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Preseason Notebook: Hounds sign former UMBC standout Sammy Kahsai

Photo courtesy Sammy Kahsai (Twitter)

The Riverhounds SC enter its fifth week of the preseason with one new player signing, one more scrimmage remaining, and according to its head coach, plenty of work left to do.

“We’re getting fitter, but we still have a long ways to go in these last two weeks,” head coach Bob Lilley said after the Hounds beat a new League One outfit, Lansing Ignite FC, 2-0 on Sunday. “It’s nice to get a second goal today, but it’s all about creating chances consistently and I don’t think we’re doing that.”

The Hounds boast a 5-0-3 record through eight preseason matches against six college teams and two professional sides.

Pittsburgh’s lone preseason match-up remaining will be against a familiar foe, Toronto FC II, who will no longer be competing in USL Championship this season, but instead in USL’s League One. The Hounds will meet TFCII on Saturday at 2 p.m. In addition, the organization will be revealing its 2019 kits and inaugural Hall of Fame Class after the match on Saturday at Highmark Stadium.


On Monday, the Hounds also announced the signing of midfielder Sammy Kahsai to a one-year contract with a club option for the 2020 season, pending USL Championship and USSF approval.

Trialing with the team since the second week of preseason action, Kahsai spent three seasons (2015-17) at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) where he started every game during his senior campaign en route to five goals, two assists and America East All-Conference First Team recognition.

“Sammy was able to make an impression at our open and invite combines and has continued to grow in training camp,” head coach Bob Lilley said. “His technical ability and feel for the game are strong suits that will help him adapt to this level.”

In addition to starting all 18 of his senior appearances at UMBC, the Hyattsville, Maryland native also started all 17 of his games played as a junior. Over the course of his time with UMBC, Kahsai amassed 47 games played (39 starts), eight goals and two assists.

Prior to arriving at UMBC, Kahsai played at Washington Adventist University during his freshman campaign. While with the Shock in 2014, he led the team with 14 goals. Leading up to his collegiate career, he competed for the D.C. United Academy from 2013-14.  Kahsai also played with Albuquerque Sol FC of USL League Two (formerly PDL).



With the addition of Kahsai, Riverhounds SC currently have 16 players under contract heading into the 2019 season.

Roster breakdown for 2019 season

Forwards (3): Neco Brett, Steevan Dos Santos, Christian Volesky

Midfielders (7): Mouhamed Dabo, Kenardo Forbes, Noah Franke, Sammy Kahsai, Kevin Kerr, Thomas Vancaeyezeele, Anthony Velarde

Defenders (5): Tobi Adewole, Jordan Dover, Joe Greenspan, Ryan James, Caleb Smith

Goalkeepers (1): Kyle Morton


The Hounds have four additional players added to this week’s list of eight total players on trial. A few of the new additions were in MLS camps in January and February, and now they’re looking for jobs in USL.

One is a familiar face to Pittsburgh soccer fans: Robbie Mertz.

Mertz, who played at Upper Saint Clair, then played for four years at the University of Michigan, was drafted by the Colorado Rapids in the MLS SuperDraft in January, but wasn’t signed. A couple of years ago, Mertz scored against the Hounds in preseason action at Highmark Stadium, and did this interview with me afterwards.


WEEK FIVE TRIALIST LIST (including notes/info on the new guys)

*** Third week with club  * First week with club

Name, Position, Height, Weight, Hometown, (Previous Club)

* Justin Donawa M 5-9 150 Sandys, Bermuda (Dartmouth College)

A Bermuda-native, the 22-year-old Donawa played in 52 matches in four seasons for Dartmouth, scoring 10 goals. In 2018, he scored twice in just six games. During his college career, he collected a number of accolades, including a first team All-Ivy League Selection in 2017 and All-Ivy League Honorable Mentions in 2015 and 2016.

Donawa, who was also a track and field athlete during his college time, specializing in triple jump, in which he won the Ivy League Championship in 2018, is a member of the Bermuda National Team, for which he has played in 10 matches since 2015. He scored two goals for his home country, both in a 5-0 victory over Bahamas during the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification, back in 2015.

*Prosper Figbe D 6-2 190 Ilorin, Nigeria (University of Virginia)

With only five players on the back line signed to contract, the Hounds are still clearly looking for at least one more center back and another outside back (likely a right back), so a few players brought in this week may be in contention for these spots including Figbe. The former UVA and University of South Florida standout is a native of Nigeria — and brings impressive speed, as he was one of the fastest of the 60 players invited to MLS combine in January. Despite reports of impressive play at the combine, he didn’t earn a MLS contract in January and February. We’ll see if he prosper at the USL Championship level — and earn a spot in the final weeks of Hounds camp.

*** Kevin Itabel M 5-10 165 Buenos Aires, Argentina (Panetolikos)

*Ethan Kutler D 5-11 155 Lansing, N.Y. (New York Red Bulls II)

Despite a few years in the NY Red Bulls organization, making more than 40 appearances with Red Bulls II, and even five total appearances with the senior MLS team in 2018, Kutler, who’s an outside back that can also play on the wing, was not kept on, as the NYRB organization didn’t pick up his option in December.

Kutler excelled at Colgate University, then was drafted by the Red Bulls in 2017. His lone goal in 2017 season with NYRBII was in USL quarterfinal playoff game against Charleston Battery.

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

*Robbie Mertz M 5-7 150 Pittsburgh, Pa. (University of Michigan)

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

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



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).

Riverhounds MF Danny Griffin

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