Following two impressive wins in their first two games, Loudoun United went on the road last week to face a veteran Miami FC side in a difficult challenge. The result was a battle of traded chances of various low quality (though Loudoun did have a couple of good looks in the second half) leading to a scoreless draw and an extension of Loudoun’s undefeated streak in 2022 to their first three games. Before the game, I’d noted that the schedule ratchets up in toughness, and this week it gets even tougher.
In this week’s opponent, Loudoun has won once in nine tries against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, scoring only five goals over that time. Things haven’t been pretty! But the Hounds are a veteran side, coached by a veteran coach in his 25th year of coaching pro soccer (Bob Lilley), who retools and reloads a roster most years with aplomb. Loudoun is 11th in this week’s USL Power Rankings, with this week’s opponent 6th and next week’s opponent (Louisville City) at the top. As far as tests go, Loudoun’s facing two big ones.
Key player: Whoever plays in Sami Guediri’s spot.
Want to know how impactful Sami Guediri’s been?
Extending a thought from last night, Sami Guediri is tied for the lead or outright leads Loudoun in:— Ryan Keefer (@reefa_k) March 27, 2022
-Tackles (& Tackles won)
-Duels (& Duels won)
And they won’t have him next week at Pittsburgh. Big test gets bigger
The season is still early but Guediri’s early first-half yellow for tossing a dead ball away (leading to an eventual second yellow) puts a big, impactful hole in the lineup. Whomever Ryan Martin puts there will dictate how Loudoun plays that spot, and makes Michael Gamble’s role a little tougher.
Location: Highmark Stadium (Pittsburgh, PA)
Kickoff time: 7:00 pm Eastern
Projected Loudoun starting 11/who D.C. United is loaning: At a minimum, Hayden Sargis, Jacob Greene, Jeremy Garay, and Kimarni Smith should be here; given the like for like nature of Guediri’s absence and D.C. being off next week, Gaoussou Samake would be in a great spot for a loan down but that doesn’t appear to be the case from what I hear. I’m at a loss to find out who goes in that spot; perhaps Carson Vom Steeg makes his debut, which turns Loudoun into a four-man backline, or they put a midfielder (maybe Michael Gamble) there for a more pragmatic left side, allowing Greene to run more. Jackson Hopkins gets back into the starting lineup after missing last week in easier decisions.
Starters: Luis Zamudio; Grant Lilliard, Sargis, Rio Hope-Gund (C); Gamble, Garay, Nicky Downs, Greene; Hopkins; Smith, Azaad Liadi
Bench: Andrew Hartman, Jace Clark, Carson Vom Steeg, Matai Akinmboni, Landry Houssou, Isaac Espinal, Tyler Freeman
Key Pittsburgh player/former D.C. players: Russell Cicerone
Robby Dambrot left Loudoun to be closer to home in Pittsburgh, joining former Loudoun teammate Shane Wiedt in Yinzville. Former D.C. player Dane Kelly signed with the team in the offseason and scored his 100th USL goal recently, and Rob Vincent is an Academy coach. Cicerone led the team last season in goals (16) and was second in assists (8), and is a wheelhouse of sorts for a loaded, fast team that will press and give Loudoun fits. Martin knows that weathering the first 15 minutes will help out a lot, and is aware of the weapons this club has, and should pay attention to Cicerone and Kenardo Forbes on the other end.
Referee: Austin Saini
Available streaming: ESPN+ (click to subscribe to ESPN+, and your friends at B&RU get a little bit of cash!)
What are you drinking?: I was able to grab a Aslin private barrel stout bottle, may be cracking that depending on how things go.
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