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Analysis and Player Grades: Pittsburgh Riverhounds vs Saint Louis FC

With rain coming down in buckets and a one-hour lightning delay, this match was likely to be sloppy and atypical for the Hounds, and it was. Both St Louis and Pittsburgh had been touted in the pre-season as top teams in the USL Championship Eastern Conference, and so it made sense for the visiting team to play it safe. Neither team wanted a splashy bounce or a slip in the rain to ruin their day. For Saint Louis, that meant sitting deep, defensively. For Pittsburgh, that meant playing safe passes and trying to either keep possession or play crosses from wide. Neither team had great looks in dangerous spots. And so, without the benefit of a huge mistake from their opponents or a wonder-strike from a forward, the game ended with a fitting 0-0 scoreline.

Player Grades

Ben Lundgaard – 7

It seems the loanee from Columbus Crew has been installed as Bob Lilley’s number one goalkeeper, as Lundgaard got the nod between the pipes for the second week in a row. He was tested only once, in the 44th minute, and he made the save without much trouble. It earned the young man his second clean sheet as a Riverhound.

Tobi Adewole – 7.5

Adewole’s marking was solid all night, and he did all the things he needed to do to help preserve the draw. There were a few moments where he was responsible for racing back against the attacker in the wide areas of the field, as Ryan James was still upfield recovering, and he had the footspeed and the defensive ability to close down his man. When Tobi’s good, the team is good.

Thomas Vancaeyezeele – 7.5

Playing as a centerback, sweeper, defensive midfield combo that came between the lines to challenge players and passes, Tommy V was very good on this night, and his positioning was good all night. I could do without the late yellow card, though.

Joe Greenspan – 7.5

St Louis tried fewer long balls into the middle, depriving Ensign Joe of knocking out a dozen or so clearances as he sometimes does – he only recorded 2 clearances on this night. But he also recorded 4 tackles and was generally steady and sure.

Ryan James – 7

James did his ‘inverted winger’ thing, coming inside and intercepting 4 passes like he was a second defensive midfielder. In the wet and wild conditions, though, his offensive contributions were muted, as many crosses went awry and his passing was generally ineffective. In that weather though, it’s understandable.

Jordan Dover – 6.5

Dover was fine defensively. On offense, he was apparently tasked with being the quarterback of the vertical offense, as hit pinged 11 long balls on the night. Only 4 long balls were on target, and only 2 of those were headed towards the opposite goal. Sure, he did his job of dumping the puck safely and making the other team chase it, but completing those passes on occasion can help win soccer games for the good guys.

Kenardo Forbes – 7

Forbes did his Forbes thing with Forbesian accuracy – 52 for 59 on passes for an 88.1% success rate, by far the highest on the Hounds this night. Only 1 was a ‘key pass’, though. As I watched the match, on a few occasions I saw a little window open up for a risky and exciting pass, only to watch Forbes pass it up for the sure thing. Maybe I’m a schmuck, but I want to see Kenardo take a few more risks. If you trust your defense, a turnover every now and then at midfield isn’t the worst thing, if in exchange you might sometimes create a goal.

Neco Brett – 6

Brett had the best look of the night when he blasted a screamer from the right side at the 39th minute. But Saint Louis FC keeper Jake Fenlason turned it away with a phenomenal dive which likely saved the game. Otherwise, Brett struggled to be productive from the wide areas, going 0 for 5 on crosses and producing little else of consequence.

Mouhamed Dabo – 5

Dabo, previously a deep-lying defensive midfielder, was lined up as a central mid or even an attacking mid on the night, and roamed freely and in advanced positions. How’d that go? Here’s Dabo’s entire passing map on the night.

Basically, he popped up all over, received the ball only occasionally, and made passes of little consequence. It is true that the Hounds preferred to go into wide areas rather than play through the middle, but I thought Dabo was a little disconnecting and ineffective here. Also, in my humble opinion, Lilley needs to let one guy on the team – Brett, Forbes, Anthony Velarde, Noah Franke – get a string of games in the same spot, rather than chopping and changing the team’s creative cog each and every match. But that’s just, like, my opinion, man.

Kevin Kerr – 6

Kerr’s night was similar to Neco Brett’s, minus the really great shot, and plus one additional unsuccessful cross, and he had a nice pass to Steeven Dos Santos in the 38th that nearly was an assist. Also, he slipped and fell more often than Neco.

Steevan Dos Santos – 5

Struck a stinger in the 38th that was blocked away by the defenders. Other than that, his passing was a little off at 59%, and he never was comfortable enough to dominate in the air, winning 9 duels while losing 13, many in the box.

Anthony Velarde (Sub at 66′) – 5.5

Velarde checked in but didn’t click in, taking Dabo’s role but seeing little success. By this point in the match, Saint Louis FC were deeply bunkered and the game looked destined for a tie, but I still had hopes Velarde could generate something for the black and yellow.

Christian Volesky (Sub at 71’) – 5

Came on and tried to flick an audacious back-heeled shot in the 88th minute to win it, but it went wide. My people, we call that ‘chutzpah’. Google it.

Noah Franke (Sub at 87’) – No grade

Late sub to burn some clock.

Mark Asher Goodman is a writer for Pittsburgh Soccer Now, covering the Riverhounds, the Pitt Men's and Women's teams, and youth soccer. He also co-hosts a podcast on the Colorado Rapids called 'Holding the High Line with Rabbi and Red.' He has written in the past for the Washington Post, Denver Post, The Athletic, and American Soccer Analysis. When he's not reading, writing, watching, or coaching soccer, he is an actual rabbi. No, really. You can find him on twitter at @soccer_rabbi

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