A year ago, when the preseason began, many eyes were on Riverhounds SC head coach Bob Lilley as we watched closely to see how he went about the business of building a winning soccer team.
In 2018 preseason, we had our crash course in Lilleyball.
In year two of the Lilley era in Pittsburgh, we’re starting to see the Hounds are clearly looking to do bigger and better things, as Lilley said in Friday’s media day festivities. With that in mind, this year’s preseason is starting to feel as if the Hounds are taking an even more businesslike approach, especially for Lilley, the returning and newly signed players.
After one week of training along with two preseason scrimmages against college teams that could barely put together 11-man squads, the Hounds did what they needed to do, beating Cleveland State 1-0 on Friday, then rolling past Gannon University 6-0 on Sunday.
“We were a little bit more settled today than Friday,” head coach Bob Lilley said after Sunday’s scrimmage. “We had a few more contract guys playing. We played 12 today and Friday night we only played six – that helped. We’re trying to give a lot of minutes to the trialists, and I thought some of them showed reasonably well over the two games.”
The Hounds used a variety of lineup combinations on Friday and Sunday, showing mostly a 4-4-2, but also three in the back at times too, providing plenty of players to build match fitness, develop cohesion and chemistry in 180 minutes of soccer.
The only moment of concern over the weekend came when Hounds veteran defender and 2018 second-team All-USL selection Joe Greenspan went forward to head a ball about 35 yards from the goal he was defending, then took an awkward fall to the ground. Greenspan didn’t get up as he needed immediate medical attention, as he was eventually helped off the field and remained on sideline with the training staff for the rest of the first half.
As of Monday evening, team officials weren’t able to share any additional word on Greenspan’s condition.
Greenspan and the Hounds are hoping that it’s nothing serious. The graduate of U.S. Naval Academy has had a rough go in his pro career with injuries, suffering a head injury that kept him out for long stretches in 2017 when he was with Minnesota United FC and played with the Hounds on loan. In 2018, he missed nearly two months of action with a leg injury.
Tobi Adewole, another center back who will return to his third year with the club, was also held out of the weekend’s action. This left Lilley with a chance to get an extensive look at a few trialists in that role, primarily Jordan Skelton in the first half and Nadeer Ghantous in the second.
The Hounds resume training in week two by returning nine trialists from last week, and adding three newcomers to the party: Sammy Kahsai, Leonardo Lopez and Joy Schoonhoven. This week’s training will culminate with matches against Duquesne University at 7 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 15 and University of Charleston (WV) at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 17.
Both matches will take place at Highmark Stadium.
WEEK 2 Trialist List
- Eddy Enowbi F 5-10 175 Silver Spring, Md. (East Stroudsburg University)
- Mark Forrest F 6-3 NL Douglassville, Pa. (Lehigh University)
- Ryan Gallagher D 6-0 170 Pine Bush, N.Y. (Penn State University)
- Nadeer Ghantous D 6-3 185 Hifa, Israel (Cal Poly Pomona)
- Brennan Ireland D 5-10 170 Annapolis, Md. (Penn State University)
- Devyn Jambga F 5-11 160 St. Louis, Mo. (Portland Timbers 2)
- Sammy Kahsai M 6-0 155 Hyattsville, Md. (UMBC) **
- Leonardo Lopez GK NL NL Harrisburg, Pa. (PA Classics U-18/19) **
- Hakan Redzep M 5-10 NL Macedonia (Anagennisi Deryneia)
- Joy Schoonhoven M NL NL Netherlands (Almere City FC) **
- Jordan Skelton D 6-4 NL Newcastle, England (Lander University)
- Caleb Smith M 5-9 147 Arlington, Texas (SMU)
** This will be first week on trial in Pittsburgh
All others were with the Hounds last week.
Current Roster breakdown:
Roster breakdown for 2019 season
Forwards (3): Neco Brett, Steevan Dos Santos, Christian Volesky
Midfielders (6): Mouhamed Dabo, Kenardo Forbes, Noah Franke, Kevin Kerr, Thomas Vancaeyezeele, Anthony Velarde
Defenders (4): Tobi Adewole, Jordan Dover, Joe Greenspan, Ryan James
Goalkeepers (1): Kyle Morton
What Stood Out on Sunday?
