Two-time defending champ Louisville City FC up next for Riverhounds in playoffs
The Pittsburgh Riverhounds worked hard to earn home-field advantage in the playoffs.
They will get to use it for the second straight weekend, this time against two-time defending champions Louisville City FC at 7 p.m. Saturday in the semifinals of the USL Championship Eastern Conference.
“We’re ready to go. We’re just trying to bring that same energy that we brought last week,” midfielder Jordan Dover said. “It’s a different level of competition. So we’re going to have to be ready for that, playing against the two-time defending champions.”
The two sides have twice this season. The Hounds won the April 6 meeting 1-0 when Neco Brett buried a penalty kick in the 74th minute to secure their first victory of the season.
Then, Louisville made a trip to the Steel City at the beginning of September, and the teams battled to a draw, extending the Riverhounds’ home regular-season unbeaten streak to 22 games.
“They were two very good games that will prepare us for Saturday,” Brett said. “They are a good team, and the guys know exactly what to expect.It’s not going to be an easy game.”
The Riverhounds figure to be in for another battle, and coach Bob Lilley is looking for his side to implement the same level of energy and consistency they displayed throughout the second half of the season.
“I think they are at a point of doing a good job of managing their emotions and avoiding performance anxiety or whatever you want to call it,” Lilley said. “So we’re hoping to just get a good effort out of them, and the rest of it will just take care of itself.”
Heading into their third meeting, the teams have been strong down the stretch. The Riverhounds have not lost in 12 games, the longest current streak in the USL Championship, and Louisville has produced a record of 9-1-3 since the beginning of August.
Louisville won four of five games in October and outscored opponents 14-7 during that stretch. Just like it has in the past, Louisville is getting hot at the right time.
Lilley has taken notice.
“They have really technical players. They have scored more goals in the second half, and they have given up less,” Lilley said. “They are quite good, and they are pretty good at breaking that midfield line so they can have multiple players making runs at your back line. So we have to control the midfield.”
Both teams are hitting their stride, but the Riverhounds hope having home-field advantage pays off.
“We worked our tails off to get first place in the east, so we would have these games at home,” Lilley said. “None of these games are going to be easy the rest of the way, and it’s a very difficult one this weekend because you have players that have done it before and have experience and have been together. So we have our work cut out for us.”
“But with the way we’ve been playing, I don’t think we should fear anybody and I think the players are ready.”
Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .