Despite winning its season opener, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC still has a chip on its shoulder.
The Hounds (1-0-0) look to build on recent momentum against Philadelphia Union II (0-0-1) at 7:30 p.m. this Saturday at Subaru Park, marking their second straight road match. The game will be televised locally on 22 The Point.
Head coach Bob Lilley has made it evident that this team still has room to grow, and that they won’t be taking their foot off the gas. This mentality has rubbed off on his players, both new and old.
“I think the message has been pretty clear as far as what our mentality has to be in every game this season, mainly due to the fact that it's so short,” defender Hunter Ashworth said. “It’s pretty simple--we need to go get three points. That’s what Bob’s mentality has been, and that’s how we have been as well. If anything, we need to be even better.”
Lilley admits this year has been different with conditioning, but still looks to get back on track in this regard. It didn’t seem to show in the team's season opener against Louisville City FC, after they scored three goals in six minutes of play.
Even with the win, there are still things the team can do to improve heading into its first divisional match this Saturday.
“We have things to work on this week to get better, but it was a gutsy performance and a collective performance," Lilley said. "I thought we did an effective job managing the game once we got the two-goal lead. We didn’t give a ton of clear-cut chances and we made it hard for them. In the second half, I’m really proud of how they responded to get in front and bring home the three points.”
Next on the schedule is Philadelphia Union II. Even though the Hounds have gotten the better of Philadelphia (formerly Bethlehem Steel FC) in recent years, they aren't taking them lightly.
The Hounds had a few close matches with Philadelphia last year. In their matchup at Talen Energy Stadium, the Hounds used a goal from Joe Greenspan to tie the game in the 60th minute. The Hounds did not win, but ultimately gained one point out of the Keystone State matchup. In their meeting at Highmark Stadium, the Hounds won a gritty, defensive game, 1-0, thanks to a goal in the 57th minute from Kenardo Forbes.
“[Philadelphia Union II] are young and they’re free," Lilley said. "They have guys who will dribble through lines, they have some athletes, they have some guys who are good in set pieces. So we’re going to have to do a good job defending [set pieces], and we’re going to have to not be as stretched as we were in parts of the Louisville game.
"They can hurt us in so many different ways. If we’re solid on the game plan, and we’re able to be consistent in the game, I think we can create several opportunities."