Riverhounds add new faces, seek strong start
A championship season is what the Riverhounds are hoping for in 2014, and they'll start with a shot at the reigning champs.
The Riverhounds kick off the season on the road to face Orlando City, the team that knocked them out of last year's USL Pro quarterfinals at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
Last season's regular-season meetings ended with a scoreless draw and a 1-0 win for the Riverhounds, but the playoff match was a different story, as Orlando City cruised to a 5-0 win. That last match hasn't been forgotten by the Riverhounds' returning players, who are eager to get the season underway.
“You can see in training this week that the guys are ready,” Riverhounds striker Jose Angulo said. “We don't forget (the last game). If you can't get up for a match like this, you shouldn't be playing the game.”
Angulo is coming off a USL Pro MVP season in which he scored a league-best 15 goals, and he and first-team All-USL Pro midfielder Matt Dallman are two of 14 returning players to the Riverhounds roster.
The Riverhounds hope to have more firepower up front this season with a healthy Jhonny Arteaga, as well as newly signed Collins John and two young players on loan from MLS affiliate Houston Dynamo, Jason Johnson and Bryan Salazar.
“Competition for positions (up front) is healthy, and I think enhances the way everybody plays,” Angulo said. “Especially in USL, where you have back-to-back games, it's great to have depth, and we have good amount of strikers and midfielders.”
John comes to the team with five years experience with Fulham in the English Premier League, and while the Riverhounds are likely to lean more on familiar faces in the season's first few matches, he and the other newcomers are ready to help the cause.
“Everybody here is real friendly. There's some good team spirit,” John said. “I'm excited to get a chance here with Pittsburgh. I'm kind of behind fitness-wise, but the good thing with strikers is when you get your first goal, it's like everything changes.”
While the first match is the Riverhounds' opener, Orlando City began its final season before moving to MLS last Saturday. Austin da Luz scored the game-tying goal in the 75th minute to give Orlando City a 1-1 draw at Charleston.