The preseason continues to bring mixed bag as far as results are concerned for the Riverhounds SC, as they played to a 1-1 draw against fellow USL Championship side Loudoun United on Wednesday afternoon at Highmark Stadium.
For the second time in three games, rookie forward Lukas Fernandes made the most of his opportunity, by scoring in the 24th minute. Still, the Hounds were victimized by a second half foul in the box, which led to a Loudoun United penalty kick goal in the 76th minute.
Despite the club’s third straight draw in the preseason, Head Coach Bob Lilley put more of positive spin on things after the midday match.
“I thought we did a pretty good job staying patient, holding on to the ball,” head coach Bob Lilley said. “Some of the things we worked on were better. I think the second half we let the game get into a bit of a track meet, and I thought they were pretty good in a wide-open game. We had some good chances to get the second goal, and it’s disappointing we didn’t get out with the result again. Definitely better overall as a performance.”
RIVERHOUNDS vs LOUDOUN UNITED: TACTICS, PERSONNEL & OBSERVATIONS
The Hounds came out in a 4-2-3-1 formation with a line-up that included three invitees among the field players, and trialist Thomas Gomez in goal. They did a solid job from the outset in owning the possession battle. As they were confidently moving the ball around, the Hounds stayed on the front foot for the majority of the first half.
Pittsburgh started to get busy in the final third, creating a few chances after the 20th minute, thanks mostly to the high energy trio of attacking midfielders that included Fernandes, Anthony Velarde and trialist Danny Griffin.
First, Griffin created a solid opportunity by delivering a well placed cross into the box for Steevan Dos Santos, but the big man’s header attempt didn’t connect cleanly, sailing too high over the bar.
Fernandes then picked off a pass, and found Dos Santos with one defender to beat. The veteran forward’s left footed shot was deflected out for a corner.
The Hounds continued to bring pressure and their perseverance in the final third would pay dividends in the 24th minute, when Robbie Mertz was on the end of a nice build up through the left side, and sent a ball through the box that found Fernandes alone on the back post.
Fernandes delivered a one-time rising shot that gave Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead.
“We’re trying to be high energy guys, as a unit. We were looking to be patient, and were pressing when we can. Pick up balls when we can, in the midfield space,” Fernandes said. “We created a few nice chances there, and I was fortunate enough to be in the right place.”
It was Fernandes’ team-leading third preseason goal.
Pittsburgh would create a few more opportunities, as they came awfully close to making it 2-0 when the 30-year old Dos Santos dipped into his arsenal of tricks, when fed a pass in stride in the 28th minute. Dos Santos took a terrific first touch, then played the ball over the one Loudoun defender he needed to beat with a little chip. After getting a better angle to the ball, he took a few touches then banged an absolute blast off the bar for the near goal.
The Hounds also to chose to go with two newer invitees, Patrick Bunk-Anderson and Hunter Ashworth, paired as the center backs, with Jordan Dover and Ryan James, two regular starters from a year ago, as the outside backs. Other than a few crosses into the box, and a pair of shots from the edge of the box turned away by keeper Thomas Gomez, the Hounds first unit defended pretty well.
Here’s how Pittsburgh lined-up in the first half.
The only sub at the start of the second half was swap of goalkeepers, Thomas Gomez came out for newly signed Danny Vitiello.
Then, after the 60th minute, Lilley opted to bring in wholesale substitutions over the course of the next 10 to 15 minutes.
Tony Walls, Devin Boyce (trialist), Dani Rovira and Mark Forrest entered the match for Griffin, Dos Santos, Ryan James, and Kenardo Forbes. Shortly after that, the Hounds swapped center backs, bringing in Jerry Wiltshire (trialist) and newly signed Skylar Thomas in the 65th minute. Another newer trialist, Ayden Bowers came in along with Xhelil Asani for Velarde and Jordan Dover.
They would also swap center backs out when Jerry Wiltshire (trialist) and newly signed Skylar Thomas entered in the 65th minute for Bunk-Anderson and Ashworth.
With all of the substitutions, the Hounds struggled to maintain control of the match, and as Lilley indicated, things opened up a bit, with Loudoun starting to threaten. Wiltshire dragged down an attacker on the edge of the box in the 68th minute for a dangerous free kick chance. Then, Thomas took down a Loudoun attacker in middle of the box to set up the penalty kick that beat Vitiello to level the match.
Forrest came close a few times in generating the Hounds second goal. The second-year Hounds forward from Lehigh University had a header chance in the 73nd minute, then after collision with Loudoun keeper on very well played ball in from Asani, Forrest nearly flicked the ball in as he was going down. It had to be cleared off the goal line by a Loudoun defender.
In 76th minute, the final two starters, and the two guys who hooked up on the Hounds lone goal, Fernandes and Mertz eventually came off for two trialists, Sean McLeod and Osagi Bascome.
Here’s a look at the all of the subs who eventually played in the second half.
First Half: Tomas Gomez – Ryan James, Hunter Ashworth, Patrick Bunk-Anderson, Jordan Dover – Kenardo Forbes, Robbie Mertz – Anthony Velarde, Danny Griffin, Lukas Fernandes – Steevan Dos Santos
Second Half: Danny Vitiello – Ryan James (Dani Rovira), Hunter Ashworth (Jerry Wiltshire), Patrick Bunk-Anderson (Skylar Thomas), Jordan Dover (Xhelil Asani) – Kenardo Forbes (Tony Walls), Robbie Mertz (Sean MacLeod) – Anthony Velarde (Aydan Bowers), Danny Griffin (Devin Boyce), Lukas Fernandes (Osagi Bascome) – Steevan Dos Santos (Mark Forrest)
PIT – Lukas Fernandes 24′ (Robbie Mertz)
LDN – 70′ (penalty kick)
- Next up: The Hounds will finish out with two more training sessions on Thursday and Friday. Mark Goodman will be at Media Day at Highmark Stadium on Friday afternoon. Then, they’re scheduled to take on MLS’ Columbus Crew on Monday, in a closed scrimmage in Columbus.
- Pitt’s coaching staff were among the few on hand in the Highmark Stadium stands today, watching former Panther Robby Damrot, who was playing for Loudoun United, as his contract option was picked up this off season.
- After Lilley’s post-match locker room comments to his team lasted about 15 minutes, Robbie Mertz was the sole Hounds player to go back onto the field to run a bunch of wind sprints. This was after he led the team in minutes played (76′).
- In case you were wondering, you can find the most updated and full list of invitees in Riverhounds SC Notebook posted this morning.
- Albert Dikwa remains on the list of trialists after four weeks, but he’s still yet to arrive in camp. Ropapa Mensah is also still not with the team.
- Look for more from my post-match interview with Lukas Fernandes in the coming days