Year Founded: 1999
Affiliation: Columbus Crew
2016 record, place in Conference Standings: 6-17-7, 13th place in the Eastern Conference
2016 playoffs: Did not qualify
Key additions: Trey Mitchell, Kay Banjo, Taylor Washington
Key departures: Zack Steffen, Willie Hunt, Sergio Campbell
Projected/ideal starting XI: Trey Mitchell; Taylor Washington, Ryan Adeleye, Jamal Jack, Rich Balchan; Marshall Hollingsworth, Stephen Okai, Mike Green, Kenroy Howell; Corey Hertzog, Kevin Kerr
After a crazy season in 2016 that saw the team crash out of the US Open Cup early, go through a massive amount of player and front office turnover, and finish the year with one of the worst records in recent history, the Hounds have nowhere to go but up. Recognizing their faults, they got to work early in the offseason, signing most players before any other team, starting preseason long before any professional team (including MLS), and showing a commitment and willingness to outwork any others that may get in their way.
In a league becoming filled with big money teams, the Hounds are looking to make some noise on the strength of its collective, and let everyone know they’re not to be forgotten. With a strong USL history and a dedicated and growing fanbase, the expectations are high for a bounce-back season.
Why you should watch the Riverhounds in 2017
Coach Brandt. After taking over in midseason last year and not having the opportunity to fully implement the high octane offense that he ran at Navy, Coach Brandt had a full eleven weeks of preseason, more than any other professional team, to get the Hounds prepared to play his way in 2017. His experience with young players could help the likes of Ben Swanson, Marshall Hollingsworth, and Victor Souto thrive in a system based on stamina and speed, and his focus on unity and grit could lead to the Hounds becoming a sum-greater-than-the-parts sleeper in the strong Eastern Conference.
3 players to watch:
Corey Hertzog: Lead the team in goals, assists, and minutes last year and was one of the few bright spots of an otherwise dismal season. His nose for goal is a nightmare for defenses, and his work rate is going to propel him to be one of the top forwards in the league.
Kevin Kerr: Captain and one of the longest tenured players on the team, Kevin has a sneaky way of popping up where least expected and making magic happen. Rumor is that he’ll be paired with Hertzog up top for the start of the season, which should make for some exciting show of offense.
Marshall Hollingsworth: Loaned to the Hounds from Columbus last year, the quick footed winger is back for more. His closing speed made him a terror when defending, and his explosive touch into space causes defenses to collapse and open up space for Hertzog and Kerr.
The 2017 season will be a success if….
The Hounds make a playoff run. Considering that they were one of the worst teams in the league last year that may seem like a lofty goal, but Coach Brandt has set the bar at the top, USL Championship, and built a team of dedicated individuals that are going to focus on outworking every other team in the league to get there.