BREAKING DOWN THE HOUNDS: Playing for pride

Looking ahead to kickoff …

Riverhounds (8-12-11) vs. Ottawa Fury FC (8-10-13)
7:02 p.m.
Highmark Stadium
• Video: USL YouTube

THE SETUP

I will have coverage of the Hounds’ season finale tonight, along with photographer Long Hong on DK Pittsburgh Sports and will have a recap for Pittsburgh Soccer Report.

DK

Below are some pregame notes, as the Hounds look to finish an unprecedented and very long 32-game season on a positive note, after what has been a pretty difficult to watch six-game winless (0-4-2) stretch.

• This is the second meeting between these two clubs this season. The Hounds prevailed in round one at TD Place Stadium by a score of one-nil thanks to a header from Corey Hertzog on a cross from Ritchie Duffie. With 13 goals this season, Hertzog has matched last season’s output, and with 26 goals through two campaigns he has provided the best scoring output over a two-year span for the Hounds in the current era of the USL (since 2011).  While Hertzog’s 94 shots lead the USL, team captain Kevin Kerr, on the other hand, is third in the league in chances created at 61 and seventh in crosses with 159. Both stalwarts in the lineup, Hertzog and Kerr are the only players to have appeared in all 31 league matches for the Hounds this season.

•  The only notable injury to report, first-year center back Tobi Adewole, will be out for the second consecutive game, due to a hamstring issues.

•  Could this be the last time we see some long-tenured Hounds?  Two notables that this may be the case for, who have more than 200 combined appearances, are Mike Green and Danny Earls. Green, 27, who is currently tied with Kerr in career appearances, with 133 since 2012, has remained a dependable, versatile player but has seen his playing time drop off, due to both injuries and competition at the midfield spot this season. Earls, a 28-year old Wicklow, Ireland native with MLS and extensive USL experience, was a one-time Hounds captain, having made 75 appearances for the club beginning in 2014. However, this season, after returning from an eight-game suspension which began in August 2016 then carried over into 2017, he has only made nine appearances, with five starts and four yellow cards.

•  Well-traveled defender Joe Greenspan, who’s been back-and-forth on loan to the Hounds from Minnesota United FC of Major League Soccer, will be back in Pittsburgh for the finale on Saturday. After returning on September 30 to play in the 2-0 loss at NY Red Bulls II, Greenspan returned to the Loons last week, where he was sent off after receiving two yellow cards for bad fouls in Sunday’s match against Sporting Kansas City.

• Formerly of the NASL, Fury FC currently sits 11th in the Eastern Conference table, while the Hounds slot in at 13th. A win on Saturday coupled with Saint Louis not capturing victory against Bethlehem would ensure Pittsburgh a finish within the top 10 of the standings. However, with a loss coupled with a Richmond win over Louisville City, the Hounds could very well end up right where they were a year ago, in 14th place (out of 15 teams) in the USL’s Eastern Conference.

• Hounds coach Dave Brandt, who started the team’s training way back in early January, has led the club to an 8-12-11 record in his first full season as coach, with the overall Hounds record standing at 13-25-15 since he took over the reins in May 2016.

• Since 2011, the Hounds are not exactly stellar in season finales, going 1-4-1. The lone victory came in 2015 at Harrisburg to ensure a playoff berth and clinching of the first-ever Keystone Derby Cup.

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