Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Eased Squad Enters Playoffs

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Eased Squad Enters Playoffs

Article excerpt

When the Riverhounds qualified for the playoffs with a 2-1 win a week ago at Harrisburg in the final game of the regular season, there was just one word the team used to describe the feeling - relief.

The Riverhounds had struggled with consistency all season, blowing multiple late leads and enduring various injuries and suspensions at key moments. But a gritty mentality in the final month of the season pushed them back into the postseason after a one-year absence. The No. 5-seeded Riverhounds will look for their first postseason win since 2004 as they take on the No. 4 New York Red Bulls II at 5 p.m. today at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J.

The winner will move on to face the No. 1 Rochester Rhinos.

"That grinding and battling late in the game is the sign of a championship team," Riverhounds coach Mark Steffens said. "We think we can make a run at this."

Since the club started in 1999, the Riverhounds have made the playoffs seven times but only have made it out of the first round in three of those seasons. They have never won a league championship. This is New York's inaugural season in the United Soccer League (USL) as a reserve side to the Major League Soccer (MLS) team.

In 2013, Orlando City SC knocked out the Riverhounds, 5-0, in the first round. But midfielder and leading scorer Rob Vincent said none of the players are comparing the past to present.

"The squad changes so much, I mean, there's only probably five or six survivors of that 2013 team anyway," said Vincent, one of the holdovers. "I don't think that's really going to play on their mind too much."

But the players are judging their meetings against New York this season to prepare for their first playoff game. The Riverhounds lost, 3-2, at New York May 3 on a stoppage-time goal but won, 3-0, July 4 at home. Steffens said the main difference was New York fielded more MLS players at Red Bull Arena then on the road, so he expects more of those first-team players to make an appearance this time around as well. …

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