3 Things: #PITvHFD
It's time for game 16 out of 32, which means we're hitting the official midpoint of the season.
But to close out the first half, the Hounds will host a match that could have major implications toward the end-of-season pecking order, as Hartford Athletic makes its first trip to Highmark Stadium in 2021 for a 7 p.m. Saturday kickoff.
The Hounds and Hartford battled to a 1-1 draw in their first meeting on May 15 in Connecticut, which adds to the importance of the three remaining matches between the teams currently in second and third in the Atlantic Division.
Watch out for these 3 Things in this week's matchup, as the Hounds go for a fourth straight home win.
1.) Find some consistency
The biggest source of frustration - both for fans and the coaches - with the Hounds in 2021 has been an inability to string together consecutive strong outings. Just this month, a well-rounded win against Charlotte was followed by a passive draw in Charleston, while the team responded to a shaky 1-0 win over Loudoun with a convincing victory over New York on the road.
Even within the course of single matches, such as when the Hounds conceded a goal the win at New York, too often there is a 20-minute or so lapse in play. It was that sort of lapse late against Hartford that led to a tying goal in the first meeting, a disappointing outcome even with the Hounds reduced to 10 men.
Coming off the mostly good match in New York, the Hounds need to come out at the same level they finished the game last week, as Hartford is a talented enough team to punish an opponent who doesn't have their A-game.
2.) Be ready to rumble
Just as with Loudoun a few weeks ago, the Hounds need to be ready to take some contact against Hartford.
The referees' whistles have sounded against Hartford 200 times already this season, which comes out to a league-worst average of 16.7 fouls per game. They were right on that number with 17 fouls in the teams' first meeting, which saw Kenardo Forbes get sent off for violent conduct when he retaliated after a foul.
The Hounds, on the other hand, give up 13.3 fouls per game and are coming off a season-low-tying eight fouls conceded against New York.
Tigers don't change their stripes, so if the Hounds can keep possession and pressure on Hartford - and keep their cool when contact comes - there should be no shortage of good situations created by infractions.
3.) Aware of Barrera
Hartford attacking midfielder Danny Barrera is having an all-USL-type season thus far, leading the league with seven assists and sharing the team lead with four goals.
While Hartford has no shortage of good attacking options, even with Honduran forward Juan Carlos Obregón Jr. away with his country's Olympic team, the numbers don't lie that much of what they do in attack runs through Barrera.
The Hounds will need to have their wing backs stick tight to Barrera when he tries to create space to set up teammates out wide. Meanwhile, Danny Griffin and whoever else draws the holding midfield assignment will need to be ready to break up plays centrally against the Colombian who is just as adept a finisher as he is a creator.
It's a task easier said than done, but Hartford is a far less dangerous team when Barrera isn't on the ball as much, and the Hounds will need to close him down and not back off throughout the 90 minutes.
• Discuss this story on the United Soccer League Championship message board...
United Soccer League Championship Stories from July 29, 2021
- Match Preview: Tacoma Defiance vs. San Diego Loyal SC - July 29, 2021 - Tacoma Defiance
- Phoenix Rising FC to Honor Front-Line Workers at Halftime of Saturday's Match - Phoenix Rising FC
- Kibunguchy Header Wins Fans' Choice Goal of the Week - Sacramento Republic FC
- Republic FC Extends Seven USL Academy Contracts, Prepares Nine Players for Collegiate Soccer - Sacramento Republic FC
- Match Preview: Republic FC V New York Red Bulls II - Sacramento Republic FC
- What to Watch Around the USL: Week 15 - Sacramento Republic FC
- Phoenix Rising Signs Defender Niall Dunn to Professional Contract - Phoenix Rising FC
- 3 Things: #PITvHFD - Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
- New Mexico United and Meow Wolf Announce Meow Wolf Night - New Mexico United
- New Mexico United Announces the Signing of Afghan International Defender David Najem - New Mexico United
The opinions expressed in this release are those of the organization issuing it, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central or its staff.
Other Recent Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC Stories
- October 10 Match vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies to Kick off at 6 p.m.
- 3 Things: #PITvCHS
- Game at Miami FC Moved up to Saturday, October 16
- Unbeaten Run Ended by Late Charlotte Goal; Hounds Fall 1-0
- 3 Things: #CLTvPIT