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Hounds sign Upper St. Clair’s Robbie Mertz, along with Mark Forrest and Prosper Figbe

Robbie Mertz, from Upper St. Clair and played at the University of Michigan, was signed to a pro contract with the Hounds on Friday (file photo - University of Michigan men's soccer)

Hounds sign Upper St. Clair’s Robbie Mertz, along with Mark Forrest and Prosper Figbe

From Riverhounds SC report

A week before the season started, Riverhounds SC head coach Bob Lilley stated he liked where his roster stood, but he wasn’t done signing players to the club’s roster. Sure enough, a few weeks later, heading into the third game of the season this weekend at Bethlehem Steel FC, the club announced the signing of three additional players, including one local product, Robbie Mertz, from Upper St. Clair.

In addition to the signing of Mertz, who played collegiately at the University of Michigan, the Hounds also came to terms two other recent college players: forward Mark Forrest and defender Prosper Figbe. 

Each player’s been signed to a one-year contract with a club option for the 2020 season, pending USL Championship and USSF approval.

Mertz, who previously trained with the Riverhounds Development Academy (RDA) and played for Century United, and Figbe have been training with the team over the course of the past month. Meanwhile, Forrest originally trialed with the team when it opened preseason camp before returning to Lehigh University for academics.

Unlike the other two who will be with the team immediately, Forrest is scheduled to arrive to the Hounds in May after completion of course work at Lehigh.

“Robbie is a high-energy midfielder with good technical and tactical qualities,” Lilley said. “He trained with us last year, and it’s nice to see a local player who passes through our Academy ready to contribute to the first team.”

Mertz, a Pittsburgh native who played soccer at Upper St. Clair High School and a stint for the RDA, was named two-time United Soccer Coaches All-North Region and two-time All-Big Ten at the University of Michigan. In his collegiate career with the Wolverines (2015-18), he totaled 76 games played (55 starts), nine goals and 12 assists.

Earlier this year, the Colorado Rapids selected Mertz with the No. 76 overall pick in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft. The Rapids later released Mertz prior to their second preseason camp.

Figbe arrives with the Hounds after competing at the University of Virginia from 2017-18. During his junior and senior collegiate campaigns, the defender racked up 37 starts in 38 games played.

“Prosper was one of the top defenders in college soccer over the past few years,” Lilley said. “He is very gifted athletically, and we feel has the right attitude to help him develop quickly.”

Prior to playing for the Cavaliers, he suited up for the University of South Florida for his freshman and sophomore campaigns (2015-16). With the Bulls, he started all 20 games as a sophomore and became the first-ever underclassman to win American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year. The Ilorin, Nigeria native was named to the conference’s All-Rookie Team in 2015.

Forrest, playing collegiately at Lehigh from 2015-18, was twice named Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year. In addition, the Douglassville, Pennsylvania native earned First-Team All-Atlantic Region honors as a senior. Over the course of his career at Lehigh, he racked up 73 games played (66 starts), 41 goals and 21 assists.

“Mark is a big forward who knows where to go to score goals,” Lilley said. “Although we won’t see him until May, we are excited to have him on this year’s roster.”

Like Mertz, Forrest was selected in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft. The Chicago Fire drafted the striker with the No. 77 overall pick – just one selection after the Rapids grabbed Mertz.

The Hounds now have 23 players under contract.

Roster breakdown for 2019 season

  • Forwards (4): Neco Brett, Steevan Dos Santos, Mark Forrest, Christian Volesky
  • Midfielders (9): Mouhamed Dabo, Kenardo Forbes, Noah Franke, Sammy Kahsai, Kevin Kerr, Ethan Kutler, Robbie Mertz, Thomas Vancaeyezeele, Anthony Velarde
  • Defenders (8): Tobi Adewole, Jordan Dover, Prosper Figbe, Joe Greenspan, Ryan James, Dani Rovira, Caleb Smith, Uchenna Uzo
  • Goalkeepers (2): Ben Lundgaard, 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, 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 United States. 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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