The Riverhounds need to win — not tie, win — and Tuesday night presents the perfect opportunity.
At Highmark Stadium, the Hounds (2-1-5) will face USL League Two's Dayton Dutch Lions (1-0-0) in Round 2 of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open. As members of the USL Championship, the Hounds earned a free pass into Round 2 of the tournament, bringing heightened expectations among fans, players and coaches alike.
"We’re the favorite, so we have to win that game," Hounds midfielder Thomas Vancaeyezeele said. "We’re going to do everything to win, and it’s at home, so we’re happy to receive the chance to play here at Highmark.”
The Hounds are coming off a bye week following a 2-2 tie in South Carolina against the Charleston Battery (4-1-4). While that result ultimately disappointed given the Hounds' 2-0 lead at the half, the team looks forward to the chance to regroup and refocus at home.
"It’s nice because we were able to get a couple days off here at the beginning of the week, and we’ll come back next week and get in an important US Open Cup Game," Hounds midfielder Robbie Mertz said. "We’ll come back next week and get in the groove.”
They'll need to find that groove quickly. The Hounds have performed well in spurts this season, but they've yet to piece it all together and generate a sustained run. Currently, they sit at No. 13 out of 18 teams in the USL Eastern Conference. In their past seven games, they're unbeaten, but they've also won just two of those contests. Their five ties are tied with the second-place Tampa Bay Rowdies for the most in the conference, and the team will need to start converting draws into victories if it hopes to ascend the rankings.
"We tied last week at Charleston," Vancaeyezeele said. "This is a new game now, new competition. It’s going to be good for us to play that game, to have some more competition and focus on something else. Then we’re going to get back into the USL Championship games this weekend at Memphis."
As Vancaeyezeele notes, the Hounds will face a quick turnaround, as they take on No. 15 Memphis 901 FC (2-6-3) Saturday at AutoZone Park in Memphis, Tenn. Between Tuesday's matchup against the Dayton Dutch Lions and that one, the team will have the chance to notch back-to-back wins — something they need to regain some momentum in their 2019 campaign.
"It’ll be nice to have a little bit of a change of pace with a game in the middle of the week instead of just four or five days of practice," Mertz said. "It’ll keep us at a high level of mental focus and physical preparation.”
• Tuesday's match will be streamed live on ESPN+.
• The Hounds last faced the Dayton Dutch Lions in 2014, when both squads were members of USL Pro. That year, they split their season series, 1-1.
• Hounds midfielder Kevin Kerr is on the verge of another record. His three goals in Open Cup play trail only Rob Vincent (four) in club history.
• The Hounds have not won an Open Cup match at home since 2015, when they defeated the Tampa Bay Rowdies, 1-0.
• Historically, the Hounds have not been great in Open Cup play. Their longest run ended in the quarterfinals in a 3-2, two-overtime defeat to the Chicago Fire. That was all the way back in 2001.
• Tickets start at just $5 and are available here.
• Gates open at 5:30 p.m.
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