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Preseason notebook: Competition for roster spots up for grabs as merry-go round continues

Photo by Rachael McKriger

Entering the third week of preseason, the Riverhounds merry-go round of players coming in and out on trial with the team continues.

Coming off a pair of scoreless draws against Duquesne University and University of Charleston, the Hounds are still very much in the process of finding an additional 10 players or so who will round out its roster when the season kicks off on March 16 in Tampa.

Right now, Head Coach Bob Lilley doesn’t even have an 18-man squad to put on a projected line-up card for the opener, as he only has 14 players signed to the roster.

Those decisions will start to come soon.  Last year, after the third week, the Hounds announced the signing of four players who were on trial.

For what it’s worth, only three invitees have remained with the team through all three weeks of preseason:  Devyn Jambga, Jordan Skelton and Caleb Smith. 

With Joe Greenspan going down with an injury in the second preseason game, and with only Tobi Adewole and Thomas Vancaeyezeele the only other signed players who have played at center back, Lilley’s certainly looking for an additional big back or two. Skelton is the lone center back on trial that has played in each preseason game that remains in camp.

The Hounds also appear to be looking for more depth on the flanks both with outside backs and wingers, potentially another crafty, two-way central midfielder, and with only one goalkeeper signed to a contract, the goalkeepers coming in will certainly have a chance to make their case to land on the opening day roster.

The central midfielders brought in this week include a few interesting entrants from South America: Kevin Itabel (Argentina) and Mathias Vidangossy (Chile). 

The addition of Ben Lundgaard last week adds a different wrinkle. The former Virginia Tech University standout is property of Columbus Crew, and while the Riverhounds have not made any formal announcements, he is in Pittsburgh currently on loan. Last year, he was loaned out to Indy Eleven, where he didn’t have any appearances in 2018.

Lundgaard, who once earned PDL (now USL League Two) Goalkeeper of the Year honors while with NY Red Bulls U23 squad,  played one half in each of the past two scrimmages last weekend with the Hounds. The Crew are currently carrying four goalkeepers on its roster, until their top keeper, and another former loanee to the Hounds, Zach Steffen, departs for Manchester City in the summer.

Look for more from Mark Goodman on the Hounds’ current goalkeeper situation later this week on Pittsburgh Soccer Now.

With three forwards signed, the Hounds certainly are still in the search for a fourth striker. Jambga is still around after three weeks, plus more competition coming with the addition of invitee Nazeem Bartman.

Here’s a quick look at the current roster, and the full list of trialists heading into week three training which begins on Tuesday, then concludes with scrimmages against University of Pittsburgh (Friday) and cross-state USL foes, Bethlehem Steel FC (Sunday).

Current Roster breakdown:

Roster breakdown for 2019 season (14 players) 

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

Week Three Invitee (Trialist) list

Includes position, Ht, Wt (if available), hometown, last club/team 

  • *** Third week with team
  • ** Second week with team
  • Red: first week with team

Nazeem Bartman – Forward – 5-7 160 – Cape Town, South Africa (Myrtle Beach Mutiny)

Bartman was selected by Vancouver Whitecaps FC in the fourth round (73rd overall) of the 2017 MLS SuperDraft. He was signed to a USL contract with Whitecaps FC 2 (WFC2) on April 27, 2017. In his first professional season, Bartman made seven starts in 13 appearances before his year was shortened due to injury. He scored one goal versus OKC Energy FC.

Kevin Itabel – MF -Buenos Aires, Argentina (Panetolikos)

We don’t know a whole lot about Itabel, that the 25-year old midfielder has played for numerous clubs in Argentina.

*** Devyn Jambga – Forward/MF – 5-11 160 – St. Louis, Mo. (Portland Timbers 2)

** Sammy Kahsai – MF – 6-0 155 – Hyattsville, Md. (UMBC)

Played and started in every game during his final season with the Retrievers in 2017. Tallied five goals and two assists for 12 total points on 34 shots

** Ben Lundgaard – GK – 6-5 205 Wilmington, Del. (Indy Eleven)

Daniel Mukuna D 6-1 200 Manchester, England (University of Michigan)

Mukuna was born in Kinshasa, the capital city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, then known as Zaire. His surname, Mukuna, means “mountain” in Congolese dialect. On the field, Mukuna was the anchor of the University of Michigan back line the past few years.

Dani Rovira M 5-9 145 Bogota, Colombia (University of Vermont)

The scouting report on the former Vermont standout by way of Columbia — is that he’s a very technical, box-to-box midfielder.

***Jordan Skelton D 6-4 NL Newcastle, England (Lander University)

***Caleb Smith M/D 5-9 147 Arlington, Texas (SMU)

Uchenna Uzo – D 5-10 190 Lagos, Nigeria (Phoenix Rising FC)

The Houston native, is a USL veteran, having spent a few years in Arizona with the Rising/Arizona United. Prior to that, he excelled at Coastal Carolina University.

Mathias Vidangossy – MF – 5-8, 148  -Santiago, Chile (Deportes Melipilla)

Breaking the mold from what we’ve already seen on this list, Vidangossay is a true veteran footballer. The native of Chile once signed a five-year contract with Villareal FC in Spain. Though he never made an appearance with Villarreal, he was subsequently loaned out to numerous clubs in Chile, where he’s spent most of his professional playing career. Vidangossy has made appearances with Chile’s U20 and National team squads.


John Krysinsky has covered soccer and other sports for many years for various publications and media outlets. He is also author of 'Miracle on the Mon' -- a book about the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, which chronicles the club, particularly the early years of Highmark Stadium with the narrative leading up to and centered around a remarkable match that helped provide a spark for the franchise. John has covered sports for Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, DK Pittsburgh Sports, Pittsburgh Sports Report, has served as color commentator on Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC broadcasts, and worked with OPTA Stats and broadcast teams for US Open Cup and International Champions Cup matches held in the US. 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).

PItt MF Michael Sullivan

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