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Championship Return to Play Preview – Group F

By NICHOLAS MURRAY - nicholas.murray@uslsoccer.com, 06/26/20, 12:35PM EDT

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Hounds will be favorites, but opportunity is calling for the group’s other four teams


Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC will look to emulate the success of their 2019 campaign, while Hartford Athletic is hopeful of taking a big step forward. | Photo courtesy Chris Cowger / Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC

The group assignments for Groups E through H ahead of the USL Championship’s resumption of the 2020 season are being made on Friday, giving us a chance to take a first look at each of the teams as they get ready to return to action.

Next up we look at Group F, which includes both last year’s first-place finisher in the Eastern Conference in Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC and perennial playoff contender the New York Red Bulls II, but also three teams looking to break through in Hartford Athletic, Loudoun United FC and the Philadelphia Union II.

Hartford Athletic
Record: 0-0-0, 0pts
Head Coach: Radhi Jaïdi
2019 Season: 8-21-5, 29pts
OVERVIEW
We’ve yet to see the Athletic in action under new Head Coach Radhi Jaïdi, but every indication coming from Hartford is the team is confident of a strong second season. Getting out to a good start is going to be important, not only in terms of gaining points but also gaining confidence that things are on the right path. If the Athletic accomplish that, though, they’ll be in line to fight for a playoff spot in what looks like a group that – Riverhounds SC aside – looks pretty open.
Player to Watch
Tyreke Johnson
It’s probably a risk to say the way someone plays FIFA is going to translate to the way they play on the field, but after his performances in the USL eCup, I have to admit we all should be intrigued by what the young English winger is going to bring to the field in real life. It certainly doesn’t hurt that his pedigree is that of a player that’s come through Southampton’s system, and the relationship between Johnson and Jaïdi could help him thrive.
Loudoun United FC
Record: 0-0-1, 1pt | T @PHI 0-0 [3/7]
Head Coach: Ryan Martin
2019 Season: 11-17-6, 39pts
OVERVIEW
Loudoun came away with a point on the road against fellow Group F side the Philadelphia Union II, to open its season, but didn’t quite capture the spark that had seen it make a positive late-season run in 2019. There should still be optimism here that the pieces will come together to make a good side, but depth might become an issue, especially early after the resumption if D.C. United elects to take players like Moses Nyeman to Florida, keeping him from Loudoun’s lineup.
Player to Watch
Peabo Doue
The club’s captain, and also the oldest player in the Loudoun squad, Doue’s leadership is going to be as important as his play for Loudoun to reach its potential. The 29-year-old does have some interesting veterans to work alongside, including forward Michael Gamble, but Loudoun is probably going to need to be tight defensively to give its attack a chance to round into the sort of form it produced late last year.
New York Red Bulls II
Record: 0-1-0, 0pts | L vTBR 0-1 [3/7]
Head Coach: John Wolyniec
2019 Season: 17-11-6, 57pts; Eliminated in Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
OVERVIEW
In whatever way the roster for the Red Bulls II has changed season-to-season, the high-pressing system the club employs remained central to their success. This year might be the biggest test of that, with a good chance the likes of last year’s notable players including Tom Barlow, Jared Stroud and Chris Lema may not be there game-in and game-out. If the Red Bulls II come through again and reach the playoffs for a sixth consecutive season, it will be John Wolyniec’s finest coaching job to date.
Player to Watch
Ben Mines
There’s been a sense of expectancy for Mines since he first took to the field in 2016 for the Red Bulls II, but the Homegrown signing hasn’t quite blossomed yet in the 52 total appearances he’s made for the side. Now 20 years old, the forward has notched only one goal in 35 games over the past two seasons, and it’s coming time for Mines to live up to the potential that the Red Bulls organization believes he has.
Philadelphia Union II
Record: 0-0-1, 1pt | T vLDN 0-0 [3/8]
Head Coach: Sven Gartung
2019 Season: 8-19-7, 31pts
OVERVIEW
The change on the sideline to start the season looked like it had made the desired effect for the Union II, with Head Coach Sven Gartung’s side narrowly missing out on a victory to start the campaign despite having enough chances to find a winner against Loudoun United FC. The club will now get back to work and try to build on what it learned in that opening game. If Union II can make a good break from the gates, a return to the playoffs could be its reward come October.
Player to Watch
Jack McGlynn
After signing his first professional contract in preseason, McGlynn came on as a substitute in the Union II’s first game of the season and almost provided an assist for fellow attacker Yomi Scintu. Turning 17 years old four days before the season resumes, the thing Philadelphia’s leadership likes about McGlynn’s game is his vision and ability to read the game, and there should definitely be plenty of opportunity for him to show off those abilities in the next few months.
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
Record: 0-0-0, 0pts
Head Coach: Bob Lilley
2019 Season: 19-4-11, 68pts
OVERVIEW
As with Hartford, we had yet to see Riverhounds SC take the field before the season suspension, but when Pittsburgh does kick its season off there will be some key names missing from last year’s outstanding squad. That shouldn’t be an impediment to continued success, however, with Head Coach Bob Lilley one of the best in the league. Because of that, the Hounds should be the favorite to top the group when it’s all said and done, with their four defeats last regular season a testament to the tenacity this group brings.
Player to Watch
Kenardo Forbes
There are a few players who can pull off the deep-lying playmaker role that Forbes excels in across the Championship, but the Jamaican veteran’s consistency has placed him in a class of his own over the past five years. His ability to not only gain possession, but consistently make the right pass at the right time is a beautiful thing to behold, and should keep the Hounds ticking along strongly as the season resumes.

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