The Pittsburgh Riverhounds haven’t exactly started their season the way they’d like.
This season, the Riverhounds have lost two matches and have drawn once. (Most of the other USL teams have played four or five matches, but the Riverhounds’ match against the Harrisburg City Islanders was rescheduled to July 4 because of snow.)
The Riverhounds lost 1-0 in their home opener on April 2 to the Rochester Rhinos, the defending USL champions. However, the next week, the team drew against Toronto FC II, 2-2. On Friday, the Riverhounds fell to the Orlando City B, 2-1.
While the Riverhounds have struggled to notch their first win of the season, there have been positives in their play. Here are three things we know about the Riverhounds thus far in the season.
#1: Conor Branson is just as powerful as Kevin Kerr
Conor Branson, who was signed to the Riverhounds just days before the home opener, has been a powerful force. The midfielder, who is from Pontefract, England, scored the equaliser against Toronto FC II on a free kick.
Branson, who played collegiately at the University of Charleston in West Virginia, saw little action in the home opener (he came on in the 89’ minute.) But he started the match against Toronto FC II and, as reward for his strong play, he started again against Orlando City B.
Look for Branson to continue to be a starting midfielder, alongside Riverhounds captain Kevin Kerr. The two English natives have good chemistry on and off the pitch.
#2: Is it time for Mauricio Vargas to start in goal?
Goalie Hunter Gilstrap hasn’t had the best start to his season. After returning to the Riverhounds after one season with the Carolina RailHawks, Gilstrap seemed to be the obvious choice to start in net between himself, Mauricio Vargas and Brenden Alfery.
In Gilstrap’s first three games, he’s let five goals go past him. However, the coaches seem willing to be patient with Gilstrap, so he presumably has more time to prove himself to head coach Mark Steffens. If Gilstrap can’t keep a clean sheet or continues to struggle, look for Vargas, the 23-year old Costa Rican, to make an appearance in, or maybe even start, a match.
#3: The defense is good, but they need to get better
The Riverhounds only returned one defender from last year’s roster, Willie Hunt, who is the leader on the back line. However, he’s had some help. Normally a midfielder, Drew Russell has been put on defense by Steffens to help out Hunt and the rest of this new defense.
The new defenders aren’t bad; they just need to work on their communication. In particular, Sergio Campbell and Jordan Murrell have played very well for the Riverhounds. Campbell shined against Orlando City B on Friday, preventing two possible threats and clearing the ball twice.
The Riverhounds return to action Wednesday in an away game against Louisville City FC. The match starts at 7:30 p.m. and will be available to view on ESPN3.
Image credit: Richmond Kickers