BREAKING DOWN THE HOUNDS – GAME DAY PREVIEW: Keystone Derby Part Deux

The Turnpike Cup made its debut in the Riverhounds' sports pub at Highmark Stadium in March.
The Turnpike Cup made its debut in the Riverhounds’ sports pub at Highmark Stadium in March.

Pittsburgh Riverhounds (3-3-3, 12 points) vs Harrisburg City Islanders (4-2-1, 13 points)

7 p.m. kickoff

Highmark Stadium

Last Meeting:

In their last meeting, in the season opener for both teams on a frigid late March Saturday night, the Riverhounds topped the City Islanders 5-2, thanks to the scoring duo of Kevin Kerr (a hat trick that night) and Rob Vincent (2 goals and 2 assists).  At the opener, the teams revealed the Turnpike Cup, which will be awarded to the team that wins the series each year.

Harrisburg holds a 5-3 record over the Riverhounds in the past few seasons and had a 1-0-2 record against Pittsburgh last year.  The final two matches of the series will be hosted by Harrisburg later in the season, including the last game of the season.

A Closer Look at City Islanders:  

The Islanders dropped the following game after the Pittsburgh match but haven’t dropped a USL faceoff since.  Bill Becher’s side has won four and tied one of its past five games to overtake the Hounds in the standings despite having played two fewer games. The Islanders sit fifth with a 4-2-1 record (13 points) after losing their opening two games.

City has proven they can play well on both ends of the pitch. They have given up three goals in their last five games after surrendering seven in their first two. Nick Noble has been the man in net and has two shutouts so far this season.  Unlike the Riverhounds, who advanced in the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday, Harrisburg bowed out of the tournament in a game that went to extra time — and despite getting the first goal in the 104 minute, would concede three goals in the final 16 minutes as the Rochester Rhinos handed them a 3-1 defeat.

In their last five USL games the Islanders have also put up 11 goals coming from 10 different players. Ken Tribbett is the leading scorer with three goals on the season, with Jason Plumhoff and Jimmy McLaughlin close behind.

After Wednesday night’s Open Cup win, Riverhounds Coach Mark Steffens gave his thoughts on what to expect from Harrisburg in their second go-around as both teams return to USL action:

“This is going to be a different Harrisburg team (than the first game).  We’ll have to be ready, and sharp.  (Harrisburg coach Bill) Becher’s teams are usually physical and fast.  Hopefully they’ll be as tired as we are — but it should be a good game.”

Injury Report

Goalkeeper Ryan Thompson sat out Wednesday’s win over his former Rowdies colleagues with continuing back pains. Thompson is set to join the Jamaican national team in Chile next week ahead of his country’s participation in the Copa America continental tournament.

Defender Fejiro Okiomah and Brazilian forward Vini Dantas are rated as probable for tomorrow’s game as they recover from hamstring and groin injuries respectively. Midfielder Seth C’deBaca is also set to return from a recent knee injury.

What to Expect:

Throw the records out.  Forget about winning or losing streaks.  This is a regional rivalry game.  And if you think they know each other pretty well now, by the end of the season, they will really know each other as this is just the second of four games that these two will play in 2015.

Harrisburg — I am sure this time around — will be prepared to keep tabs on the British duo of Vincent and Kerr, who have combined for 10 goals and nine assists in USL competition.

The first game there were constant defensive breakdowns by the Harrisburg back line.  These issues were exploited by the Riverhounds — especially in the second half.   Expect the much improved City Islanders to be prepared for Pittsburgh’s attack now.  This is a unit that has pitched a few shutouts during their run of solid play. Even in losing the other night vs Rochester in Open Cup, they kept the Rhinos off the shoresheet until things faltered in extra time.

Steffens indicated that both teams will likely come into this one a bit heavy legged having played Wednesday, but has a lot of confidence despite the rigors of a quick turnaround.

“With a handful of guys only playing minutes, it’s going to be tough.  We have a great training team.  Very good athletic trainers here, and a strength and conditioning coach.  We’re doing everything in the books for recovery.”

Steffens also indicated that with the teams being so close in the standings, and with the Keystone Derby/Turpike Cup at stake, there won’t be a let down.

But coming off three consecutive wins in all competitions, that’s always the biggest concern for Steffens and the Riverhounds.

ALSO AT HIGHMARK STADIUM TODAY:

College Soccer Showcase / F.A. Cup Final Viewing Also at Highmark Stadium Saturday

The Keystone Derby Cup game headlines an exciting day at Highmark Stadium that begins with the Riverhounds’ annual College Showcase event at 8 a.m. Boys’ and girls’ teams from Pennsylvania, Illinois, Maryland and Virginia will compete under the gaze of NCAA Division I coaches from across the region.

England’s F.A. Cup Final between Arsenal and Aston Villa will be screened live in the stadium’s sports bar at 12:30 p.m. Fans will have the chance to win an autographed Riverhounds jersey, game tickets and other prizes while enjoying fish and chips and $4 beer specials on Carlsberg, Yuengling and Bud Light.

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