Having watched Sunday’s scrimmage, here are some observations/notes of players that remain on trial and some of the returnees/new signings:
Kevin Kerr and Kenardo Forbes
The only thing that was unusual about these two hardened and battle-tested pros was that they were wearing weird numbers (25 and 26). Otherwise, if you’re taking your kid to watch a Hounds preseason match, have them spend some time watching these two do their thing. They bring an ideal level of professionalism on the field that you’d want to see in every player — no matter if it’s early in the preseason or in a playoff game.
Forbes sat back in a holding midfield role, and for about five minutes when Greenspan came off, he dropped into center back role without missing a beat. Kerr was instrumental in both goals that came late in the first half that finally broke a scoreless affair. His corner kick delivery spinning inward connected perfectly with Steevan Dos Santos. A minute or so later, in stoppage time of first half, Dos Santos returned the favor, cutting back a nice pass to Kerr who had all kinds of room to bury a 16 yard roller into the back of the net to give the Hounds a 2-0 edge.
Steevan Dos Santos
My first impression from watching Dos Santos included a few head scratching lackadaisical efforts on 50/50 balls, but he was such a constant irritation to Gannon’s back line as both he and Mark Forrest were pressing high. Then, as the first half wore on, Dos Santos’ quality of play was more and more evident. He barely left his feet on the header finish, but was in perfect position. His clever pass to Kerr showed his solid decision making and ability to keeping possessions going in the final third.
Gannon weren’t really in any position to challenge the Hounds back line, but Skelton looks like a smooth operator in the back. Very composed on the ball, and equally menacing with his 6-foot-4 frame. With Greenspan and Adewole out, and the Hounds needing to find more center backs to fill the roster, Skelton will likely get more chances in the coming weeks to play extensively.
The former Penn State standout did a splendid job in the left outside back role in the first half. There weren’t any stats, but I would guess he won 90 percent of his duels and was very accurate in his passing.
One-time star for Division II East Stroudsberg, Enobwi showed impressive bursts of speed along the right wing. He put one of those bursts to good use along with a solid finish, scoring the final goal of the match in the 68th minute to give the Hounds 6-goal lead.
If you recall, last year at this time Neco came out firing on all cylinders. That what he was doing on Sunday. Before we could blink, Brett had put two balls in the back of the net. Every touch and every move on the ball — and off — were precise and perfect. With Christian Volesky and Dos Santos on the squad, Brett will be working his tail off this preseason to show that he’ll be an important part of what will look like a pretty good rotation of forwards that Lilley will have at his disposal.
One player that peaked my curiosity since the day he was signed, was Velarde. The first-year pro looked awfully comfortable out there with his teammates, playing in the same role on the left side where Kerr was in the first half, as an attacking midfielder. It will be fun to watch him develop through the preseason playing alongside veteran teammates.
Friday vs Cleveland State
First Half– Casey Beyers – Caleb Smith, Thomas Vancaeyezeele, Jordan Skelton, Tam Damario – Ryan James, Kosti Moni – Tommy Buono, Steevan Dos Santos, Oliver White – Eddy Enowbi
Second Half– David Greczek – Brennan Ireland, Joe Greenspan, Nadeer Ghantous, Ryan Gallagher – Hakan Redzep, Mouhamed Dabo – Ryan Peterson, Anthony Velarde, Devyn Jambga – Mark Forrest
Sunday vs Gannon
First half– David Greczek – Caleb Smith, Joe Greenspan (Thomas Vancaeyezeele), Jordan Skelton, Ryan Gallagher – Kenardo Forbes, Mouhamed Dabo – Kevin Kerr, Noah Franke – Steevan Dos Santos, Mark Forrest
Second half– Kyle Morton – Ryan James (Brennan Ireland), Thomas Vancaeyezeele, Nadeer Ghantous, Tam Damario – Hakan Redzep, Jordan Dover – Anthony Velarde, Devyn Jambga – Christian Volesky, Neco Brett