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Hounds sign ‘big asset’ Ropapa Mensah to bolster attack

Ropapa Mensah - File Photo courtesy USL Championship / Nashville SC

One glaring absence on the Riverhounds SC roster heading into the start of next week’s preseason was having an experienced veteran to pair up with Steevan Dos Santos at the top of the attack.

On Wednesday, the Hounds addressed this void by signing forward Ropapa Mensah to a one-year contract with a club option for the 2021 season, pending USL Championship and USSF approval.

Mensah comes to Pittsburgh with three seasons of USL Championship experience under his belt, previously playing for Nashville SC and Penn FC. The striker has racked up 18 goals and 10 assists in 80 career appearances (45 starts) at this level of competition.

“Ropapa is a young player who has already had an impact in this league,” head coach Bob Lilley said. “He is a player with good size, pace and skill that makes defenders uncomfortable, and we expect him to be a big asset for us this season.”

From 2018-19, Mensah suited up for Nashville SC. This past season, he posted six goals, which tied for the second-highest total on the club. Beginning his USL Championship tenure with Penn FC in 2017, the 22-year-old posted seven goals and two assists en route to the highest scoring season of his career.

In 2016, the Accra, Ghana native began his professional career with Inter Allies of the Ghana Premier League, the top tier of professional soccer in the country, and logged 19 games played and three goals. He was loaned to Penn FC and Nashville SC over the course of the 2017 and 2018 seasons before the latter purchased his contract outright for the 2019 campaign.

Mensah was named to the Ghana U-23 National Team for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. He did not record an appearance in the tournament.

Early Takeaways from Ropapa Mensah signing

This signing fills one significant need: having a proven scorer at the top of the attack. Mensah has done it at the USL Championship level, even if he wasn’t the primary option for a crowded attacking group in Nashville last season, he still appeared in 31 matches (starting 14 times) — scoring six goals and adding three assist in a bit more than 1,400 minutes. That’s pretty productive for a guy who was often a late game option off the bench for half the season. The way that this Hounds roster is shaping up, it appears he’ll have an opportunity to seize the role to get the majority of playing time at the top of the Hounds attack, especially if he can do what Neco Brett did last season, and develop a strong partnership with Steevan Dos Santos in front of him. For the Hounds to have an effective attack, they don’t necessarily will be reliant on one player, but it does help to have another proven entity on the roster, and a player that’s probably eager to show that he can be a team’s leading scorer.

Lilley said that one of the things he wished he could have had with last year’s team was to be on the same page sooner — and earlier in training camp.  With four forwards all set and in camp, those partnerships will have a chance to develop early on.

It now looks like Bob Lilley has filled out the roster just about where he wants it prior to the start of preseason. The coaching staff will continue the process of evaluating players at invitational tryouts on Wednesday and Thursday, and having a bunch of additional players brought in on trial.

Riverhounds SC now has 15 players under contract for the 2020 season.

Roster breakdown for 2020 season:

Forwards (4): Steevan Dos Santos, Lukas Fernandes, Mark Forrest, Ropapa Mensah

Midfielders (4): Kenardo Forbes, Robbie Mertz, Dani Rovira, Anthony Velarde

Defenders (6): Xhelil Asani, Jordan Dover, Ryan James, Mark Lindstrom, Thomas Vancaeyezeele, Tony Walls

Goalkeepers (1): Anthony Mwembia

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).

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