Don’t look now, but suddenly the Riverhounds SC roster depth is going to be put to the test as four players will be ruled out of the line-up for Saturday’s pivotal match at Old Guard foe Charleston Battery.
For those wondering about @RiverhoundsSC injury report heading into tomorrow's match vs Charleston, here you go… #CHSvPIT
Mouhamed Dabo – Out (hamstring)
Prosper Figbe – Out (knee)
Ben Lundgaard – Out (back)
Caleb Smith – Out (groin)
— John Krysinsky (@PghSoccerScribe) May 3, 2019
SUPER SUBS COULD SEE MORE PLAYING TIME?
With four players ruled out this coming week, Head Coach Bob Lilley talked at training earlier this week about the impact of some of his players that have come off the bench.
In Saturday’s 2-2 come-from-behind draw, Christian Volesky scored the first goal in the 87th minute, Anthony Velarde and Robbie Mertz‘s work rate and ability to keep possessions alive contributed mightily to the Hounds strong finish to the match.
“I think it was a good sign how sharp Christian, Robbie and Anthony were, because they’ve all had limited roles so far,” Lilley said. “I do like the quality all three brought, They certainly made a case to have bigger roles moving forward.”
HOUNDS SIGN AUSTIN PACK
In an important move with one goalkeeper already injured, and needing depth for the rigors of the season along with impending U.S. Open Cup play, the Riverhounds signed goalkeeper Austin Pack to a one-year contract with a club option for the 2020 season, pending USL Championship and USSF approval.
Pack brings prior professional experience to the Hounds, previously playing for Portland Timbers 2 and Puerto Rico FC.
“We are excited to have Austin,” goalkeeping coach Hunter Gilstrap said. “He is a guy who has already played games and done well at this level. We have been intentionally patient with adding a third goalkeeper. We wanted to find the right fit. We saw a lot of guys and really feel that Austin was the best of them all. He’s done well in training since joining us and will only strengthen our already strong goalkeeper group.”
During the 2018 USL Championship campaign, Pack logged two appearances and 180 minutes for Timbers 2, including postseason action. The goalkeeper earned the start in Portland’s first round playoff appearance against Phoenix Rising FC. Across these two total starts, Pack recorded two saves.
From 2016-17, Pack suited up for Puerto Rico FC. During these two seasons with the club, he started all 11 of his appearances and accumulated two clean sheets.
The Atlanta, Georgia native played collegiately at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte from 2012-2015. He started 39 of his 42 career appearances with the 49ers en route to a 0.81 goals-against average and 15 shutouts.
Pack joins rostered goalkeepers Ben Lundgaard and Kyle Morton.
Lundgaard is on loan via Columbus Crew SC, and even if he’s 100 percent healthy, could get called back to Columbus at anytime.
LILLEY: ‘I DON’T FEEL LIKE WE’RE THERE YET’
Lilley had plenty to say to Matt Gajtka at training Tuesday, and when discussing where the Hounds are, after seven games, he offered some interesting thoughts.
“I don’t feel like we’re there yet. I think we’re a lot better than we’ve shown. I don’t think we’ve put it all together yet for even one entire game, let alone the seven,” Lilley said. “I think there’s still a significant jump I expect from these guys. I’m starting to see better intensity and focus in training. Now it’s about trying to bring into the game.”
The Hounds will be facing a Charleston squad that boasts a 4-1-2 record, haven’t lost at home in five games (4-0-1), and handled the same Nashville SC team that came to Pittsburgh and controlled much of the match on Saturday.
“There are no easy games. It’s fun. It’s a challenge.,” Lilley explained. “Charleston beat Nashville 3-1, but I watched the Charleston-Memphis tape and Memphis was two or three goals better. The margins are so small that there are teams that are quite capable of stringing four or five wins together at some point, but they just haven’t done it yet. We’re one of those teams until we prove otherwise. We’re in the bottom half. For us, we have something to prove. When you go play Memphis and Charlotte … there might be an assumption that after we get through this weekend, it gets easier.”
Lilley knows there are no easy matches or as he said: “There are very few sitters.”
The veteran coach added: “With the depth of teams, with the quality of player, even with injuries, the best teams have so many guys that were playing in MLS three years ago. More and more players are jumping into our league. We’re getting more foreigners and better options into the league. I think more investment from the owners is helping that as well, raising the level of all teams. You have to grow quickly as a unit and guys have to fight every day to stay relevant in this league. You have to perform. I think for us, we like our group. I’m trying to get the best out of them. I don’t think we’ve done that yet, so I think as a staff we have to push the right buttons. If the team hasn’t hit form yet after seven games, that’s on all of us.”
“I don’t think we’ve been bad — we’re unbeaten in six — but I know that tying all the time is mediocre at some point. You don’t get to say, ‘We’re still unbeaten.’ You’re either winning the majority of your games or you’re not staying at the top of the table, so it’s important for us to figure out how to turn these ties into wins and keep the foot on the pedal. And keep them healthy, hopefully.”
LETS DO IT AGAIN IN 5, 10 or 20 YEARS
It was nice to see a decent little turn out at Piper’s Pub on Wednesday for the showing of the first-ever Riverhounds match, 20 years to the day. The contingent included numerous members of the Steel Army, who were getting into the action!
— John Krysinsky (@PghSoccerScribe) May 2, 2019
If you weren’t there 20 years ago, or you forgot what happened, it was very interesting to see the match, it was a pretty exciting contest that would be decided by a penalty kick shootout.
Very special thanks to Pittsburgh Soccer Now contributor Patrick McCarthy, who was also there on Wednesday, for digitizing the video. Look for more of these to come throughout this season. Apparently, he also has footage of match when the Hounds played against Hershey, against a certain coach named Bob Lilley. That video contains an extensive interview with the current Hounds coach.
Little did we know that coach John Kowalski was ejected from the match in the 2nd half after a little scuffle occurred between the teams by Cincinnati’s goal.
— PGH Sports History (@PGH_Sports_Date) May 2, 2019
Hopefully we can do it again in the coming years.
UPCOMING COVERAGE / PSN SCHEDULE
Look for a Preview/Scouting Report along with a Game Day Blog with updates for the Charleston match on Saturday.
I will be in Erie next week to cover the First Round of the U.S. Open Cup, so look for some coverage potentially leading up to and for the Erie Commodores – Dayton Dutch Lions tilt on Wednesday, May 8.
The Hounds will be off the following weekend, and will not be in action again until Tuesday, May 14, for the U.S. Open Cup second round, when they’ll either travel to Erie, or host Dayton. They’ll turn around and travel that Saturday, May 18 for a first-ever encounter vs Memphis 901.