Match: Penn FC vs Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
Date: Wednesday, September 26nd
Time: 6:30 p.m. Eastern, 5:30 p.m. Central, 3:30 p.m. Pacific, 10:30 p.m. UTC
Venue: FNB Field (City Island. Harrisburg, PA)
How to Watch: ESPN + (Subscription Required)
How Pittsburgh will look: Pittsburgh’s season has exceeded all expectations so far. They’re unbeaten in their last three matches against opponents like Bethlehem, Louisville, and Indy. On top of that, they’ve only lost once in their last ten matches. Oh, and that loss was to FC Cincinnati, a team that’s pretty darn good.
The hot hand (foot?) right now for the Pittsburgh offense is Kenardo Forbes who has scored in the last three matches for Pittsburgh. Sure, two of those were off of penalties, but that goal against Bethlehem was so good it should have counted as three goals anyway. Their first choice goalkeeper, Dan Lynd, had missed some time due to a jaw injury, but he’s healthy again and should be available to face Penn FC.
How Penn FC will look: Penn FC is approaching the two thirds mark of The Homestretch, and things have not been going according to plan. They picked up the win over Indy Eleven, but they dropped matches to ATL UTD 2, NC FC, Louisville, and Cincy. Not helping things is the fact that this is their six match in eighteen days. Legs have got to be getting tired by this point.
Penn FC did give Lucky Mkosana a breather against Cincy, so he should be fresh for Wednesday’s match. He should pair well with Paulo Jr., who has managed to score twice so far during The Homestretch. Back on defense, Romu Peiser was also rested on Saturday in anticipation of this match. He already has two clean sheets against Pittsburgh this season.
What to Expect: Penn FC is nearly out of the playoff race while Pittsburgh is about to clinch their spot. But there’s still plenty on the line Wednesday night. A win for Pittsburgh means they’ll get the Keystone Derby Cup for another year along with the Old Guard Shield for the first time. And it could help propel them to the number two seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Despite the disappointment in Penn FC’s late season form, they still have an excellent chance to play spoiler on Wednesday. A Penn FC victory would give them the Keystone Derby Cup and, with it, Pennsylvania USL supremacy. Each of these teams defeated Bethlehem twice, so the Steel are excluded from consideration. So while they’ll most likely be sitting at home come playoff time, they’d still have something to brag about.
In order for Penn FC to succeed they’ll need to pull the same move they did against Cincy, score the first goal. However, as they learned on Saturday night, just one goal isn’t going to be enough. Pittsburgh has shown they can quickly pounce on defensive mistakes to run up the score, so the best defense for Penn FC is to get multiple goals on the board. That’s easier said than done against the Pittsburgh defense, but they have been exposed several times in recent weeks by teams who can connect on long, accurate passes.
If Pittsburgh has one concern coming in it’s that their usually impressive defense has made some bad mistakes in recent weeks. They allowed an ugly own goal to Indy as well as another late goal off of a defensive miscue. And of the twenty-one goals they’ve allowed all season, ten have come in the last six matches alone.
Both of these teams have changed a lot since they played back in March and May, and I don’t think that either side is happy that they’ve only managed to play to two 0-0 draws in 2018. The Pittsburgh-Harrisburg rivalry deserves at least one crazy shootout a year, and Wednesday is the last chance for these teams to combine for some fireworks this year.
PREDICTION: Pittsburgh has the advantage here and I think I’ve picked them to win 1-0 twice already this season. So you know what? I’m not going to fight it any more. I’m just going to predict another 0-0 draw.
If this is the final result, then I believe Pittsburgh would keep the Keystone Derby Cup based on position on the table. The Old Guard Shield would stay with Charleston.