Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC will try to end the first-year campaign of Birmingham Legion FC when the sides meet at Highmark Stadium in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals on Saturday. | Photo courtesy Chris Cowger / Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
PITTSBURGH – The top seed in the Eastern Conference for the first time, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC plays host to a No. 10 seed Birmingham Legion FC looking to spring another road surprise in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2019 USL Championship Playoffs at Highmark Stadium on Saturday night. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET.
Having hosted its first playoff game at Highmark Stadium a season ago, @RiverhoundsSC now sits as the side to beat in the Eastern Conference this season after going undefeated on its home turf and suffering only four defeats in the regular season, tied for the fewest in the league. Pittsburgh averaged almost two goals-per-game at home this season, scoring 30 times in 17 outings as the likes of Neco Brett (13 goals), Steevan Dos Santos (10 goals) and Kenardo Forbes (9 assists) led the way, and will be looking for a repeat of the decisive 4-1 victory it took against Legion FC back in June when they first met on the banks of the Monongahela River.
The two sides also met much more recently, with @BHMLegion hosting the Hounds on the final day of the regular season. With a playoff place clinched, Legion FC elected to rest numerous starters in that contest, but still almost held on for a draw until Mark Forrest’s late goal lifted Pittsburgh to a 1-0 victory that clinched the top spot in the East. We should expect a much more competitive game than the 24-3 shot advantage Pittsburgh held last Sunday this time around, especially with Legion FC carrying the momentum of a 3-2 win against No. 7 seed North Carolina FC on Wednesday night that saw J.J. Williams score an outstanding stoppage-time winner for his eighth goal of the season. Birmingham may need to avoid falling behind as it did against NCFC, however, with only three sides in 2019 having rallied to earn a draw against Pittsburgh in games in which the Hounds held a lead at home.
36 – Hounds midfielder Kenardo Forbes has recorded 36 assists in the regular season and playoffs since arriving in the USL Championship ahead of the 2015 season, tied for the most in that span with Real Monarchs SLC’s Maikel Chang.
105 – Legion FC midfielder Daniel Johnson has completed 105 dribbles this season, second-most in the Championship, at a success rate of 65.6 percent.
FiveThirtyEight.com Match Predictor: Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC 86%, Birmingham Legion FC 14%
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC – GK: Kyle Morton; D: Thomas Vancaeyezeele, Joe Greenspan, Tobi Adewole; M: Jordan Dover, Kenardo Forbes, Mouhamed Dabo, Ryan James; AM: Robbie Mertz; F: Steevan Dos Santos, Neco Brett
Birmingham Legion FC – GK: Matt van Oekel; D: Akeem Ward, Kyle Fisher, Femi Hollinger-Jansen, Mikey Lopez; M: Zach Herivaux, Anderson Asiedu; AM: Daniel Johnson, Prosper Kasim, J.J. Williams; F: Brian Wright
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC – None
Birmingham Legion FC – None
REF: Mark Allatin
AR1: Ian McKay
AR2: Amilcar Sicaju
4TH: Kevin Fikar