Some people like surprises. They like things big, loud, and unexpected. They like roulette wheels and roller coasters and that thing in the box behind door number three. At the farthest opposite end of that pendulum are folks that prefer the dependable things in life. Old, worn, comfortable slippers. A vintage Ford F-150 pickup truck. The barber you’ve been going to since 1978.
Hounds fans should add Kenardo Forbes to that list. Few things are as consistent and reliable, game-in and game-out, as the Jamaican-born midfielder with the silky-smooth passing stroke.
Forbes came to the USL in 2015, shortly after playing six seasons in the Major Arena Soccer League. And in each of his four USL seasons, Forbes produced virtually the exact same numbers as a central midfielder under Bob Lilley; first in Rochester, and then this past season in Pittsburgh.
30 games played, 3 goals, 9 assists in 2015.
32 games played, 3 goals, 4 assists in 2016.
30 games played, 3 goals, 6 assists in 2017.
33 games played, 4 goals, 8 assists in 2018.
Kenardo explains his metronome-like regularity to hard work and preparation. He told me “The key is just to be a student of the game. You always learn, and you always watch tape on your opponent. It’s very simple for me as an older guy to know the tendency of my teammates, know where they want the ball. I’m the guy to put it at their feet inside the box.”
Forbes is remarkably reliable at supplying those balls at the feet of his teammates at just the right moment. He led the Riverhounds in Chances Created – a stat measuring how often a player supplies a pass that results in a quality shot – in 2018, just as he led the Rochester Rhinos in Chances Created in 2017. In any situation and under any pressure, he can find an opening for a pass.
Some of that calm under pressure comes from years honing his craft in the smaller confines of an Arena soccer field. While your standard soccer field measures 110 meters long and 70 meters wide, Arena soccer is played inside a hockey rink-sized field that measures just 61 meters long and 26 meters wide. In addition, the harder floor and short synthetic turf makes the ball roll faster and bounce harder. Those elements helped Forbes to develop his skills.
Kenardo explains, “Indoor, it’s much tighter, you have to think a lot quicker. Indoor helped me a lot to keep calm on the ball; to think quick under pressure.”
Hounds Coach Bob Lilley knew what a dependable and talented footballer he had in Forbes, and made sure that Kenardo came with him from Rochester after the team was put on hiatus at the conclusion of the 2017 season. Forbes joined more than a few of Bob Lilley’s Rochester players: Raymond Lee, Jordan Dover, Christiano François, Todd Pratzner, Kyle Morton, and Dan Lynd; in coming to Pittsburgh. The emigres are affectionately referred to by Hounds fans as ‘Rhinohounds’.
Fellow Rhinohound Jordan Dover knows how that reliability works inside game situations. Kenardo’s consistency is that he brings a calm to the middle of the field. Kenardo is also someone you can pass the ball to, anywhere, and anytime, and know that he’ll be able to maintain possession – a huge asset for any soccer team.
Dover said, “Kenny’s a great player. He came a little late to preseason. When he came in, you could see he adds a different element to the game. He just slows the game down. You know you can give him the ball in any situation and he’ll be able to slow the game down and get the ball out of pressure. He’s a great player to have in that position and he’s a great leader as well.”
Coach Lilley knew that Kenardo would be a key player for his team in 2018 if he wanted to succeed.
Lilley told me “He’s one of our best players. He has a confidence. Guys trust him. Generally when he’s on the field, things go through him. He gets everyone involved. He’s one of those players that makes everyone around him better.”
Coach Bob knew that Forbes could turn in the exact same performances with Pittsburgh as he had in Rochester.
“There’s not a lot of guys that can do that all the time and as consistently as he does. For possession when he and Ben are playing well and making good decisions, they can run the game, and it doesn’t matter who they play. I love his experience. He knows what needs to happen.”
Forbes, meanwhile, gives a lot of credit to his coach for a significant amount of that consistent consistent success.
Kenardo quipped nonchalantly “Normally, with Bob these couple of years, we’re always in the playoffs.”
With the intensity ratcheting up going into the playoffs, is there a possibility that Forbes and the Riverhounds will wilt under the pressure? Not likely, says Forbes. “It’s not pressure. It’s a challenge. We can control what we can control. We can control our effort and how we approach the game. We know what type of team we are, we know our identity.”
Coach Lilley would go even further: he thinks Kenardo Forbes is at his best in big game situations.
“In the bigger games, Louisville, and Cincinnati, it’s pretty obvious he looks like the best player on the field. It takes a lot of guys, obviously, but a lot of times, Kenardo is pulling those strings. I have great confidence in him, and I think the players do too. You have Kenardo on your team, and he can dictate what’s going on.”
So, others can have their unpredictable rookie phenoms and your flash-in-the-pan signings. The Hounds have got Kenardo Forbes, a midfielder as reliable as they come, and one they hope they can rely on all the way to winning the cup.