Hounds

Riverhounds still sniffing for first win of 2019

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The Hounds practice in Coraopolis ahead of their match vs. Louisville City FC - PITTSBURGH RIVERHOUNDS SC

Another week, another tie for the Riverhounds.

The Hounds look to bounce back from a 2-2 finish against Bethlehem FC and notch their first win of the 2019 season — but that will be no easy task.

The team faces Louisville City FC — back-to-back USL champions — Saturday on the road, and everyone on the Hounds roster, from the coaches to the players and everywhere in between, understands the challenge ahead.

"They're always a very good team. They're well-coached, they're organized, they've got veteran players," Hounds goalkeeping coach Hunter Gilstrap said this week in Coraopolis ahead of the match. "They're very dynamic in everything that they do and flat-out hard to play against."

The players get it, too. Notching that first win of the season has already proven difficult, and facing a team like Louisville City FC isn't making things any easier.

"We know they’ve had a good history," said Hounds defender Tobi Adewole ahead of the matchup. "They’ve always been a strong team."

But...

"We’re going to go in with respect, but we’re also going to go in fighting, leaving everything on the table," Adewole.

There it is. Yes, Louisville City FC is a tough, class organization. But this isn't some unconquerable, impossible beast, and the Hounds recognize that fact as well. Louisville City FC is 2-2 on the year, and they're coming off a 3-2 loss against Birmingham Legion last Sunday.

Plus, the Hounds took care of business against them last year, going 1-0-1 in the season series. Making that even sweet, the win came at Louisville Slugger Field. That fact alone gives the team a boost heading into Saturday's match.

"We've got a game plan to go in there that we think's going to be effective," Gilstrap said. "We were able to go in there last year and get a result. They always bounce back really well, so they're going to be on fire... We're going to go in there and do our best to put our foot down on top of them again and put them in a place that's hard to bounce back from."

Should the Hounds go into Louisville and get the win, it'd be a relief. Not just because it'd give the team momentum coming into its April 13 home opener at Highmark Stadium but because it'd put a tidy bow on a brutal road stretch and open up into greener pastures. For the first time in the team's history, the Hounds opened with four straight road games, something that admittedly enhanced the challenge of beginning a fresh season.

"Whenever the schedule comes out and you see we'll be on the road four out of the first four games, you know that it's going to be a challenge," Gilstrap said. "We're looking to improve performance game-to-game, so results are, sure, they're important, but we're looking to see a little bit of growth.

"Obviously the results — two draws and a loss — are not ideal, but there were some positives and some negatives in all the games and we feel we're moving in a positive direction."

After Saturday's match, the Hounds return to the Steel City to play in front of the home faithful for the first time in 2019. And while the crew is ready to soak in that atmosphere and that electricity, there's work to be done.

"It'll be great to play at home at Highmark on the new turf, but we'll focus on that after we're done with Louisville," Gilstrap said.

• Hounds midfielder Kenardo Forbes scored the game's lone goal in the team's 1-0 victory over Louisville City FC on the road last season.

•  Despite zero goals from their forwards so far this season, the Hounds are tied for eighth in the Eastern Conference with four goals on the year.

•  Goalkeeping problem? In Louisville City FC's two losses this year, they've allowed at least three goals. The team lost 4-1 to North Carolina FC and 3-2 last weekend to Birmingham Legion.

•  Despite the Hounds' success last season, the team owns just a 2-5-3 record against Louisville City FC.

• A positive spin on that last one: The Hounds are 2-1-1 all-time in away games in Louisville.

• The home opener, when it finally arrives, is April 13.

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