With a regrettable previous season behind them and a shot at the playoffs in sight, Dave Brandt’s Riverhounds stand their ground.
PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh’s Riverhounds don’t sweat Tampa Bay’s Rowdies, but should they?
The Rowdies, while new to Pittsburgh’s league, own the United Soccer League‘s third-best record entering a match with the ‘Hounds on Thursday night at Highmark Stadium.
Meanwhile, the Riverhounds are coming off one of their worst seasons ever and still lack a playoff position in 2017. However, a fear of Tampa doesn’t show in the attitudes of the ‘Hounds players.
“They’re a good team, but I’m not worried,” ‘Hounds forward Corey Hertzog says after Wednesday morning’s practice at Highmark. Hertzog should know. He played for the very team that stands in the way of getting the ’Hounds into playoff position, those Rowdies. Pittsburgh is one point out of the playoff picture as of Thursday morning.
“Playing a team from the past, there’s always a point to prove,” Hertzog says.
Even those without past experience with the Rowdies have no worries about the upcoming match, those like midfielder Mike Green.
“I haven’t played them,” Green says, “but we’ve all watched. They’re good, from what I can see.”
Green also offers a shimmer of pleasant cockiness, saying, “Nobody really intimidates me or the team. We could be playing anybody in the world, Chelsea or Barcelona … It shouldn’t be that overwhelming.”
Last season, the ’Hounds placed 13th of 14 teams in the USL, a time of which none of the players seem to be too fond. Now, though, the team is in 11th but has the same amount of points as the ninth- and 10th-place teams, Orlando City and Charlotte, respectively. But a simple two wins can shove the Riverhounds up the standings from 11th to seventh.
A rise like that, sudden and strong, seems like what the Riverhounds need to move on from last season. And it could be yet another morale boost for Pittsburgh’s people, who have seen two of the city’s teams rise up to championships in recent memory.