Sellout expected for Riverhounds home opener

RIVERHOUNDS

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The Riverhounds already have been a part of two home openers this season, but they finally will get to enjoy theirs tonight at Highmark Stadium in Station Square.

They will play the Wilmington Hammerheads in their first home game of the 2014 USL Pro season.

"We're definitely excited to bring it home to Highmark Stadium," Riverhounds coach Justin Evans said. "It's going to be a nice night, sellout crowd. The boys are ready and excited to go."

Evans and the Riverhounds (0-1-1) are hoping that a return home also will bring them their first win of the young season.

After opening with a hard-fought 1-1 draw against defending league champions Orlando City -- a game the Riverhounds easily could've won -- they dropped a 3-1 decision a week ago to Richmond, the team with the best regular season record in 2013.

The Riverhounds trailed Richmond, 2-0, late in the game, but scored once and were threatening to tie when the Kickers netted an insurance goal.

"What we did wrong was we just didn't come out with any fire in the Richmond game, we came out flat," Evans said.

"We've shown a good bit of character so far, we've shown a good bit of fight, which is good. It's taken just a little bit of time still to jell together."

The Riverhounds will play their second game without starting goalkeeper Hunter Gilstrap, who fractured a cheekbone against Orlando City. Gregory Blum will get his second start of the season, and Evans said Gilstrap likely will be out 2 to 4 more weeks.

The Riverhounds roster has been bolstered this season by their new affiliation with the Major League Soccer Houston Dynamo, who will send players to Pittsburgh on a loan basis. Evans said the players from Houston came in later than he would have liked, but overall he's pleased with their contributions.

Defender Anthony Arena played all 90 minutes of both games so far, but returned to Houston for a game this week. Forward Jason Johnson also has played in both games, and defender Brian Ownby -- who saw his first action as a substitute against Richmond -- likely will get his first start tonight.

"Absolutely no complaints," Evans said about the Houston affiliation. "We know there's a possibility that players will go up and down, but at this point, I think the players that they've sent down have added to our team, for sure."

The Riverhounds also will have to open the home season with the specter of the recent bankruptcy declaration hanging over their heads. The ownership group announced that it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy March 27, but Evans said that hasn't had much effect on the day-to-day operations of the team.

"Obviously it's going to play a part in things because guys are going to be out in the community and people are going to say, 'Oh you're the 'Hounds, you're bankrupt,' and all that," he said. "But it's business as usual for us on the field.

"Once we get our first win here, then I think we'll be rolling."

Sam Werner: swerner@post-gazette.com and Twitter @SWernerPG.


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