The Riverhounds are going to log a lot of miles before they get to play in front of their home crowd.
The club will start the 2019 USL Championship season with four consecutive road games before playing their home opener April 13 against expansion team Hartford Athletic, the league revealed Wednesday with the release of the full 34-game schedule for every team.
Bob Lilley's second season in charge of the Hounds begins with road trips to face the Tampa Bay Rowdies on March 16 and the Swope Park Rangers on March 23. Those games were announced last week when the league revealed each team's home opener, and the second game will be the first-ever meeting between the Hounds and Swope Park, as the Kansas City-based team was moved from the Western Conference to the Eastern Conference to balance the now 36-team league.
Also on the ledger are visits to Bethlehem Steel, the team that eliminated the Hounds in last season's Eastern Conference quarterfinals, on March 30, and a trip to defending champion Louisville City FC on April 6.
The home opener against Hartford will be a return to Pittsburgh for 2013 league MVP José Angulo. Angulo, who will be 31 when the season begins, signed with the new team after spending last season in the West with Oklahoma City. He remains seventh in Hounds history with 24 goals in two seasons for the franchise, and he scored in his only game at Highmark since leaving the team in 2017 with St. Louis.
All of the Hounds home games are scheduled for Saturday's except the team's annual July 4 home date. The holiday falls on a Thursday this year, and the Hounds will get their home matchup with the Steel that night.
Also of note is a summer-heavy home schedule for the Hounds, who will play seven of nine matches at Highmark Stadium from June 22 to Aug. 10. The home finale is set for Oct. 5 against Atlanta United 2, and the Hounds will finish the regular season with two more road games, Oct. 12 at St. Louis FC and Oct. 20 — a Sunday — at expansion team Birmingham Legion FC.
With a 36-team league, this will be the first year the USL Championship has a balanced schedule with every team playing the other 17 teams in their conference home-and-home. The top 10 teams in each conference will reach the playoffs, with teams 7-10 playing in a play-in round before the conference quarterfinals.