Scoring leader John leaves struggling Riverhounds

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Mathematically, the Riverhounds are not yet eliminated from USL Pro playoff contention.

Realistically, though, it would take a minor miracle for them to climb back into the race.

And, to make things even tougher, they will be playing the final 10 games without one of their leading scorers.

The club granted forward Collins John his release Wednesday, ahead of the Riverhounds' game at 7 p.m. today against Charlotte at Highmark Stadium.

John is tied for the team lead with four goals this season, but hadn't scored since June 1 against Harrisburg and had seen his role diminish since Niko Katic took over as interim coach in May.

In a statement released by the team, John, who is Dutch, cited a desire to move back to Europe with his young family as the reason for the split.

"He's been a great professional since joining the club and has offered tremendous support for our players as an individual who has played at the highest levels of the game," Riverhounds CEO Jason Kutney said in a statement. "I know I speak for the club when I wish he and his family well back in Europe."

In John's absence, Katic pointed to forwards Jose Angulo -- who also has four goals this year -- Jhonny Arteaga, Jason Johnson and Miroslav Cabrilo as the Riverhounds' best scoring options.

"We all need to step up," Katic said in an interview on the team's website. "Not just Jose, not just Jhonny, not just J.J. and Miro. We all have to step up to push for that playoff run."

Unfortunately for Katic, those playoff hopes might have taken the final nail to the coffin Saturday with a 2-0 loss to Oklahoma City.

A win would've put the Riverhounds just two points out of the final playoff spot. Instead, they're seven points back and the Energy, which holds the final playoff spot, has two games in hand on the Riverhounds.

Tonight, the Riverhounds will try to take advantage of a Charlotte team that hasn't won in three matches and is clinging to faint playoff hopes itself.

"[They're a] very disciplined team, very organized team," Katic said. "They move the ball very well."

Specifically, Katic points to Colombian midfielder Jorge Herrera as the spark plug for the Eagles' attack. He leads the team with five goals on 27 shots this season.

"We have to bring our 'A' game, otherwise it won't be good enough for us," Katic said. "But I do believe in our boys. If we do bring our 'A' game, we can do what we want."

Sam Werner: and Twitter @SWernerPG.

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