The Riverhounds SC put in some extra work, but it didn’t pay off on the scoreboard on a cold Saturday afternoon at Highmark Stadium,
The Hounds were shutout, 2-0, in the full-90 minute preseason match against Penn State. Then, with the officials already back in the locker room, the teams returned to the field to play another 25 minutes in a controlled scrimmage, with neither team tacking on another score.
“We had talked about it ahead of time,” Riverhounds Head Coach Bob Lilley said, when addressing the added scrimmage time, when he took the field to mediate play.”We wanted it to be 90 minute game. But we knew we’d play a bit extra.”
For much of the 115 competitive minutes played, the Hounds were sloppy in possession, primarily in trying to work the ball through the midfield, and into the final third.
It was enough to predictably frustrate Lilley to the point where he wanted to try to work out some of these kinks with some added time. This also provided an added purpose of getting every player with the club this week a chance to get some competitive playing minutes.
“Today wasn’t the level where we needed to be, and the scoreline reflects that,” Mark Forrest, Hounds forward who played the final 70 minutes. “We were able to generate some set pieces. But as far as clear-cut chances, there weren’t many of them. He was frustrated that were weren’t generating as many chances as we should, and weren’t moving as a group, in the final third. We have to get better.”
The Hounds didn’t create a shot on frame until the dying moments of the first half, when Steevan Dos Santos’ header from a corner kick attempt went wide.
Moments before that, in the 38th minute, Penn State got forward on a counter-attack along the far right side. Hounds outside back and trialist Miles Stray, who was step-for-step with the Penn State attacker, suddenly fell to the turf and grabbed his leg.
The ensuing cross into the box was poorly defended, as an unmarked Alex Stevenson slotted his shot past Hounds keeper, trialist, Danny Vitiello for the 1-0 lead.
“They were quite good. Competitive in tackles. Won a lot of loose balls. They were playing collectively. Their energy was good, though they didn’t have a lot of moments, but when they broke forward, they broke forward with purpose. We weren’t able to deal with it through the midfield or the back,” Lilley explained.
What concerned Lilley was that his group wasn’t playing collectively and without a purpose, especially in getting forward.
“If you don’t have the intensity to your game, you’ll lose. That was proven out today,” Lilley added.
A second goal was surrendered late in the second half when Penn State pinged together a few quick passes in the box with a group of Hounds defenders and midfielders standing around in the box unable to react, and seeing a redirected ball blow past goalkeeper Tomas Gomez.
“With the two goals, no marking in the back. It was us not picking up guys in the box,” Lilley pointed out.
Post-match, Lilley was most concerned about the flow of the game, adding that his side looked predictable, and didn’t get around the edges enough.
“There wasn’t a lot dynamic play in front of the ball or in and around the goal. It was pedestrian in a lot of ways, and that’s not going to win a lot of games,” Lilley said. “When you don’t have your best stuff, you can still compete hard. I thought at times we got pushed around. I don’t think our big guys should get pushed around very often. Some of our guys are experienced pros, and today they got outworked a little bit by some hungry college kids, and it could happen. We not typically a team that lets that happen. Today it was not good enough.”
Two weeks of preseason are in the books, and the Hounds have already suffered a loss. While Lilley wasn’t thrilled with the result, and knows his group has a lot to work on, when he looks at the bigger picture, he’s feeling optimistic about his current core group.
“We’re closer than today’s score may indicate. I like the group that we’re pulling together,” Lilley said. “We just need to tie it all together. We have two big games coming up this week vs Pitt and Akron. Hopefully we’ll learn from today and take into the next two games.”
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More from Preseason Week 2
- Every signed player on the Hounds roster was with the team this week except for Ropapa Mensah, who is hoping to join the team this coming week.
- Lilley also added that, as expected, there will be some changes when his group gets back together Monday for a busy week three, which will include scrimmages against Pitt on Wednesday morning, and Akron on Saturday. “We’ll make some decisions on some guys did well today that aren’t under contract. Some will still see a path forward, and some may have to let go.”
- Peters Township native Mario Mastrangelo, a recent standout at Saint Francis (PA), did well for himself on the wide right attacking spot in the extra time period. Mastrangleo has been with the Hounds since the beginning of training camp.
- Look for more from my post-match interview with Forrest in the coming days.
- The Hounds’ match vs Pitt on Wednesday will kick off at 9 a.m. at Highmark Stadium. As always, preseason matches at Highmark Stadium are free to attend for the public, but please do be aware that they do charge $10 flat fee to park in the lot on preseason weekend and weeknight match days.
Riverhounds SC Lineups:
TR – indicates Trialist
Danny Vitiello (TR)
Miles Stray (TR), Jerry Wiltshire (TR), Skylar Thomas (TR), Tony Walls
Thomas Vancaeyezeele, Kenardo Forbes, Robbie Mertz, Anthony Velarde, Ettore Ballestracci (TR)
Steevan Dos Santos
Keeper: Tomas Gomez
Defenders: Dani Rovira (Xhelil Asani), Joe Bell, (TR), Dakota Barnathan (TR), Skylar Thomas (TR), Jordan Dover
Midfield: Kenardo Forbes (Dani Rovira), Robbie Mertz (Danny Griffin TR), Anthony Velarde (Lukas Fernandes), Mark Forrest
Forwards: Steevan Dos Santos (Patrick Okonkwo TR)
Extra time (25 added minutes)
Goalkeeper – Anthony Mwembia
Defense – Asani, Joe Bell (Tr), Jerry Wiltshire (Tr), Dani Rovira
Midfield – Dakota Barnathan, Danny Griffin, Mario Mastrangelo, Lukas Fernendes
Forwards – Mark Forrest, Patrick Okonkwo