It was only four minutes of action, but it was a large step forward for Kevin Kerr.
Being out due to a calf injury since the beginning of August, the midfielder completed the recovery process when he took the pitch in the 86th minute during Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC’s season finale against New York Red Bulls II on Oct. 14 at MSU Soccer Park.
“The recovery process is sometimes a miserable place,” Kerr said, “but the boys have been great.”
Kerr’s return to action could not have come at a better time for the No. 3 seed Hounds (15-5-14), as they prepare to clash with No. 6 seed Bethlehem Steel FC (14-12-8) in the opening round of the USL Playoffs. Kicking off at 7 p.m. on Saturday, it will mark the first-ever postseason game at Highmark Stadium.
Playing for Pittsburgh since 2013, Kerr currently ranks as the longest tenured Hound. Despite finishing his sixth season with the club, he has only witnessed two postseason matches – neither of which had been played at home.
In 2013, the midfielder started the team’s quarterfinals match against Orlando City SC and he cracked the starting 11 once again against New York Red Bulls II in 2015. However, both times the Hounds fell short and were eliminated from postseason contention.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Kerr said about the team attaining a home playoff game. “It’s been a goal every year since I’ve been here. It’s brilliant to finally make it happen.”
Arriving to the franchise during its inaugural season at Highmark Stadium, Kerr has since been a staple in western Pennsylvania soccer. He ranks second all-time in club history with 151 games played, in addition to posting the second-most points (72) in team history.
This year, Kerr has two goals and four assists in 20 regular season appearances. None of these regular season games played have come against Bethlehem.
“We know we’ll get their best effort, but you have the confidence in winning the two previous games,” Kerr said. “We genuinely feel if we turn up and we give our best performance, we’ll have a great chance of winning the game.”
In the season series, Pittsburgh holds an undefeated mark of 2-0-0 against Bethlehem. Furthermore, the Hounds have outscored Steel FC, 6-2, in their two meetings combined.
Even though the Black and Gold has fared well against the in-state rival this season, Bethlehem has strung together results and built momentum, heading into the playoffs with a four-game unbeaten streak.
“You can feel the buzz already,” Kerr said earlier this week. “It’s only Wednesday, and in this squad there’s a real energy. I think that’s going to be the exact same Saturday night with the fans. They’ve been waiting as long as anyone, and I’m sure they’re going to make the most of it.”