The wait is over, the United Soccer League has released its most ambitious schedule yet — as they’re boasting it as the Largest Regular Season Schedule in history.
The Pittsburgh Riverhounds and 29 other teams will be playing a 32-game schedule, providing Pittsburgh soccer fans with a full slate of 16 home games, not including preseason or U.S. Open Cup matches, that will likely be added at a later date.
The Hounds open the 2017 campaign at home against defending league champs NY Red Bulls II. They will also have a chance to play three of its first four games at the friendly confines of Highmark Stadium, where they will be playing its fifth season.
Key games of note:
The Hounds will renew acquaintances with City Islanders FC on Saturday, April 29 at Highmark Stadium.
The teams will meet three times. Harrisburg will host the final two matches, on on May 24, and then the final leg will be ending earlier than in past seasons in Harrisburg on Saturday, August 12, as both teams will still have another two months til the conclusion of the season.
Since the inception of the Keystone Derby Cup in 2015, the Riverhounds and rivals City Islanders FC have each captured the Cup. The City Islanders are current holders of the Cup after taking the season series in 2016, winning 2-1 at Highmark Stadium as the teams also played to two draws. The Riverhounds captured the Cup (and clinched a playoff spot) on the last game of the 2015 season at Harrisburg.
Fourth of July
The Hounds will meet Charlotte Independence — on Independence Day in what has become an annual tradition of a game being played at Highmark Stadium.
The last four years the Hounds have gone 2-1-1 on the 4th of July — beating NY Red Bulls and Rochester, and having only defeat to a Charlotte Eagles team that was coached by Mark Steffens in 2013 on the 4th.
The Hounds will play every team in USL’s Eastern Conference two times, and to complete the 32-game schedule, they will also face four other ‘regional rivals’ three times. In addition to the three games vs City Islanders, the Hounds will also play Bethlehem Steel FC, Louisville City FC and Rochester Rhinos three times.
Return of 2015 USL MVP Jose Angulo to Highmark Stadium
Jose Angulo, who scored 15 goals for the Hounds in 2013 to earn the USL Golden Boot and MVP honors, will be returning to Highmark Stadium, almost exactly four years to the day that he scored the first goal in Stadium history.
The Hounds host Angulo’s new side, St. Louis FC, on Wednesday, April 12. Angulo scored in the 70th minute (right as he entered the game on a corner kick) of the first ever game at Highmark on April 13, 2013.
This game will also mark the first return of goalkeeper Ryan Thompson, who played for the Hounds in 2015, as St. Louis comes back to the Eastern Conference after spending a year in the Western Conference in 2016.
Welcome To USL
Highlighting the months of May and June are notable first-time clashes against new Eastern Conference foes Ottawa Fury FC (May 13 – away) and Tampa Bay Rowdies (June 22 – home). The match vs the Rowdies will be the first time the side will meet since the 2015 U.S. Open Cup, when the Hounds advanced past the Rowdies thanks for a Rob Vincent goal in the 90th minute.
U.S. Open Cup
Speaking of the Open Cup, U.S. Soccer will be announcing these “official” dates soon, however, according to U.S. Soccer’s site, Wednesday, May 10 is the date for the first round. It’s yet to be determined the order of appearances for 30 USL and eight fellow Division 2 league NASL teams will enter the field.
One interesting thing of note, the Hounds play at Harrisburg on Wednesday, May 24, so it appears likely that that won’t be a date set aside for US Open matches, so expect the second round to be May 17, and then the third round to be May 31 or the first week of June.
October Pro Soccer In Pittsburgh
The 2017 campaign stretches to October this season, as the Hounds finish with back-to-back matches at home against the Rochester Rhinos (October 7) and Ottawa Fury FC (October 14).