BREAKING DOWN THE HOUNDS – D.C. United vs Pittsburgh Riverhounds

HOUNDS UNITED CLASH

Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup – 4th Round – Pittsburgh Riverhounds vs D.C. United

Highmark Stadium, 7 p.m. kickoff – streamed live on Riverhounds.com

Open Cup – How They Got Here

Pittsburgh Riverhounds

defeated West Virginia Chaos(PDL), 3-0, in 2nd Round, at Highmark Stadium on May 20

defeated Tampa Bay Rowdies(NASL) 1-0 in 3rd Round, at Highmark Stadium on May 27

D.C. United

Enter the tournament in the 4th Round — lost to Rochester in 2014 and were 2013 Open Cup Champions.

D.C. United At A Glance

Ben Olsen led the D.C. United to U.S. Open Cup victory in 2013.
Ben Olsen led the D.C. United to U.S. Open Cup victory in 2013.

Founded:  1995 (Original Major League Soccer Franchise)

Head Coach: Ben Olsen (2010-present)

General Manager:  Dave Kasper (2001-present — former Riverhounds VP & GM)

Honors:    Four-time MLS Cup Champions; Four-time Supporters Shield; Three-time Open Cup Champions; CONCACAF Champions League Winners (1998).

Home Stadium:     RFK Stadium

DC United Open Cup records
Overall: 30-11-4 (2-2 PKs) | Away: 8-7-2 (2-0 PKs) | vs. Div. 3: 8-2-1 (1-0 PKs)
Last entry: 2014 (Lost 1-0 at Rochester Rhinos of USL PRO in Round 4)
Best finish: 1996, 2008, 2013 US Open Cup champions

The United have struggled of late with injuries and player losses but remain in first place on the MLS Eastern Conference at the halfway point of the season. After blazing 6-1-3 start to their season including four shutouts, they’ve gone 2-4-1 since, losing on 1-0 on Sunday against the now MLS version of Orlando City — led by the legendary Brazilian midfielder Kaka, who scored the game winner.

The United, three-time Open Cup Champs, have been without numerous regular starters, as defender Sean Franklin, attacker Chris Pontius and midfielder Michael Farfan sat out the Orlando City game. Midfielder Markus Halsti was also away playing in Euro 2016 qualifier for his home country Finland.

Pittsburgh Riverhounds Open Cup records
Overall: 9-10-3 (1-2 PKs) | Home: 7-2-1 (1-0 PKs) | vs. MLS: 1-3-0
Last entry: 2014 (Lost 2-1 at Chicago Fire of MLS in Round 4)
Best finish: 2001 Quarterfinals (Lost 3-2 in OT at Chicago Fire of MLS)

Against MLS in Open Cup play over the years, the Hounds are 1-3. But that one win was the only other time they’ve hosted a MLS team – beating the Colorado Rapids 2-0 in 2001 at Bethel Park Stadium. They had previously lost to D.C. United, 2-1, at Maryland Soccer Park in 2003. Most recently, last June, they lost 2-1 in a storm-shortened match at Chicago that had multiple weather delays.

STORYLINES

On Wednesday evening, the Pittsburgh Riverhounds will have that opportunity to play spoiler, and defeat a MLS team, as D.C. United come to Highmark Stadium for a fourth round Open Cup match before what is expected to be a capacity crowd.

This season, the Hounds are 3-1-3 at home this season, and in three years of Open Cup play, they are riding a five game unbeaten streak at Highmark Stadium.

imageMidfielder Rob Vincent comes into the game as the USL’s top goal scorer (9 in USL) with two additional goals in the earlier rounds of the Open Cup – and will likely be getting the most attention of the United’s deep and strong back line.

The game carries particular meaning for D.C. United’s general manager Dave Kasper. The Bridgeville, Pennsylvania native served as the Riverhounds’ inaugural vice president and general manager when the team was founded in 1998 before leaving for MLS in 2001.

“To go back not only to see the new stadium, because I haven’t seen it yet, but to play a match there against the club that I had a part in building is unbelievable,” Kasper told Riverhounds.com earlier this week.

As the Open Cup Fourth Round play began last night, all MLS teams won their matches again USL teams, although three of the matches (Rochester-Philadephia; Chicago-Louisville City; San Jose-Sacramento) did go to extra time and two were decided on penalty kicks.

RIVERHOUNDS INJURY REPORT

Lebo Moloto left the field late on after straining his left hamstring. The 25-year-old South African will miss tonight’s game and is doubtful for Saturday’s USL clash with F.C. Montreal.

Matt Dallman remains sidelined with a hip flexor injury and rookie forward Amara Soumah misses out after twisting his right ankle in training last week.

WHAT TO EXPECT 

Can the Riverhounds, of third division United Soccer League (USL), advance against the top team in the MLS’ Eastern Conference and the 2013 Open Cup victors?

But maybe, just maybe, the Riverhounds are catching the United at a good time – and in a week where they may want to rest some of their key players.

It will be interesting to see what type of line-up D.C. United Head Coach Ben Olsen will feature with a quick turnaround from a 1-0 loss on Sunday.  He has been able to successfully juggle 14 different line-ups in 17 games this season – a good sign of the depth of the United.  In fact, six different defenders have started at least eight games.

An upset is possible  – but the Riverhounds approach may be a little different than you might think.

Here’s my detailed take published on Pittsburgh Sports Report and www.pittsburghsoccerreport.com on Tuesday — as the Riverhounds should look to play to their strengths and “go for it” against the United.

The Riverhounds chances for winning might have been even greater with their primary starter, Ryan Thompson in goal, but he is in Chile with his national team, Jamaica playing at the Copa America tournament.  Riverhounds coach, Mark Steffens will have to choose between Ryan Hulings or Calle Brown, who’s been injured for much of the season since his only start against Richmond in early May. Hulings posted the two clean sheets in the Riverhounds second and third round wins in the Open Cup in May.

 You can follow John Krysinsky for Riverhounds and soccer updates on Twitter,@johnkrysinsky, and regular analysis and updates onwww.pittsburghsoccerreport.com

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