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Eastern Conf. Notes – Chin Happy to Give Hounds a Boost

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 08/10/18, 9:16AM EDT


Building momentum, North Carolina visits Rowdies; Friendly rivalry brewing between Atlanta, Charleston

Veteran forward Dennis Chin celebrates Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC's game-winner last Saturday against Toronto FC II. | Photo courtesy Nick Gates / Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC

PITTSBURGH, Pa. – Having been a member of two USL Cup-winning sides, veteran forward Dennis Chin has brought plenty of perspective to Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC this season as the side drives toward the best season in the club’s history.

Sitting in second place ahead of Sunday’s visit to Bethlehem Steel FC (5 p.m. ET | Match Center | ESPN+), the Hounds remain on course to host their first playoff game at Highmark Stadium after back-to-back victories last week saw the side rebound from its first real downturn of the season.

“To win championships, you need consistency,” said Chin. “Some games are not going to go your way, but as long as the performance is great, then you can look forward to the next game and say that won’t happen again.”

The 2012 USL Golden Boot winner for Orlando City SC, Chin hasn’t had a big role to play so far this season for the Hounds, but he made his presence felt last Saturday night as he began the move that resulted in Neco Brett’s 11th goal of the season which proved the winner in a 1-0 victory against a stubborn Toronto FC II side. Making just his third appearance of the season, Chin was pleased to be able to help the Hounds get over the line.

“It was good,” said Chin, who has recorded 31 goals in the USL across the regular season and postseason over his career. “We train every day, so when you’re called upon you can make an impact in the game and help us win. I was fortunate to come in the game, and it was made for my attributes.”

Brett claimed the accolades for his winner, which gave him three goals over the Hounds’ two Week 21 victories and USL Player of the Week honors on Tuesday. With Bethlehem coming in on a three-game winning streak as it fights for a place in the postseason, though, the Jamaican forward believes the Hounds will have to fight hard to get a result on the road against its Keystone state rival.

“Bethlehem scores a lot of goals,” said Brett. “We’re just trying to stay compact, trying to give them fewer chances. They’re good with the ball. Trying to get that pressure on the ball and hopefully everything else will take care of itself.”

NCFC READY FOR ROWDIES REMATCH: With the teams last having squared off on the opening weekend of the season, there’s plenty that’s different for North Carolina FC and the Tampa Bay Rowdies as they meet at Al Lang Stadium on Saturday night (7:30 p.m. ET | Match Center | ESPN+).

With both teams sitting four points back of the playoff positions in the Eastern Conference as the final stretch of the season arrives, though, it’s a game that both sides are going to be under pressure to win.

“Obviously, it’s a tough environment going down to Tampa,” said North Carolina midfielder Steven Miller. “But it’s a crucial game because they’re right around us in the table. So, it’s a huge game and I’m looking forward to it.”

North Carolina FC and the Tampa Bay Rowdies square off for the second time this season on Saturday night at Al Lang Stadium. | Photo courtesy Rob Kinnan / North Carolina FC

With the side on a five-game undefeated streak, the third-longest currently in the Eastern Conference, North Carolina has been in good form over the past month as the race for the postseason intensifies. The side took seven points from a three-game homestand that concluded last Saturday night with a 0-0 draw against Southern Derby rivals the Charleston Battery and will look to carry that positive momentum into a three-game road trip that also includes games at Indy Eleven and the New York Red Bulls II, two sides NCFC needs to gain ground on in the Eastern standings.

With the Rowdies having claimed a 3-1 victory at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park back in March, the focus for Head Coach Colin Clarke’s side is firmly on getting some payback against its longstanding rival.

“It won’t be anything like the first game, but obviously we have it in the back of our minds that they beat us here at our place,” said NCFC defender Michael Harrington. “So, hopefully we can return the favor.”

FRIENDLY FIRE: With Atlanta United FC and the Charleston Battery having held a partnership a season ago before the establishment of ATL UTD 2 this season, there’s proving to be a good atmosphere around the meetings between the two sides as they prepare to meet for the second time this Saturday at MUSC Health Stadium (7 p.m. ET | Match Center | ESPN+). 

Among those two have played for both sides is U.S. U20 international Lagos Kunga, who appeared on loan for the Battery a season ago before becoming one of the established figures in ATL UTD 2’s lineup this season. The 19-year-old, who has recorded a goal and two assists in his 18 appearance this year, is looking forward to returning to Charleston to face off against plenty of familiar faces. 

ATL UTD 2's Lagos Kunga is looking forward to returning to MUSC Health Stadium on Saturday after competing on loan for the Charleston Battery in 2017. | Photo courtesy Karl L. Moore / ATL UTD 2

“We have a friendly connection between us and them,” said Kunga. “There is a lot of love and what not, but they are a very good team. We shouldn’t take them lightly at all. We are going to come out ready to fight from the first whistle.”

While ATL UTD 2 has become home for Kunga and the likes of Andrew Carleton and Chris Goslin – both of whom have seen time in a Battery uniform – Charleston has benefited from the pair of players it acquired on loan from Atlanta this season, in particular forward Gordon Wild. The former Maryland standout has six goals this season and struck twice when the Battery took a 3-0 win at Coolray Field in a contest that saw ATL UTD 2 hold 75 percent of possession but get caught by Charleston’s ruthless counterattack as the hosts failed to find a breakthrough.

“It’s always frustrating when it’s one of those games where you have all of the possession, but you just can’t get a goal,” said Kunga. “It’s frustrating, but I don’t think we are going to change how we play. We are going to play our game, keep the ball and find ways to score. We are a better team now then we were then, so we will be ready to go at it.”

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