Match: Penn FC at Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
Date: Saturday, May 26th
Time: 7 p.m. Eastern, 6 p.m. Central, 4 p.m. Pacific, 11 p.m. UTC
Venue: Highmark Stadium (Pittsburgh, PA)
Refs: REF: ISMIR PEKMIC AR1: JEFFREY SWARTZEL AR2: GREGORY IRWIN 4TH: TAYLOR BOMBALSKI
How to Watch: ESPN+ (Subscription Required)
How Pittsburgh will look: When I appeared on the Mon Goals podcast with Justin Ashcraft, he made a convincing argument that Pittsburgh’s 3-1 loss to FC Cincinnati in the Open Cup on Wednesday night will leave the Riverhounds with a chip on their shoulder. The players were embarrassed by the loss, so they’ll probably be pressing the attack early. Not only that, they rested a few of their usual starters during the midweek match, so everyone should be ready to go for Saturday.
The one concern for the team is that they’ve gotten a little sloppy on defense lately. They allowed Cincy to score three goals in the Open Cup and they gave up two sorta ugly goals last Saturday in Tampa Bay. Head Coach Bob Lilley prides himself on maintaining an excellent defense, but the defenders and goalkeeper Dan Lynd will need to focus on getting out of the little funk they’ve fallen into.
How Penn FC will look: Penn FC hasn’t had a league match since May 9th, so most of the first choice starters should be good and rested. They went into their break on a good run of form after winning two out of three matches. And it’s not like they’ve just been sitting a home the entire time since. They played two US Open Cup matches where they managed to score five goals. That’s pretty impressive when you consider they’ve only scored six goals in nine USL matches.
Don’t expect to see midfielder Mauro Eustaquio on Saturday night. After he was injured during the Tampa Bay match, he confirmed on Twitter this week that he tore his ACL and he’ll be out for the season. It’s a tough blow for Penn FC’s depth as Eustaquio had played well as a holding midfielder both as a starter and as a solid late game sub.
What to expect: Both of these teams have settled down since they first met back in season two, so don’t expect another 0-0 draw for this one. The attacks of both teams have jelled together well enough that we should see a few goals Saturday night. But it’s still going to be a meeting of two of the best defenses in the Eastern Conference, so don’t expect another 6-5 shootout or anything.
Romeo Parkes was the main attacker for Pittsburgh during the earlier match, but he missed some big opportunities to score. He came up injured after the match, and that gave Neco Brett a chance to step up and start scoring. He’s gotten five goals so far this season, so expect him to be troubling the Penn FC defense the entire match. And don’t forget about Kevin Kerr. He hasn’t been much of a scorer so far this year, but he just loves to get goals against teams from Harrisburg.
Penn FC will be looking to build on their recent successes while shaking off a few of their bad habits from early in the season. Tommy Heinemann remains the biggest goal scoring threat, scoring twice so far with his head and once with his feet. The Pittsburgh defense will need to keep an eye on him at all times because when Tampa Bay lost track of him, he made them pay for it. This match also feels like an opportunity for free kick specialist Jerry Ortiz to finally make his mark for Penn FC. He had an excellent assist against Tampa Bay, but he has gotten closer and closer to curling some long distance shots into the back of the net.
Penn FC’s primary focus will need to be testing the Pittsburgh defense. Recent results show that they can still make some mental mistakes, but the boys in blue will need to be throwing a lot of shots at them in order to generate these chances. Tommy Heinemann is the target, but he’ll need some creative passing from midfielders like Richie Menjivar, Freddie Opoku, and Dan Metzger to get the scoring started. If those guys have a good night, then Penn FC will have a good night.
PREDICTION: Both these teams love to get draws, and I feel like this match is heading for a 1-1 scoreline. But after talking it over with Mon Goals, I think that this will end up 2-1 in favor of Pittsburgh.