In its annual preseason encounter, the Riverhounds SC and Pitt men’s soccer team ended in a 1-1 draw on a cold, yet bright and sunny Wednesday morning at Highmark Stadium.
In the 14th minute, the Panthers showed some of it quick striking ability that led to its most successful ACC season in 2019, as Alexander Dexter’s dynamic cross from the left side forced Hounds goalkeeper and trialist Danny Vitiello to punch the ball over the bar. This set up consecutive corner kicks from the Panthers. On the second attempt, well placed bending ball in from Jackson Walti connected with an unmarked Sebastian Serpa, who didn’t appear to be challenged by the Hounds defending in the box.
Pitt came out in a familiar 4-3-3 — while the Hounds went to a three center back formation for the first time this season.
After Pitt took the lead, the Hounds appeared to play with more urgency in getting forward.
The finally took advantage of a scoring opportunity when veteran Kenardo Forbes fed a terrific ball through just inside the box for Lukas Fernandes, who displayed some nifty foot skills in taking a few touches before a clinical finish past Pitt keeper Johan Penanranda in the 29th minute to draw the Hounds even.
The Hounds continued to bring pressure in the first half, setting up a few close range free kicks for Forbes — but they were turned away by Penaranda.
At the start of the second half, with Pitt playing with a limited squad, the Hounds rolled out a revised line-up, only carrying over midfielder Robbie Mertz along with wingers Jordan Dover and Dani Rovira from the original starting 11. Despite the Hounds’ second group’s decent work rate and doing a better job collectively in disrupting Pitt’s efforts to try to play the ball out of the back, neither team could find another goal for the duration of the match.
It’s back to the drawing board for Hounds, who brought in a one newer trialist before the match (Sean MacLeod, last played for Notre Dame).
“We’re still in the discovery phase,” head coach Bob Lilley said. “We, as a staff, saw some improvement in areas. We’re also seeing a lot of things that we need a lot more work on. We’re better than we were when we started the first week. We’re making good strides, but we need to learn how to win games and get results.”
For Pitt, it was clearly not a full squad, but Head Coach Jay Vidovich utilized numerous returning players from last year’s squad which reached the NCAA tournament for the first time in more than 50 years. A few notable starters from 2019, including the team’s leading scorer, Edward Kizza, did not play. The spring season will provide Vidovich to continue to create a very competitive environment for playing spots, and give many of the current freshman and sophomores a chance to continue to build chemistry heading into what will probably be a new challenge in 2020 — a season with high expectations.
Riverhounds SC continues its preseason action against the University of Akron at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Highmark Stadium.
The Panthers next Spring contest will come when they travel to West Virginia to take on Marshall on Saturday, March 7 for an afternoon contest beginning at 1 p.m. Marshall finished the 2019 campaign 16-3-3 and won the Conference USA championship, earning a bid to the NCAA Tournament, where it advanced to the second round.
Riverhounds SC Lineups:
GK Danny Vitiello – Dani Rovira, Jerry Wiltshire, Thomas Vancaeyezeele, Tony Walls, Jordan Dover – Kenardo Forbes, Robbie Mertz, Anthony Velarde – Lukas Fernandes, Steevan Dos Santos
Tomas Gomez – Dani Rovira, Jerry Wiltshire, Skylar Thomas, Tony Walls (Mario Mastrangelo), Jordan Dover (Xhelil Asani) – Dakota Barnathan, Robbie Mertz (Sean MacLeod), Danny Griffin – Ettore Ballestracci (Lukas Fernandes), Mark Forrest