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Pittsburgh Riverhounds vs. Columbus Crew SC Breakdown

131 days ago


It’s getting down to the business end of the 2023 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, soccer’s premier tournament in America. By the time Wednesday’s matches conclude, eight out of the original 99 teams in the field will be still in the chase for the trophy.

As we mentioned ahead of last year’s round of 16, the US Open Cup has a different feel than regular season in league play, and for good reason. The tournament is the one and only opportunity for some clubs to bring hardware back to their headquarters, since not every club in MLS can realistically contend for the MLS Cup Final on the second Saturday in December.

The US Open Cup also brings with it the opportunity for MLS clubs to verse themselves against opponents from the USL Championship. Wednesday’s match in Pittsburgh is no exception.

USL Championship’s Pittsburgh Riverhounds Battle MLS’ Crew SC Wednesday

Highmark Stadium will be the setting of an Ohio vs. Pennsylvania contest in the US Open Cup Round of 16. The Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC will play host to Columbus Crew SC on Wednesday night.

As was the case in the round of 32 in the Open Cup a few weeks back, matches in the round of 16 will be divided among the BR Football YouTube channel and the CBS Sports Golazo Network. Wednesday’s match (7 pm ET/ 4 pm PT) will stream on the latter.

Unlike MLS Season Pass on Apple TV, viewers need not pay up front to watch any of these games. CBS Sports Golazo is available for free on a number of Paramount Global-owned platforms, including Paramount Plus and PlutoTV. 

Riverhounds Coming in On Decent Form

The homestanding Riverhounds are unbeaten in their last five matches across all competitions, going 3-0-2. This past Saturday in USL Championship play, Pittsburgh collected all three points by besting the visiting Las Vegas Lights by a full time score of 4-1.

If the USL Championship season were to end today, Pittsburgh would stake claim to the No. 4 seed in the league’s Eastern Conference bracket and would play host to Birmingham Legion FC in the opening round. The Riverhounds’ journey in the US Open Cup got off to an unorthodox start.

Initially, Pittsburgh was drawn to play Rochester New York FC during the tournament’s second round on April 5, but on March 10, the MLS Next Pro side announced it wouldn’t play in the league’s second season. Subsequently, the team folded, resulting in the April 5 match being recorded as a 1-0 walkover victory for the Riverhounds.

Back to the present day, Pittsburgh looks to build off of an impressive “Cupset” in the round of 32 with Wednesday’s match.

Pittsburgh Already Assured of Best Finish in US Open Cup Regardless of Outcome

A few weeks ago, the Riverhounds bested the New England Revolution on the road at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, MA. It was a history-making evening, with Pittsburgh dispatching New England 1-0. Midfielder Danny Griffin scored the winning goal just prior to halftime.

Regardless of what happens next, the Riverhounds have something major to hang their hat on in this, their 25th anniversary season. Pittsburgh will have its best placement in the US Open Cup in club history no matter where it goes from here, but Pittsburgh manager Bob Lilley is focused on taking in the moment.

“We have some guys in the team, younger guys, and this is a huge thing to experience,” Lilley began. “I tell everyone to enjoy it, enjoy what you’ve done, but pretty soon, it’s about getting ready for a massive game in the league, where we’ve been average so far.”

For the Riverhounds, it’s about taking the schedule one match at a time, and there are only two USL Championship clubs left in the tournament. Can Pittsburgh ensure that the league has at least one team left in the last eight? Watch to find out.

Crew SC Looking for Slice of Heaven After “Hell is Real” Defeat to Cincinnati

In the other corner, the visiting Columbus Crew SC enter the last 16 of the US Open Cup having posted a record of 2-1-2 in the past five matches. Last weekend, Columbus dropped a 3-2 result at the hands of in-state rival FC Cincinnati at TQL Stadium.

After the match, Crew SC head coach Wilfried Nancy, in the middle of his first season with Columbus, took full responsibility for his team’s loss in MLS play on Saturday night.

“Listen, this is our job to come back,” Nancy stated. “Again, I really like the second half the way we played. As you know, Cincinnati, it’s not easy to play against them. Again, we saw really good things. We also saw a lot of things that we have to be better at, but this is not about tactic or technique. This is about try to be more present and believe in yourself.”

Can Columbus Crew SC Close Out Pittsburgh Early?

Any time that a team can score three goals on their opponents in a match, there’s a good chance that this is the team that’s going to net the three points in the standings (or, in the case of a cup tournament), advance to the next round of the event.) In this race to three goals, the earlier it is for a team to hit that plateau, the better off they’ll be as the match progresses.

Crew SC’s May 10 road triumph versus Loudoun United FC of the USL Championship is a textbook example of this. That night, the match was over as a contest in under 30 minutes’ time.

Over the weekend, the Crew battled back to put themselves on equal pegging with their Buckeye State foes in the 52nd minute, yet Cincinnati broke the deadlock and ultimately won on the evening. This Columbus team has to be able to put Pittsburgh away early if they want to advance to the quarterfinals in the first week of June.

Will they be able to get the job done? Only time will tell.

Final Thoughts

A year ago, the USL Championship had a phenomenal showing in the US Open Cup. Sacramento Republic made it all the way to the final against Orlando City SC.

Orlando City SC didn’t make it past the round of 32 two weeks ago thanks to a 1-0 defeat vs. Charlotte FC. Now, the USL Championship as a whole is banking on both Pittsburgh and Birmingham to make a deep run.

Pittsburgh has had the better form of the two teams in this match, but will they be hungrier on the day of the game itself?

Prediction: Columbus Crew SC 4, Pittsburgh Riverhounds 1.

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