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ANALYSIS: Dos Santos signing points toward Hounds’ desire to be more productive in final third

Steevan Dos Santos scored 17 goals with Rochester Rhinos in two seasons. (photo courtesy Rochester Rhinos / Bent Musket)

ANALYSIS: Dos Santos signing points toward Hounds’ desire to be more productive in final third

Banking on another familiar face to head coach Bob Lilley, Riverhounds SC signed forward Steevan Dos Santos to a one-year contract with a club option for the 2020 season, pending USL Championship and USSF approval. on Tuesday.

Dos Santos, 29, who stands 6-foot-4 tall, spent the last two seasons with Ottawa Fury FC, where he was given the Fury FC Top Scorer Award during the 2017 campaign after posting 10 goals in league play to set a club record.  In addition, Dos Santos was productive under Lilley with the Rochester Rhinos in 2015 and 2016 — including helping lead the franchise to the 2015 Regular Season title and USL Cup.

“Steevan is a versatile target player who can help the team win games in many ways,” Lilley said. “He can score goals, set up goals and hold the ball in tight areas. His size allows him to be a factor on restarts at both ends, and his willingness to work for the team is exceptional.”

With Fury FC, the striker scored 15 goals in league play across two campaigns (2017-18). In both of these seasons, he either paced or tied for the team lead in tallies.

Dos Santos first began play at the USL Championship level with the Rhinos. In 2015, he helped the squad to its USL Cup championship, tying for the team lead with eight goals in 21 league appearances and totaling two additional tallies in three playoff matches. During the 2016 campaign, he finished with eight goals across 26 league appearances in addition to scoring three goals in two postseason games.

In his USL Championship playing career, Dos Santos has racked up 36 goals in 108 games played (including postseason) in four seasons.

Prior to playing in the United States, the Mindelo, Cape Verde native began his playing career in his home country with CS Mindelense, which he competed for from 2007-12. He then played in Norway for Ullensaker/Kisa IL for two seasons (2012-13) before being signed by Progresso, a club in Angola, for a short stint prior to joining Rochester in 2015.

WHAT DOES THIS ADDITION MEAN FOR THE HOUNDS?

With the subtractions of Romeo Parkes, Kay Banjo, Joe Holland and Christiano François among others – Lilley spoke with Pittsburgh Soccer Now in November and December about the need for the 2019 edition of the Riverhounds to be more efficient and productive in the final third.

Adding Dos Santos should be a good starting point toward the Hounds reaching this goal.

For one thing, Dos Santos, who goes by the nickname ‘Duba’, will look to build from solid chemistry he had with another former Rhino, and the Hounds current play maker in the center of the field, Kenardo Forbes.

“In 2014 in Rochester, we got back in playoffs in that first season, then we only kept nine players, but had a good core,” Lilley reflected, then pointed to his current group here in Pittsburgh that are returning. “This core here (in Pittsburgh) is better than what we brought back in Rochester. We had some fantastic additions to that core group, and everything fell into place that season.”

Two of those additions to the 2015 Rhinos included Dos Santos and Forbes. The latter’s now been with Lilley since that championship season. After two seasons, Dos Santos and Forbes will be reuniting again bringing something that the Riverhounds sorely need — Championship pedigree.

“Steevan is a competitive guy. He’s strong and he’s gonna take a lot of shots. Teams can’t handle him if they’re not trying to gain an edge by being physical with him. He knows that,” Lilley once said after Dos Santos returned to the Rochester line-up after serving a suspension. “It’s unfortunate in the recent [past], he’s gotten dragged in. When he’s on the field for us, we’re a more dangerous team offensively.”

Dos Santos will be a big physical presence, with deft skill up front the Hounds were lacking a bit in 2018 — and along with Neco Brett — currently provide the Hounds with a pair of forwards that are in there own ways — are clinical and effective in the box.

Actually, it looks more and more like the Hounds sold François, who they initially announced they were picking up his contract option in 2018, and in return have used that money to sign Dos Santos.

Lilley hinted that he was in the process of exploring all options to retool the roster in preparations for 2019, and in particular, finding players that will make the Hounds attack more efficient.

“In terms of when to go (forward), when to keep it, we were sporadic in terms of our choices. How we took care of ball.  That needs to be better. At this level, to be dominant for stretches, but not execute on the passing side, was disappointing.”

