Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC hits the road today, April 25, facing off against the Maryland Bobcats FC of Montgomery County (which borders Washington, D.C.) as the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup continues. The tournament, which runs periodically from the middle of March to the end of September every year, gives teams from all five tiers of professional soccer in the United States (as well as some amateur clubs who perform well enough to qualify) a chance to face off against one another, proving who the best team in the country is.
Of course, Major League Soccer tends to dominate the competition from its spot at the top of the pecking order (the lone team from a lower tier to win the championship since MLS’ inception in 1996 is the now-defunct Rochester Rhinos, who won it all in 1999), but anything is possible: the wildly dramatic odds make for some stunning upsets when they do happen, and excellent chances to win big for the wary bettor.
As of right now, the Riverhounds are listed as an overwhelming favorite, as high as -450 at BetMGM Sportsbook. Be sure to use a BetMGM bonus code if you want to bet on the Riverhounds, the Bobcats, or any other sporting event this season to lock in your best possible chances of winning big.
That discrepancy makes sense, as the Riverhounds (who play in the USL Championship) slot in ahead of the Bobcats, who play in the National Independent Soccer Association, one of the three leagues in the third tier of American professional soccer. The teams faced off in the second round of the U.S. Open Cup last year, with the Riverhounds winning 2-0 on the road.
Here’s a look at how the two teams match up, how they’ve fared so far in their respective seasons, and whether the Bobcats (+875) have any chance of pulling off the overwhelming upset.
Pittsburgh Riverhounds, A Snapshot
With a 2-2-3 record and a total of nine points (out of a potential 21 in seven games) Riverhounds currently sit in fifth place out of 12 teams in the Eastern Conference this season. Their defense is excellent, allowing an average of less than one goal per game, tied for the best margin in their conference.
The trouble, however, is an anemic offense. They’re only scoring one goal per game, losing in two shutouts and playing to a pair of 0-0 draws. Forward Albert Dikwa, who originally hails from Cameroon, has been the sole source of offense for the Hounds this season: the 25 year old has four goals so far this year, one more than the rest of the team does combined. Luckily for Pittsburgh, they have a smothering defense, allowing just 12 shots on goal in seven games this season.
Their goal keepers have been adequate enough, letting shots in at a 50% clip (along with a perfect 1-for-1 margin on penalty shot attempts): far from world beaters, but when they’re sitting there with nothing to do but pick at the grass for much of the game, they haven’t faced a true challenge yet.
While the Riverhounds were supposed to open their U.S. Open Cup run during the second round on April 5, they didn’t actually play in a game. Instead, they advanced via forfeit after Rochester ceased operations earlier this year. Higher seeded leagues get to begin their championship run later in the tournament (the First Round consists solely of amateur teams), and MLS teams begin playing during this, the Third Round. Because of this, we haven’t had a chance to see how the Riverhounds stack up against lower-seeded teams.
Maryland Bobcats FC, A Snapshot
While it’s a small sample size, one stat favors the Bobcats early: the Riverhounds have only managed to win one game away from home this season, going 1-2-2 on the road to start the year. Of course, they haven’t managed much better in Pittsburgh, going 1-0-1. The Bobcats, on the other hand, have themselves near the top of the NISA with a perfect 2-0-0 record.
They’ve shown an affinity for winning close games, claiming their season opener against Flower City Union 1-0 before advancing through the Second Round of the U.S. Open Cup with a thrilling 3-2 win, where Phillip Brown scored the game winner at the end of extra time. That they needed extra time against a USL League 2 team doesn’t exactly make one feel good about their chances of upsetting the Riverhounds, but Pittsburgh has had enough trouble finding their rhythm to start the season that the Bobcats have a chance of pouncing on them before they figure things out.