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Pittsburgh Riverhounds

Analysis and Player Grades: Crosses! Crosses! Crosses!

It was quite the wild finish down at the confluence of the Monongahela, Ohio and Allegheny rivers, kids. Pittsburgh was down 1-0 after a fantastic opening goal from Cameron Lancaster in the first half. A long-pass and counter-attack caught the Hounds napping in the 70th minute to put Louisville City up 2-0, and it looked like the Hounds were toast. But a Louisville City own-goal from a Joe Holland cross, followed by a PK drawn by Neco Brett and finished by Kenardo Forbes allowed Riverhounds SC to squeak out of Highmark Stadium with a point to keep them ahead of Louisville City in the USL Eastern Conference standings.

The exciting finish had me pumped as a fan, and my 7-year-old was equally jazzed (it was his first game!) But upon further inspection, the Riverhounds approach to this game was not something to be proud of. After falling behind, Bob Lilley’s boys resorted to crosses, crosses, and more crosses in an effort to claw their way back into the game. That’s not a bad idea if you’ve got a team built for that kind of game. However the Riverhounds front two aren’t necessarily towering behemoths meant to slam in power-headers – Romeo Parkes is 5’9″ and Neco Brett stands just 5’8″. That didn’t stop Pittsburgh from lofting up 42 crosses in this match. That’s far from historic – Manchester United once spit out 82 crosses in a game against Fulham. But it’s a lot – especially compared to Louisville City, who had just 8.

It also supposes that either your team is best suited to scoring off of crosses, or the opponent is letting you do it. It seems the latter was the case on this night. Louisville conceded the wings and stayed compact while not pushing numbers into the attack, and so the Hounds took what was given to them. Is that Lilley’s fault for taking the bait and playing dull football? Is that the players’ faults for not executing on Lilley’s plan better? I dunno. I will say that it wasn’t inspired football, and it won’t be the kind of thing that gets the black and yellow through the meat-grinder that is the USL playoffs if they do it every game.

Still. Even though it wasn’t the Hounds best night – as a number of players were a little below-average – they still picked up a point against one of the best clubs in the Eastern Conference. There’s no doubt that at this point in the season and with this level of success, Hounds fans like me who are griping about 2-2 draws sound a little entitled. Ask me if I’d rather switch teams and be a Richmond Kickers fan.

Player Grades

Dan Lynd – Dan had just one save on the night, and it was spectacular.

He conceded two goals, but neither was really save-able.

Grade: 7.5

Joe Greenspan – Ensign Joe most notably got turned inside out for goal at 70’ by Alexis Souahy, but I’m not entirely sure he’s at fault. The rest of the backline seemed out of position and late to return , specifically Tobi Adewale. The midfield also was nowhere to be found. On the night, he was effective at kicking and heading out the frequent longballs LouCity used after they got the lead to keep the pressure up – he ended the evening with a team-high 8 clearances. Not a great night for Joe, not a catastrophe either.

Grade: 6

Thomas Vancaeyezeele – Tommy seemed a little absent on the night. I’ll be honest – I think he’s too dynamic a player and passer to be stuck as one of the back 3 in this formation. I’d rather he was the deep midfielder, since I think it lets him accentuate his best skills of ball control and passing and intercepting. Tommy’s 1 tackle, 3 clearances, and 1 blocked shot were helpful but not consequential, and on the offense end he was a non-factor.

Grade: 6

Tobi Adewole – The eternal conundrum of defender player-grades is how to rate the guy that has to stop everything, and nearly does, except for the two times he conceded a goal. Tobi led the team in defensive actions with 11 – he had 1 tackle, 7 clearances, 1 block, 2 and interceptions. That tells you that Tobi was busy and hardworking, and that Louisville ran a lot of the attack down their right side and right at the George Washington University alum (#RaiseHigh). However, Tobi got beasted on Cameron Lancaster’s first goal, as the USL Golden Boot leader bodied Tobi to win the ball, then turned, volleyed, and scored on him. And then it was Tobi again who probably should have been deeper at 70′ to contest the ball that became Louisville goal number two. In short, despite all the times Tobi denied the opposition and made the play, defenders need to be perfect, especially when the offense isn’t clicking. Tobi wasn’t.

Grade: 5

Jordan Dover – Dover, the right back, had 3 clearances and was 0/3 crosses, but his passing in the opponents half was a very good 61%. He was fine.

Grade: 6

Ray Lee – Lee had 0 tackles, 3 clearances, and went 0/5 on his crosses. He attempted 38 passes but connected just 24 of them. Not great, Ray.

Grade: 5

Kenardo Forbes – Forgive me, I’m new here, so this might sound naive or ignorant. But Forbes is emerging as the ‘straw that stirs the drink’ for the Riverhounds this year. When he has a good game, the team has a good game. I think at season’s start, the assumption was that Old Man Kerr would be the metronome for this ballclub. But it turns out it’s actually Forbes. He led the team in passes attempted and connected, as he was 56/73 on passes. That included a stellar 66% pass rate in the opponents half – quite high for a central midfielder. Kenardo had 2 chances created and 4 shots, and of course put away the PK for the game-winner. If it WASN’T a cross, Forbes was probably involved in it.

Grade: 8

Ben Zemanski – Ben had 2 chances created, and also was 3/11 on crosses. He pumped in a lot of balls and connected at roughly the rate you’d expect. He executed the game plan as directed, even if that game plan was boring.

Grade: 6.5

Mohamed Dabo – Dabo had 4 tackles and 2 interceptions – these are typical numbers for a defensive midfielder. He wasn’t there for the second goal the hounds conceded, and in the attack he was generally too deep to have an impact – he relayed the ball upfield dutifully on short passes, but he wasn’t slicing through-balls to break lines or anything. Meh.

Grade: 6.5

Neco Brett – He was pretty good, with 2 chances created and 4 shots, 2 of which were on target. Here’s one of those.

Brett also drew the foul at 90’ and turned into the game-winning PK – he knew his man was all over his back, so turning and slowing the ball to draw the contact was either a happy accident or an absolute strock of genius. Still – 42 crosses into the box and Brett had just the one header you see up above. Argh.

Grade: 6

Romeo Parkes – Parkes was very involved and effective in the attack, creating 4 chances on the night; in the soccer world, that is a whole heckuva-lot. He took 5 shots but put only 1 on target, and his 1/6 on crosses leaves something to be desired, although that’s him in the video above crossing to Brett on what SHOULD have been an assist.

Grade: 7

Joe Holland (sub) – He came on in the 80th minute, and then Joe did everything he could on the dribble to shake his man, then cross, to create the goal at 85’. Come on late, change the game, get a goal. Well done, Joe.

Grade: 8

Kay Banjo (sub) – Came on at 79′ and had a shot, off target

Grade: 6

Christiano Francois – Came on at 61′ for Ben Zemanski, and hit a long bomb of a shot, wide.

Grade: 6


Mark Asher Goodman is a writer for Pittsburgh Soccer Now, covering the Riverhounds, the Pitt Men's and Women's teams, and youth soccer. He also co-hosts a podcast on the Colorado Rapids called 'Holding the High Line with Rabbi and Red.' He has written in the past for the Washington Post, Denver Post, The Athletic, and American Soccer Analysis. When he's not reading, writing, watching, or coaching soccer, he is an actual rabbi. No, really. You can find him on twitter at @soccer_rabbi

PItt MF Michael Sullivan

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