Houston), and created a lot of havoc for his current team in the April matches.

In the midst of their 21 game unbeaten string, the Kickers dominated the Riverhounds on June 22 at Highmark Stadium, 3-1.  It was a lackluster effort that left Hounds interim coach (and current assistant) Niko Katic to provide us with this postgame gem:

“No heart. No passion. No desire to win the ball. No desire to win the tackles. No desire to play for the organization. No respect for the game. No respect for themselves, let alone for the game of soccer. There are people that would do everything to play this game, be in our shoes to play the game. I’m disgusted by the effort.”

What to Expect

The Riverhounds are reporting that they are expecting to see their largest crowd of the season tonight with only a few tickets remaining.  That’s a very good sign for a franchise that’s seen some small crowds in their early season home schedule.

The Hounds had better be in top form — or much of the crowd will go home disappointed — as the Kickers,are off to another strong start again this season and are the type of team that usually doesn’t lose two games in succession.

Richmond has a lot of veteran players like Matthew Delicate, Samuel Asante, Eli Garner, William Yomby and George Davis IV who have been thorns in Pittsburgh’s side in recent years.

This is a team that will no doubt be in contention for the top spot in USL’s Eastern Conference all season long.

“Kickers head coach Leigh Cowlishaw always puts a strong team on the field with veteran players that know how to play,” said Riverhounds head coach Mark Steffens.

“We’ll have to be at the top of our game against them.”

If you like goals, the Hounds have supplied plenty this season. They are among the top of USL in goals scored (16) but have also conceded among the most goals (13).

It’s the back line that’s the Riverhounds really need to shore up. Injuries continue to plague their defense. Fejiro Okiomah, who came out of last week’s contest at Charleston, will miss today’s game. Anthony Arena, the other regular starting center back, is probable. A good team like Richmond will capitalize on a mistake-prone back line, and that’s something that we’ll be watching closely to see if the Hounds can minimize shots and stay mistake free.

Steffens will be able to call upon newly registered 25-year-old Serbian midfielder Boris Zivanovic after the former Budapest Honved player received his international transfer clearance.  The Hounds are getting a lot of production this season from their outside midfield/wing players — and Zivanovic will provide depth and versitility to their attack — as Rob Vincent, team leader in goals, could potentially move to forward late in games if they are searching for a goal.

Richmond features Ownby, like Arena, who played with the Hounds on loan from Houston Dynamo last season, but has since signed with a USL club. For Ownby, it’s a chance to play in his hometown.

Cameroonian defender Yomby has played every minute for Richmond to date in his seventh season with the club. Fellow Kickers veteran Matthew Delicate continues to be the team’s most potent offensive weapon with four goals. Delicate was shortlisted for the USL’s Most Valuable Player after leading his team with 14 goals last season.

You can follow Pittsburgh Soccer Report’s John Krysinsky for all of the action tonight on Twitter @johnkrysinsky and Facebook (Pittsburgh Soccer Report).

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