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Pittsburgh Riverhounds

Player Grades and Tactical Notes from #NSHvPIT

Just my luck that the head cheese at PGH Soccer Now corporate assigned me *this* match to breakdown. What can you say tactically about a nil-nil road draw after going down to ten men? Honestly, at least it’ll be brief.

While Tampa Bay was out curbstomping Bethlehem Steel 6-1, and Louisville City knocked back 5 goals against NYRB II, the Hounds came up blanks against Nashville SC. It was the club’s second 0-0 draw in the month of September; over the last three matches, the Hounds have just 1 goal – but three shutouts.

This game was mostly defined by the  40th-minute red card against defender Tobi Adewole. Here it is:

This is a rough call. Adewole has possession and is clearly going to ground in an effort to play the ball. In addition, Nashville’s Jimmy Ockford is stepping into the path of Adewole, giving him few pull-out options. It’s a 60-40 ball that ought to have gone as yellow to Adewole- he’s guilty of losing possession and guilty of going to ground when he shouldn’t have. But red is the call here, and it is unfortunate.

The broader thing to consider here is that the Hounds have consistently failed to get things going early these last few weeks. Take away their 4-0 beat down of Ottawa, and the club has gone roughly 40 days and 40 nights without really coming out of the gate hot. Bob Lilley addressed reporters post-game with deep frustration that the team looks tired. It might be a reason why defender Todd Pratzner was brought on, but it also brings a complicated tactical question for Lilley: what does he do with the final six games of the season? Does he let the bench get in and give the regulars some rest before what supporters hope will be a deep playoff run? Or does he stay on that grind and try to snatch a top-four finish in the East, granting the black and yellow a playoff home game? Inquiring minds will be watching those lineup cards.

Once the Hounds go down to 10, it’s bunker and counter for the rest of the match. The Riverhounds get some looks, but really the emphasis here is on keeping the clean sheet. The defense does well; and Kyle Morton does really really well (again), and the Dogs escape the land of Hot Chicken with a well-won road point.

Player Grades:

Neco Brett: 4

Brett was 1 of 5 in duels, zero key passes, zero shots, and only 1 defensive action. Because of the red his effectiveness was reduced, but really, he wasn’t a factor at all in this game.

Steevan Dos Santos: 6

Had a good chance in the 9th minute go wide, and was effective in both directions: 2 shots, 71% passing int the opponents half, 1 key pass, 2 tackles. Again, tough for the big man to do his thing after the card, but far more impactful than Brett.

Mohamed Dabo: 5

81% passing is good! Zero shots, zero key passes from your attacking midfielder is bad! Honestly, I don’t know why Bob has put Dabo in this creator role this year, except in a hypothetical ‘forward harasser’ role. But your forward harasser also has to, you know, do stuff when he’s forward, and Dabo didn’t

Robbie Mertz: 5

Only 20 total passes from your box-to-box mid? Solid meh.

Kenardo Forbes: 7.5

Kenny was typical reliable Kenny: team leader in passes with a solid 76% completion rate; 5 defensive actions; always in the right place to defend or receive. Without Forbes calming presence and reliability the Hounds lose this one for sure.

Ryan James: 5.5

James had 4 clearances and 1 key pass, but oddly no tackles or crosses. His job was mostly to keep people from dangerous wing attacks by squaring them up in space, and mostly that’s what he did.

Adewole: 5

Normally, you get a red, you get a grade of 3. But this was probably not a red. Still- for a defender the difference between a foul and a well-timed challenge is basically the entire damn job description. You’ve got to get those right, 100% of the time.

Vancaeyezeele: 6.5

Had 7 defensive actions and good distribution out the back, as usual. There’s a reason Bob has inscribed Tommy V’s name into the starting XI with a chisel and a block of granite.

Greenspan: 9 

Nine. Yeah, you read that right, nine. Joe had 12 clearances – an insane number, even for him – and 4 interceptions, plus zero fouls and 80% passing. An excellent defender on the year, Joe was just quietly extra-ordinary Joe. The PG can have all the red-white-and-blue-he’s-in-the-navy-defending-our-freedom articles they want. The real story is that this man is defending Highmark better than Seal Team Six riding a wolfpack of nuclear subs armed with laser-sharks.

Jordan Dover: 6 

Dover had 6 defensive actions total, but also saw a lot of the offensive coming down his side, and looked winded for the final 15 minutes. His passing, at just 65%, left a lot to be desired. Risk without reward.

Kyle Morton: 8

Statistically, just credited with 4 saves, but all of them were big and at least two of them, at minute 81 and minute 86, were absolutely ticketed for goal and he stoned ’em away. Another candidate for the team’s internal MVP award this year.


Todd Pratzner (45′): 6

He was 3 for 7 on passes – yuck – but had good defense. Jury still out on whether he will be a spark to help the team make a run, or just a guy Bob signed because he likes ‘his guys’ and recycles them often.

Christian Volesky (73′): 6

Came on, made a good effort, didn’t really get any good chances to take.

Kevin Kerr (84′): NG


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

PItt MF Michael Sullivan

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