The 2018 campaign began for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds as the club kicked off its 19th season after an eventful off season with training sessions on Monday.
Now this weekend, they’ll play in back-to-back friendlies against college teams Spring Arbor University (3 p.m. Saturday) and Cleveland State University (2 p.m. Sunday).
The club’s new coach is Bob Lilley, a highly successful and veteran pro soccer coach who has won multiple championships, and has now set his sights on bringing a consistent winning soccer team to Pittsburgh.
Lilley has been methodically building the core of the Hounds roster since being brought in to replace Dave Brandt in mid-November, after the latter was let go due to not meeting U.S. Soccer Federation’s requirement for having an “A” coaching license.
Lilley and his staff, which includes Mark Pulisic and holdovers from the previous staff, Dan Vissar and goalkeeping coach Hunter Gilstrap, have already been putting their stamp on things.
“They’re getting used to me and they’re getting used to each other,” Lilley said after the team’s first training. “The demands and the urgency we put on them will be a little bit of an adjustment, but for the first day we’re happy.”
Part of what will help with that transition will be the number of players that Lilley has brought with him from his last club, the Rochester Rhinos. Those players will bring a familiarity with Lilley and his style and that will help the other members of the squad to find their footing in a changed style for the Riverhounds.
“You know what to expect,” said former Rhinos and Pitt Panthers’ goalkeeper Dan Lynd. “You have a clear idea what [Lilley] wants and how he wants to play, so I feel like some of the Rochester guys will be able to help out the rest of the group so we’re all on the same page.”
The Hounds begin formal training sessions this week with 13 players under contract and an additional 17 invitees.
Lilley has formed his core group of signed players (see below) including re-signing the team’s captain the past two years, Kevin Kerr, along with bringing in a number of players from his most recent Rochester Rhinos squad, including last year’s Rhinos team captain and a previous All-USL selection Kenardo Forbes.
Here’s the current list of all signed Hounds players:
- Forwards (2): Kay Banjo, Romeo Parkes
- Midfielders (4): Ben Fitzpatrick, Kenardo Forbes, Christiano François, Kevin Kerr
- Defenders (4): Tobi Adewole, Jordan Dover, Joe Greenspan, Raymond Lee
- Goalkeepers (3): Mike Kirk, Dan Lynd, Kyle Morton
The next six weeks will provide for some intense competition in camp as Lilley and his staff will look to sign at least another seven or eight players.
ABOUT THOSE INVITEES
Unlike years past, the Hounds have released a full list of invitees that will be joining the signed players.
Included on this list are a few recent former Hounds (midfielder Stephen Okai, outside back Ritchie Duffie) and former Robert Morris University standout Neco Brett, a forward, who most recently played with Portland Timbers 2, after being selected in MLS SuperDraft by the Timbers.
English central midfielder Joe Holland, who made five appearances with MLS Houston Dynamo and 12 more with its USL affiliate Rio Grande after being selected in the 2017 SuperDraft.
But lets not get too far ahead of ourselves here. First things first. There are 17 players who are battling to win a contract — and a chance to represent the black and gold and wear the eagerly anticipated new Hounds crest.
Here’s the full list of invitees with some quick notes on each:
Neco Brett – former RMU standout, the Jamaican forward played for Portland Timbers 2 the past two years, earning 26 starts and scored seven goals, but none in 2017.
Mouhamed Dabo – from Senegal, Dabo spent the past two years playing significant minutes in Harrisburg City Islanders’ midfield — earning 40 starts. Dabo is a central MF, but he didn’t produce any goals or assists.
Guillermo Delgado – a forward from Spain, Delgado was drafted by Chicago Fire in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft, but was never signed after an outstanding career at the University of Delaware.
Ritchie Duffie – played both outside midfield and right back with the Hounds in 2017, and after not renewing his contract in the off season, the club is bringing Duffie back to win a spot on the roster. Had some decent moments (assist in his first start on Corey Hertzog goal in 1-0 win at Ottawa), but also struggled at times against some of USL’s quality wingers in his first season as a pro.
Phil Fives – here’s the lone player from Pittsburgh in camp — Fives, a defender, had an outstanding career at Indiana University and is looking to earn his first pro contract.
Bakie Goodman – like Delgado, Goodman was a 2017 SuperDraft selection who didn’t earn a contract with the team that took him, Seattle Sounders, but he played instead in 2017 with Detroit City FC of NPSL, where he scored twice and had five assists.
Malcolm Harris – listed as a midfielder and Damascus, Maryland native, the versatile Harris was a teammate of current Hound Banjo at UMBC, where he was team captain and moved back to left back in his senior season, earning AAMC Defensive Player of the Year honors.
Joe Holland – who made five appearances with MLS Houston Dynamo and 12 more with its USL affiliate Rio Grande after being selected in the 2017 SuperDraft, may be in the mold of the type of central midfielder Lilley would like to add.
Sean McFarlane – 24-year old Jamaican is a workhorse defender who played his first pro season in 2017 starting 29 games for the Colorado Springs Switchbacks, scoring twice on corner kicks — and also contributed 115 clearances, 12 blocks and 45 interceptions.
Skyler Milne – coming in at 6-foot-4, 212 pounds, Milne is only rivaled in size by the Hounds last signing, Joe Greenspan. The Utah Valley University product made eight appearances with Real Monarchs in his first season as a pro in 2017.
Stephen Okai – after three seasons as a steady contributor but not as a scorer (only two goals) in the central midfield for the Hounds, making 69 appearances in this span, the native of Ghana will have to earn his roster spot in the preseason for a position that the Hounds have not entirely locked up — central midfield.
Christian Ramos – on the Hounds original list of the trialists — Ramos was mistakenly identified as the Peruvian center back that scored in Peru’s World Cup qualifying win over New Zealand. We’ve since learned this Christian Ramos hails from Argentina.
Darlo Suárez – not sure if we’ve ever had a player from Cuba play for any Pittsburgh pro sports teams (a question maybe for DK Pittsburgh Sports contributor Jerry Wolper), but the 25-year old forward defected from Cuba when playing for his National Team during the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup. He played in 2016 for AFC Ann Arbor in the NPSL.
Mélé Temguia – a German-Canadian defender, Temguia made 22 appearances with USL FC Montreal in 2016, and then only one appearance with FC Cincinnati in 2017.
Andre Thomas – another German-born product — and another forward who played collegiately at Virginia Tech — didn’t play professionally in 2017.
Nicholas Walker – the Trinidadian was loaned in 2014 from FC Dallas to Puerto Rican club Bayamón FC where he played in the CONCACAF Champions League games. Selected in the third round (43rd overall) of the 2014 MLS SuperDraft, Walker logged 405 minutes with the FC Dallas Reserves in his only pro season. The 6-3 native of Trinidad and Tobago also started and played 70 minutes in a friendly against Barclays Premier League side, Aston Villa.
Javaun Waugh – joins a few other Jamaican natives in camp with the Hounds, Waugh is a 22-year old defender who had served as the captain of the “Young Reggae Boyz’ — U20 Jamaican national team.