Pittsburgh Riverhounds (2-3-3, eight points) vs Richmond Kickers (4-1-4, 16 points)
City Stadium, Richmond, VA
Week In Recap – First Leg vs Richmond and US Open Cup Games
Last week, the two long-time USL regional foes played to a 1-1 tie in last week’s meeting at Highmark Stadium.
It was an up and down night for Anthony Arena as his costly slip in the first half, led to a Brian Ownby goal that gave the Kickers the 1-0 edge in the first half. Arena was also responsible for the Riverhounds equalizer, with a header in the 55th minute. The Riverhounds played fairly well, especially in the second half.
Both teams had victories in U.S. Open Cup second round matches on Wednesday night. The Riverhounds dismantled the West Virginia Chaos, 3-0, for their first shut out of the season, while Richmond downed Virginia Beach City FC, 2-0. Both teams used combinations of some of their younger players, and their veterans. Ironically, despite both teams dominating play, they needed late goals in the 89th minute that sealed the tournament wins. Overall, the USL teams won 16 of 21 matches in the Open Cup’s second round. The Riverhounds will await a visit from the Tampa Bay Rowdies (NASL), while Richmond will be hosting the Jacksonville Armada (NASL).
What’s At Stake On Saturday
It will be all business. League business – that is – as both coaches know how important each game will be, even as they are in the stretch of Open Cup play during the week.
In fact, when I asked Riverhounds Head Coach, Mark Steffens on Wednesday night about their next Open Cup opponent (Tampa Bay), he said, as you would fully expect him to say, that he doesn’t know anything about them. He stated his focus is getting his team ready for Saturday’s important league encounter at City Stadium.
As the two teams head into the second quarter of the long USL season, the Hounds (2-3-3, eight points) sit one point beneath the Eastern Conference’s last playoff spot.
The Kickers (4-1-4, 16 points) sit third in the East and remain unbeaten at City Stadium through four home games this year.
“It’s always difficult to play an opponent two games in a row,” said Riverhounds assistant coach Josh Rife, in the team’s release on Friday.
“We played really well on Saturday and our guys should have a lot of confidence going into this weekend.”
Hulings could see further action this weekend if regular starter Ryan Thompson does not fully shake off his recent back problem. Calle Brown made his pro debut in last weekend’s tie. The former University of Virginia stopper tweaked a knee in training this week and will not travel to Richmond.
Defender Fejiro Okiomah and midfielder Seth C’deBaca remain sidelined with hamstring and knee injuries. Brazilian striker Vini Dantas will also miss out after suffering a groin strain.
What to Expect
Kickers forward Matthew Delicate, who has four USL goals and has been a thorn in Pittsburgh’s side in the past, sat out last Saturday, but saw action on Wednesday night. It appears that he will be back in the line-up. In addition, they will also have starting defender Alex Lee back, after he served a one-game suspension for a red card in his previous game.
Another Kickers player to watch, who didn’t play last week, is Yudai Imura, a Japanese import, has returned from a month-long injury absence. He played 63 minutes in Wednesday’s Open Cup match against Virginia Beach City
Expect Richmond to come out looking for the go-ahead goal early – and pressure which ever Hounds goalkeeper is in net. If Hulings gets the start, look for dangerous attackers like Ownby, Delicate, George Young IV and Jason Yeisley to try to put all kinds of pressure on the back line, as the Riverhounds could potentially for the second week in a row, see a goalkeeper making his USL debut.
Last week, the Riverhounds kept a defensive shape early, and then as the game wore on, began to open things up. It will be interesting to see Steffens’ and the Hounds’ approach this road match against a team that appears to be getting their full complement of players back in the lineup. With the injuries, it was a good thing that Hulings was able to get the in-game experience in the start on Wednesday. It should help him with working with his back line and being prepared.
With Dantas out, Steffens options at forward can come from a multitude of places in his system that favors a central forward with an attacking midfielder — along with the two outside wingers/attackers that have mostly been Kevin Kerr and Rob Vincent. With the addition of Boris Zivanoic, it might allow Steffens to move either Kerr or Vincent to the forward spot. Or he could also go with Miro Cabrilo, maybe Mike Green, or Kene Eze who has not started or played much in USL action so far.
Pittsburgh holds a 7-17-9 all-time record against the Kickers dating back to the Hounds’ inaugural 1999 season. Richmond took four points from two league meetings at City Stadium last year. For a look at the last time these two teams met in Richmond, on April 19, 2014, when the Hounds lost a 2-0 second half lead, here are the highlights.
The game can be seen in Highmark Stadium sports bar where the Steel Army will be hosting its regular Watch Party and on the Richmond Kickers YouTube feed.