Pittsburgh Riverhounds (4-14-4, 16 points) vs Rochester Rhinos (9–5–9, 36 Pts)
6 p.m. Kickoff – Shalen Stadium, Rochester, NY
Key Storylines / What’s At Stake
The Riverhounds will want to keep improving as they’ve shown some signs of promise against struggling foes Wilmington and Bethlehem Steel FC — and even against a Louisville City FC team that’s battling for the top spot in USL.
What they won’t want to see is another disastrous road trip north like last Wednesday’s 4-1 loss at Montreal.
Now they face defending champions Rochester — who are not quite at the level they were a year ago, but still continue to plug away and appear in good position in seventh place in the USL’s Eastern Conference to qualify for the playoffs.
The Rhinos have two one-goal wins over the Hounds already this year –and will be looking to sweep the series.
In the Hounds season opener, they fell 1-0 at Highmark Stadium in April, as Christian Volesky took advantage of a Sergio Campbell misplayed ball, to score the game’s lone goal. In June, the Rhinos handed the Hounds a 2-1 defeat in Rochester, even after the Hounds broke through for a game-tying goal by Corey Hertzog in the final seconds of the first half.
Corey Hertzog has been the go-to finisher for the Hounds this year. He tallied his fourth goal in as many matches this past weekend, and was inexplicably left off the USL Team of the Week yet again.
He’s now one goal away from matching his season-best scoring streak of five matches. The former Penn State standout has nine goals, to go along with four assists, has vaulted him into the league scoring race, with 22 points on the season tying him for sixth in the USL.
The Riverhounds have one win all time in Rochester in 24 tries. That came in 2014 — when they won their first game of the season in early June by stunning the Rhinos on two Danny Earls set pieces and a late Jose Angulo penalty kick goal that secured a 3-2 win.
Tactics and Strategies
As a typical Bob Lilly coached team, Rochester remains a solid defensive outfit, and will again but a tough nut for the Riverhounds to crack.
Rochester continues to find ways to stay in the race, despite struggling to score goals. In their past ten games, they’ve managed six draws (3-1-6 since July 2), including a 1-1 tie against first place Louisville last week.
The Rhinos have only surrendered two goals in a game this twice this season. One game!
Goals will be hard to come by — and the Hounds must exercise patience in their attack.
Rochester won the USL Championship last season by giving up only 15 goals.
Forward Christian Volesky remains their primary scorer, with eight goals and three assists.
The Rhinos put forth a solid and deep backline that includes known Hounds nemesis Vasilis Apostolopoulos along with Bradley Kamdem Fewo, Joseph Farrell, Dominic Samuel and Sean Totsh that will fortify things from the back –and make life difficult for Hertzog, and the Hounds attacking players.
Attention to detail and playing with a strong focus for 90 minutes will be important for the Hounds. Any mistakes — and Rochester will capitalize much like they did in the opener when Volesky beat Gilstrap with the chip after Campbell misplayed the ball.
There’s been a significant influx of Columbus Crew players on loan — and all players continue to train with the Hounds. After a few weeks, Head Coach Dave Brandt has to be hoping that team’s chemistry is getting better and they can sustain any kind of possession against what will be a strong Rochester midfield and back four.
Playing balls over the top and through the middle often don’t work against the Rhinos. The Hounds will have to use the width of the field as much as possible.
Captain Kevin Kerr and Hertzog have been at the center of the Hounds success in the attack — as both have been instrumental in the recent positive run that has included two wins in the past four games. The Hounds have to make every effort to keep the ball on the ground, play creatively and make the most of what scoring chances they can get against a stingy opponent.