Sunday, July 17 – 7 p.m. kickoff
KEY STORYLINES / WHAT’s AT STAKE
Will this be the night one of these two teams can get get a leg up on the other, revive the Keystone Derby — and bring some positive energy to what has been a lousy season thus far for Pennsylvania’s long standing USL teams?
After a thrilling series of four games played in 2015, when the two in-state rivals battled each other for playoff positioning and for the newly created Keystone Derby Cup, this year’s matchup features two teams near the bottom of the league standings who are struggling.
In their first leg of the Keystone Derby on July 4, neither team could get the upper hand, as they battled to a 0-0 draw.
Since that result, both teams have failed to earn any points.
Each getting shut out by Richmond, and the Hounds also fell on the road to Bethlehem Steel FC, 2-0.
Both teams are going through considerable woes.
The Riverhounds’ scoreless streak has reached more than 310 minutes, as Corey Hetzog last scored for them in late June before halftime of 2-1 loss at Rochester.
Long-time coach Bill Becher’s City Islanders are win less in the last nine games, having been shutout in five of these games.
If we get two more uninspiring results in this derby this season, they might want to give the Cup to Pennsylvania’s newest team, Bethlehem Steel FC, who have a better record, and thus far have been better than both Pittsburgh and Harrisburg.
Nonetheless, despite the futility of this season, there is a trophy at stake, and two teams eager to turn things around.
And if you need a reminder of what this rivalry should be all about, all you have to do is watch this…
TACTICS & STRATEGIES
The last time they played, the Riverhounds came out strong in the first 20 minutes, getting numerous shots on Harrisburg keeper Nick Noble.
After that, they took the foot off the gas a bit, and the match became a bit more physical, as each side picked up three yellow cards apiece for hard tackles.
Harrisburg, who have given up the most goals in USL’s Eastern Conference, dug in and did a nice job of limiting Pittsburgh’s chances for much of the rest of the match.
Look for more of the same. The City Islanders will play through the feet of Jose Barrill in the central midfield, but likely will focus on playing a results-oriented approach to limit the Hounds attack and capitalize on counter opportunities.
The Riverhounds made some lineup changes prior to Thursday’s Richmond game, particularly on the left side, moving Marshall Hollingsworth to the top of the attack and moving Jack Thompson to outside back.
As Hounds coach Dave Brandt said, Thompson played pretty well in the first half, but Richmond’s speedy and dynamic wingers were giving Thompson fits.
While Hollingsworth’s work-rate is very high, he didn’t show any particular danger in the final third.
Ironically, in the Richmond game, the Hounds moved to a 4-2-3-1 formation with Danny Earls and newest addition Ryan Adeleye into holding midfield spots in front of the back line.
With Lebo Moloto roaming the middle and right side, the Hounds attacking midfielder helped sustain possession, got some shots (six in all with two on target) and appeared to play better than previous games. There were a number of giveaways in the final third, which continues to be problem for the Hounds, but Moloto’s play had to been encouraging for coach Brandt.
The Hounds have alternated goalkeepers in Brandt’s eight-game tenure since taking over for Mark Steffens.
Will this Derby match finally be the one where Brandt gives Mauricio Vargas consecutive starts. Vargas picked up his first career shutout in the first leg of the Derby. It should be time to give the job to Vargas.