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Riverhounds Week 1 Notebook: ‘It’s Go Time’

On Saturday, after the Riverhounds SC wrapped up a fairly lethargic effort in losing to Toronto FC II, 3-1, in it’s final preseason match, there seemed to be a little bit of relief among the players and coaching staff that after six weeks, they were finally ready to begin preparations for a regular season opponent.

“Preseason’s over,” Kevin Kerr said. “It’s go time.”

Head Coach Bob Lilley wasn’t exactly thrilled with the team’s performance earlier in the day, but he was also content to allow some time to take part in the post-game festivities for all season ticket holders that included a kit reveal, Hall of Fame announcements and other announcements that included a new turf that will be put at Highmark Stadium.

Reflecting on the final preseason tune-up, Lilley didn’t mince his words.

“We were poor. I am not going to sugar coat it. It was a good reminder. You don’t win games on paper. We got pushed around 1st half, physically. Didn’t do a good job as a team. We weren’t good enough. They beat us with energy and intensity,” Lilley said, but then took a practical approach. “Rather have it happen this weekend. Right now it’s a one-off thing, as long as we have a good week of training, and go down to Tampa and we’re ready to play. I am used to having ups and down in training camp, but I am more concerned about what we do this week in preparation for next week’s game.”

ED THOMPSON PHOTO GALLERY (Riverhounds vs Toronto FC II – March 9, 2019)

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In preparation for its 20th season opener in Tampa Bay, Lilley also addressed a few items including the team’s overall health, where the roster stands (currently have 20 players on the roster) and what potentially the starting line-up will look like.


Lilley shared that last year’s leading scorer, Neco Brett, was held out for a good part of the past week or so due to a neck injury. He did note that Brett did get back to training toward the end of the week, and should be back with the team in training for the season opener.

He was also happy to share that Joe Greenspan is back from a shoulder injury earlier in the preseason.

“Joe was able to get 90 minutes today,” Lilley addressing his team’s only notable preseason injury. “At this point, I think we’ll have everyone available to us. Knock on wood. That’s a positive heading into the season.”


After the signing of three trialists last week, the Hounds roster is now up to 20 players.

Lilley said that there will be a few more signings, but don’t expect them to come right away or prior to Saturday’s first game.

“I think we’re ready to play numbers-wise. We have 18 field players and two goalkeepers. We need a center back, a third goalie. There’s some play-makers still in camp that are with us,” Lilley said.

One of those play makers still training with the team is Pittsburgh-area native Robbie Mertz, who trained with the Hounds in the past in the summer months when he was attending and playing at the University of Michigan. Mertz returned as a trialist toward the end of preseason after he was let go by Colorado Rapids, who drafted the Upper St. Clair native in the MLS SuperDraft in January.

More signings are expected, as Lilley also mentioned that there’s a player who is still finishing school that will be with the team at a later date.

“I don’t want to say we’re going to have everyone signed within a week’s time, but certainly before the home opener,” Lilley added.


Against TFCII, the Hounds put out a pretty experienced line-up, and gave a lot of those players a chance to get a full 90 minutes (or close to it) of action.

On Saturday, Lilley provided an open-ended response when talking about what his potential line-up could look like on Saturday at Al Lang Stadium.

“We put out an experienced squad today. It’s not necessarily our starting line-up for Tampa, but it could be,” Lilley explained. “Sometimes a wake-up call is good to remind players battling for playing time that there’s a certain standard we need to meet. That’s what we experienced today.”

First Half

GK – Kyle Morton

D – Ryan James, Tobi Adewole, Joe Greenspan, Jordan Dover

MF – Mouhamed Dabo, Kenardo Forbes, Thomas Vancaeyezeele (Ethan Kutler), Kevin Kerr (Anthony Velarde)

F – Christian Volesky, Steevan Dos Santos (Noah Franke)

Second Half

GK – Ben Lundgaard

D – Ryan James, Tobi Adewole, Joe Greenspan, Jordan Dover

MF – Mouhamed Dabo, Kenardo Forbes, Thomas Vancaeyezeele, Kevin Kerr (Anthony Velarde)

F – Christian Volesky, Steevan Dos Santos (Noah Franke)


The Hounds will be practicing this week at Montour Junction Sports Complex — while Highmark Stadium undergoes the process of putting in new turf, which Lilley revealed when sitting down with me in December.

“It was one of the things (Owner) Tuffy (Shallenberger) said he would do when I got here,” Lilley said of promise of a new field turf after seven seasons of wear-and-tear.”

“I think the owner’s making the commitments that are necessary,” Lilley added. “Obviously, it’s our job as a staff and as a team to get the results. But we need the help of the fans and the community to get behind this team, and it’s a competitive league [and] we are working tirelessly trying to really raise the profile of this team in Pittsburgh.”

Lilley also elaborated in my off-season interview about the importance of creating a home field advantage at Highmark Stadium, and the new turf is a good first step in building that edge.

“If you have good players, you can keep the ball on this field. We’re changing the surface. The new (field) turf will be put in. We don’t know yet when, as we have to find dates,” Lilley said. “It will help with for more efficiency, especially in the final third, and that’s a place where we struggled this past year. (New turf) will allow teams play a bit more with final third moments. The final pass. The weight of the pass. First touch.  We created a lot of chances last year, but better turf will help.”

Teams that came to Highmark Stadium trying to play the ball out of the back, according to Lilley ‘were punished’ and the Hounds intend to do much of the same in 2019.

“We know the field better, and it will help. Still, I want to play good soccer. We want to be dynamic.  Find those opportunities to break teams down, and it takes patience.,” Lilley explained. “Next year, if they give us the ball, because they’re not willing to play out — we will use the ball better. One of the advantages of playing on this field is that we train on it.  If want to press we can do that here. We like to play on the front foot. If you look at the statistics, we out shot most teams this year at home. Even against Louisville and (FC) Cincinnati. We want to be that team that creates chances game in and game out.”

And that leads to what Lilley believes will probably will be the biggest area they’ll need to improve — and will affect everything else.

“Biggest reason why we were in third place, and not higher, was because we weren’t efficient enough in the final third,” Lilley stated.


Look for more from my one-on-one interview with the longest tenured Hound, Kevin Kerr, later this week.

We are also planning our scouting report of the Hounds opponent this week, Tampa Bay Rowdies, who were victorious in its season opener on Saturday, on the road before a sellout crowd against Memphis 901, 1-0, 1-0, with a goal from Sebastián Guenzatti.

We’ll also have the latest game day updates and look for post-game reaction on Saturday night, as well as analysis / player grades on Sunday.



Sat. 16 @Tampa Bay Rowdies CW 7:30 p.m.
Sat. 23 @Swope Park Rangers CW 5 p.m.
Sat. 30 @Bethlehem Steel FC CW 7 p.m.


Sat. 6 @Louisville City FC CW 7 p.m.
Sat. 20 SAINT LOUIS FC ESPN+ 7 p.m.
Sat. 27 NASHVILLE SC ESPN+ 7 p.m.


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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