The schedule makers weren’t exactly kind to the Riverhounds in the early portion of the season.
Three of their first four games were away from Highmark Stadium. One of those was against the defending USL Pro champions and two were against Richmond, last year’s regular-season champs.
Throw in a wild 4-3 home defeat against Wilmington, as well as the added chaos of players shuttling back and forth from the Houston Dynamo as part of a new loan agreement, and the first month of the season has been, according to coach Justin Evans, “tumultuous.”
Evans and the Riverhounds (0-2-2) are hoping that the tumult ends tonight with their first win of the season against Charleston (0-1-3), which is also looking for its first victory of 2014.
“If you walk into the locker room at training, you wouldn’t know that we haven’t won any games yet,” Evans said. “Guys are still upbeat, they’ve got a good spirit for the game. It’s just going to be getting that first win.”
Evans made some tactical changes in the Riverhounds’ most recent game, a 2-2 draw last week against Richmond. He put out a more midfield-heavy lineup to try to be more aggressive against the Kickers, and said he liked the results. Tonight’s lineup likely will look similar.
“The goal was to shake things up and get a result,” Evans said. “Change the system, change the formation. We wanted to play to our strength, which is that we’ve got a good midfield.”
The one difference tonight will be who’s at the top of the formation. The Riverhounds will be without forwards Jose Angulo (death in the family), Jhonny Arteaga (injury) and Collins John (suspension).
Jason Johnson, a Dynamo player on loan who started for the Riverhounds against Richmond, likely will get the start alongside Joseph Ngwenya, a midfielder whom Evans said was also comfortable playing up front.
“He sees the game a lot differently than a lot of players do,” Evans said of Ngwenya. “He brings a lot of poise to our attack.”
While the Riverhounds sit in second-to-last place in USL Pro, they are seventh in goals scored. The trick now will be turning those goals into wins.
Evans was optimistic that a return home — the next three games will be at Highmark Stadium — could help settle things down after the rocky beginning to the campaign.
“It hasn’t been an easy start, but no games are going to be easy,” Evans said. “We’re definitely happy to come home to Highmark Stadium. We need to start getting points at home.”
Sam Werner: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @SWernerPG.