Taking a closer look beyond François’ four goals and five assists — along with his high energy, speed and exciting moments on the ball and getting into the final third creating chances, François may have been expendable in Lilley’s grand scheme.  As was Romeo Parkes, who Lilley had hoped would be the type of player that could be effective in the final third with his ability to get separation from defenders and be ultra dangerous in and around the box.

Both François and Parkes numbers were decent in 2018, but a closer look at the statistics may have shown that may have also come up a bit short in some key areas as far as Lilley was concerned to move forward with the Hounds.

Christiano Francois 2018: By The Numbers:

  • started 28 of 32 games played accumulating total 2,488 minutes
  • 4 Goals
  • 5 Assists
  • 43 shots
  • 22 shots on target
  • 77% passing accuracy
  • Forward passes (167), Backward passes (209)
  • Won 168 of 425 duels, won 29 of 95 aerial duels

Romeo Parkes 2018: By The Numbers:

  • 26 games played, 17 starts, 1,467 total minutes
  • 5 Goals
  • 0 Assists
  • 42 shots
  • 19 shots on target
  • 61% passing accuracy
  • Forward passes (138), Backward passes (95)
  • Won 129 of 292 duels, won 72 of 149 aerial duels

Neco Brett 2018: By The Numbers:

  • 34 games played, 25 starts, 2,327 total minutes
  • 15 Goals
  • 8 Assists
  • 68 shots
  • 3 shots on target
  • 66% passing accuracy
  • Forward passes (167), Backward passes (175)
  • Won 80 of 295 duels, won 27 of 168 aerial duels

Bottom line here is that the Hounds are looking for better production from players that are going to start anywhere between 25 and 32 games, that play more than 2,000 minutes. There’s no denying that François was an exciting player, that Parkes was dangerous in open spaces for Pittsburgh — and Brett returns as the team’s best finisher.  However, there are voids that Lilley is looking to fill. With the Dos Santos signing, and also with additional signings to come, the Hounds will develop a bit of a different look in 2019 — especially at the top of its formation.

Most glaringly, Dos Santos may help immediately in one key area where the Hounds are lacking — winning duels. Even with Brett, the Hounds are lacking a target man in the box who could win aerial duels in the box, and is good overall at winning battles for 50/50 balls.   Dos Santos numbers in this category are impressive. He won 292 total duels, 200 of them in the air last year. Brett, Parkes and Francois last year alone combined to win 128 total aerial duels.

Steevan Dos Santos 2018: By The Numbers:

  • 29 games played, 24 started, 2,107 total minutes
  • 5 Goals
  • 5 Assists
  • 41 shots
  • 19 shots on target
  • 59% passing accuracy
  • Forward passes (306), Backward passes (179)
  • Won 292 of 539 duels, won 200 of 341 aerial duels

Interestingly, Dos Santos passing accuracy wasn’t great in 2018 (59% compared to François’ 77%, Parkes’ 60% or Brett’s 66%), but in all other areas, the target forward fills the Hounds needs.  We’ve already outlined his prowess in duels and in the air, but you could also see that Dos Santos plays it forward a lot more than the other two (306 forward passes) — while only Parkes, under strict orders from Lilley last year to go forward as much as possible — was the only one of the Hounds from last year’s grouping here in this analysis that passed it forward more (138 forward, 95 backward).

There’s still room for at least one or two more forwards on the Hounds 2019 roster, but knowing how much Lilley values versatility, he could be looking for more speedy wingers that could also play at forward too. Dos Santos co-existed on the 2015 Rhinos with the likes of other attacking threats such as Jonny Mendoza, Christian Volesky and Forbes, so something tells me that Lilley will find a way to work everyone he brings into the mix.

With the addition of Dos Santos, the Hounds’ roster currently sits at 12 players heading into the 2019 campaign.

Roster breakdown for 2019 season

Forwards (2): Neco Brett, Steevan Dos Santos

Midfielders (5): Mouhamed Dabo, Kenardo Forbes, Noah Franke, Kevin Kerr, Thomas Vancaeyezeele

Defenders (4): Tobi Adewole, Jordan Dover, Joe Greenspan, Ryan James

Goalkeepers (1): Kyle Morton

John Krysinsky has covered soccer and other sports for many years for various publications and media outlets including Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, DK Pittsburgh Sports, Pittsburgh Sports Report, and more. Krysinsky also served as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach at his alma mater, Point Park University, where he led the Pioneers to the first-ever winning seasons and playoff berths (1996-98); head coach of North Catholic boys (2007-08), associate head coach of Shady Side Academy boys (2009-2014).

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