Match: Penn FC at Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
Date: Saturday, March 31st
Time: 7 p.m. Eastern, 6 p.m. Central, 4 p.m. Pacific, 11 p.m. UTC
Venue: Highmark Stadium (Pittsburgh, PA)
Refs: REF: CHARLES MURPHY AR1: ROSS KLEINSTUBER AR2: COREY YERACE 4TH: KERVEN MOON
How to Watch:
How Pittsburgh will look: Pittsburgh made a lot of the same changes as Penn FC over the offseason. They also went with the new coach, new logo, lots of new players, and they even tweaked their name a little by adding the SC. So don’t expect them to come out like the Pittsburgh teams of old. If anything, they will probably resemble last season’s Rochester Rhinos more than the Riverhounds. That’s where current coach Bob Lilley was last season. And with the Rhinos on hiatus for 2018, Lilley was able to bring seven players with him to Pittsburgh.
There’s also going to be some familiar faces wearing black and yellow Saturday night. Mo Dabo moved to the Hounds after spending the last two seasons with the City Islanders, and defender Andrew Lubahn spent time in Harrisburg in 2015. And don’t forget Raymond Lee who (and I’d love for someone to confirm this 100% for me) is the only person to have (technically) played for all four of Pennsylvania’s professional outdoor soccer teams. He was signed to the Philadelphia Union in 2015 and was loaned down to the City Islanders. From there he was signed to Bethlehem Steel in 2016, but left in the preseason. So when he joined Pittsburgh in 2018, he earned the PA Soccer Grand Slam.
How Penn FC will look: Penn FC really struggled offensively during their opening match against the Charleston Battery, only managing to take three shots the entire night. They should have the offensive weaponry to build more of an attack, but the chemistry just wasn’t there yet down in Charleston.
With that in mind, new coach Raoul Voss might try to shake things up a bit for his second match with the team. Perhaps former New York Cosmos player Richard Menjivar will make an appearance after the team announced his signing just last week. Another huge potential offensive weapon is Tommy Heinemann, who Penn FC only officially announced on Thursday afternoon. But with a signing that fresh, he might not be ready to go yet.
What to expect: Shout out to Mon Goals for allowing me to come on their podcast Thursday night to discuss some of my thoughts about Penn FC in 2018 as well as my expectations for this match. Give it a listen if you want a little more depth than what I’ll be able to give here.
The Mon Goals guys think that Bob Lilley will try and get the Highmark Stadium crowd going early by pushing the attack to try and score a quick goal. I agree with them, and it’s something that Pittsburgh is definitely capable of. Romeo Parkes always has the ability to slip in behind a defense if they’re not careful, and Kay Banjo made a habit of scoring early last season.
In order to succeed, Penn FC will want to weather this early storm and try to suck some of the energy out of the stadium (much like Pittsburgh did last week in Nashville). While they do that they’ll want to watch for their opportunity on the counter to try and sneak a goal past the Riverhounds defense. That won’t be an easy task, but they should be able to rely on their skilled ball handlers in the midfield to get it done.
The players to watch for Saturday’s match are two of the most experienced players on the field, Lucky Mkosana for Penn FC and Kevin Kerr for Pittsburgh. Kerr has made it his lifelong mission to score as much as possible when playing teams from Harrisburg, and frankly he’s been pretty good at it over the years. Mkosana hasn’t scored on Pittsburgh in a while, but he was responsible for spoiling the first match in Highmark Stadium back in 2013. It’d be interesting if he managed to spoil the first match in the newly expanded stadium in 2018.
PREDICTION: Whenever these teams meet up, you almost have to throw everything you know out the window. But based on the first week’s results and also based on Harrisburg’s performance against Bob Lilley’s Rochester team last season, I think that this one will end up 1-0 in favor of the Hounds.