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Say it ain’t so, Joe? Greenspan signs with San Diego

Photo courtesy Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC / Chris Cowger

Another major piece from the Riverhounds SC top-of-the-table squad from 2019, and a key contributor from the past three seasons in Pittsburgh, Joe Greenspan, will be moving on.

The 2019 USL Championship Defensive Player of the Year has signed with expansion San Diego Loyal, Landon Donovan’s squad in Southern California. Greenspan clearly established himself as one of the best center backs in USL for two straight years. and it appears that he’s gone to highest bidder in USL

It’s a major pick-up for San Diego, and a tough loss for Pittsburgh.

The 6-foot-5 former Navy standout is now set to become a central pillar around which Donovan, Loyal SC’s EVP of Soccer Operations and Manager, can build his initial roster as it joins the Championship for the 2020 season.

Mark Goodman wrote in yesterday’s post when reviewing the Riverhounds defenders from this past season:

Greenspan was 4th in all of USL in clearances with 159. He and the rest of the Hounds backline produced a total of 18 Clean Sheets, best in USL. While doing a tremendous share of the defending, Joe was also one of the team’s two primary distributors out of the back, with 48.2 Passes per 90 against Thomas Vancaeyezeele’s 48.3 PP90. Joe scored more goals – 4 – than Christian Volesky, a forward, and Anthony Velarde, an attacking midfielder. And only three of those were with his head!

Most importantly for us at PSN, his stats passed the eye test as well – in the 24 games for which we turned in player grades, Joe had the highest average of any defender. His best game, a ‘9’ (which I gave him – because John Krysinsky is that professor in university who only gave one A per semester and I’m like ‘yay! chocolate for everyone!’), came against Nashville in a critical game on the road while the team was chasing the top spot in the USL East. Of that game I wrote the following:

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.

The 27-year-old built a resume that stacks up with the best players in the USL.

Since the start of the 2018 season, Greenspan ranks second in clearances with 334, while he ranks fourth in aerials won (263) at a success rate of 74.9 percent. Want to try and get around him? There have only been 23 times in 58 appearances that an opponent has dribbled past Greenspan according to Opta, while his average of a yellow card every 5.8 games and less than a foul conceded per game (53) shows off the positional sense he brings.

Beyond that are the intangible leadership skills he brings, which made him an essential piece for the Hounds as they finished on top of the Eastern Conference this past season.

At the start of the 2018 season, I wrote this feature on Greenspan.

Greenspan’s docked and ready for duty in Pittsburgh

Joe Greenspan Memorable Moments 

Sometimes it’s not easy to find highlight reel moments for a hard-nosed defender, who did a lot of the dirty work and did it extremely well. In fact, often times, defenders really stand out when they make mistakes, but not when they’re at their best, doing their finest work.

Greenspan anchored some outstanding Pittsburgh defenses, and when he first arrived in Pittsburgh, via loan from MLS’ Minnesota United FC, he made an immediate impact playing for his former coach at Navy, Dave Brandt.

In his first eight starts with Pittsburgh that season, the Westfield, New Jersey native led the club with 51 clearances as well as anchored the back line to four clean sheets and earned USL Team of the Week honors twice in the month of May. He was even nominated for Player of the Month status for May 2017, in his first tour of duty with the Hounds. After that, he was recalled back to Minnesota United FC, then returned to Pittsburgh at the end of that season.

Was there one outstanding game? I don’t know. There were quite a few. This past season, it seemed as if he came up with big goals too, in big moments.

In August, the Hounds faced then first place NY Red Bulls II on the road. Trailing by a goal, Greenspan’s header provided the important equalizer and momentum that they needed to overcome the deficit and hand RBII its first home loss of the season.  Greenspan did it again, against Memphis 901 FC, in a game when the Hounds were playing without his sidekick Tobi Adewole (who was sent off three nights earlier in Nashville), and with a lot of other starters sitting out, Greenspan was magnificent, scoring the game’s lone goal and took command playing it out of the back with an astounding 81 touches, was undefeated in his duels (4/4), had five clearances and an interception.


Joe Greenspan Photo Gallery

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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).

Riverhounds MF Danny Griffin

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