As the 2017 campaign comes to an end this Saturday, the process of looking back at the season that was has begun for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. Though the Hounds will miss the playoffs, there were many exciting storylines this year, perhaps none more compelling than the success of forward Corey Hertzog.
During his first season in Pittsburgh in 2016, Hertzog led the team with 13 goals in 30 matches. This year, Hertzog has matched that total through 31 matches and most recently moved up to third place on the club’s all-time goals list after he scored twice on Sept. 24 at Bethlehem Steel FC.
Right from the season-opener, it was evident that Hertzog was on his way to a special season. He scored two goals against the reigning-USL champion New York Red Bulls II in a 3-3 tie, marking the first of three times that Hertzog would tally a brace in a single match.
His scoring prowess was reflective of the team’s success overall, as the Hounds were 5-2-3 when he scored. Hertzog’s seven right-footed tallies have produced the majority of his goals, but he’s also found the back of the net with four headers and two left-footed scores - pacing Pittsburgh or tying for the team lead in all three categories.
Two of those right-footed goals have come on penalty kicks, where Hertzog is two-of-three this season compared to no attempts in 2016.
At the end of July, Hertzog led the Hounds with seven goals through 21 games.
Nonetheless, he felt he wasn’t scoring regularly enough.
Hertzog said a two-goal match in a 2-1 victory over Saint Louis FC in mid-August was a turning point, most notably a free kick in the 47th minute to knot the score at one. Taking the kick from about 30 yards out, the forward struck the ball into the upper-left corner of the net.
“The middle of the season, I wasn’t scoring goals and the confidence went down a little bit,” Hertzog said. “I would say that the free kick against Saint Louis really picked up the confidence a lot.”
Including his brace, Hertzog scored six goals in 10 matches since the start of August. He has accounted for just more than 46 percent of the team’s total goals scored.
Settling in Pittsburgh
Hertzog’s success in Pittsburgh is personally meaningful to the striker. Since being drafted No. 13 overall in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft by the New York Red Bulls, he played with six different professional teams, including New York, across three different professional leagues prior to joining the Black and Gold.
Hertzog said it’s never fun changing teams that often, but joked that the traveling has been a plus. However, as he gets older, the forward hopes to find more stability.
“Now that I have a family and all that, I just want to get something concrete,” Hertzog said. “It’s part of the game, we chose that when we signed up for this. You’ve got to get used to it and move on.”
Being back in Pennsylvania has been enjoyable for Hertzog for a couple of reasons. For one, he is a Reading, Pennsylvania native and said his family has made the four-hour drive for every home match.
“Playing in Tampa and Vancouver and all that, you don’t get to see [your family] very often,” Hertzog said. “So, it’s nice being around and seeing family.”
The in-state ties extend collegiately as well, as Hertzog made his mark at Penn State from 2008-10. He led the NCAA with 20 goals, 46 points and 2.09 points per game during his junior year and went on to forego his senior campaign to turn pro.
That success in college was just a precursor to Hertzog’s professional success once he found his footing with the Hounds.
Hertzog is third in the USL Eastern Conference with 13 tallies in 2017, but he hasn’t just been a goal-scorer in his time with the Hounds. Last season, Hertzog’s four assists led the team and he’s added two more this year. Additionally, Hertzog is second on Pittsburgh with 51 chances created in 2017, which also ranks No. 12 in the East.
During the current era of the USL, Hertzog has scored the most goals in a two-year period by any Hounds player. During the time he has suited up in a Black and Gold kit, Hertzog has left his mark in Pittsburgh with his scoring touch and his team-first mentality.
“Scoring goals is always good,” Hertzog said, “but you just want to win games.”
Despite the increased acclaim, Hertzog is most focused on team success rather than personal accolades. Hertzog said climbing the record books is enjoyable, but his personal success is not the ultimate goal. And this humility is a testament to Hertzog’s competitiveness and his desire to keep getting better.
“Yeah, I mean it’s for anybody to score a lot of goals, but the last two years, we haven’t made the playoffs,” Hertzog said. “If I could give up 10 goals and we would make the playoffs, I’d do it.”