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Bob Lilley Press Conference: Week 13 vs. Philadelphia

Bob Lilley (center) talks with his team during training this week at Highmark Stadium. (RIVERHOUNDS SC)

As heard during this week’s media conference for Riverhounds SC manager Bob Lilley, with the team preparing for Saturday’s regular-season finale against Philadelphia Union II at Highmark Stadium …

On the specter of an attempted bounce-back game after losing to Hartford Athletic last week:

“We have to try to get a full three points. We want to win the game and make sure they (Hartford) have to do the work rather than hand it over. It was a disappointing loss. I think we were the better team, but having said that I don’t think we were particularly great or as sharp as we would’ve liked to have been. We played at a mediocre level on the night, but still could’ve won that game if we had a little more urgency. It’s disappointing, but looking at the big picture, we’ve grown a lot. We’ve bounced back from some tough spots and we’ll have to do it again. We have to get back to scoring some goals and continue to defend well. Hopefully we’ll be able to build momentum going into the playoffs.”

On whether the Hounds will rotate the squad much with the playoffs approaching:

“At this point, everyone is (fresh). It’s not like you have a congested fixture list. We’re playing one game a week for multiple weeks. I don’t anticipate a lot of changes for Saturday. When he’s ready Kenardo (Forbes) will be in the starting lineup but I don’t think there’s going to be a ton of changes because of the result last week. We know what guys can do, and there might be moments where one player gives us something that another player doesn’t. Those are some questions, but do I see a lot of squad rotation through the playoffs? Not really. If we need to make those kinds of changes we won’t be around very long anyway.”

On what he’s looking for from second-half substitutes when trailing, like last week vs. Hartford:

“We brought in (Dani) Rovira because (Jordan) Dover had tweaked his hamstring. That’s not something we wanted to do. We were hoping to get more energy out of Dani when he came on, and he has at times. We knew Kenardo would come into that game if we needed him. Bringing in him and Albert (Dikwa) made sense. The last two games we haven’t been dynamic enough in our movement up top and we’ve pulled Ropapa (Mensah) at the 60th minute in the last two games. We needed more of that up top and we weren’t testing their goalkeeper enough in the first half, and I don’t think we were creating enough in the second half either.

“We haven’t been in a position to make a lot of changes in the past few weeks. I don’t think the game was decided by our players being necessarily poor. I think the team overall was a little bit flat and not as sharp. But we have to put our hands up — and I certainly do when looking back at the game — feeling there was more we could’ve potentially done to get a draw out of that game, which would’ve put us in a better position. We have to move on, but it was a big game. Hopefully we can grow from this and be more prepared.”

On the strategic approach to Philadelphia Union II: 

“We’re at home. We’ve had a lot of success with a higher tempo. We’ve gotten a lot better at moving the ball quickly and staying aggressive at the attacking end. I don’t think we pushed the game enough the other night. We want to push and press and make it hard for Philadelphia. If we had converted early the other night, the game could’ve been completely different. That’s why it’s such an interesting sport. The frustration comes from one goal deciding it, and we were caught out on the wrong end. We have to grow from that and take accountability. I still think, after we were down 1-0, I would’ve liked to have seen a little more urgency to get back into the game. The last 15 minutes, we clearly put a ton of pressure on them.”

On Forbes’ return from injury in a substitute role:

“We’re trying to gauge his fitness level in training. I thought he did well with the minutes. We had all of the ball and we put him in the back. I don’t think he had to go into any full-out sprints. He got through it and played more minutes than we initially anticipated. We’re optimistic for it, but that’ll be a decision made in the next couple of days, whether he’s in the starting lineup. When he came in, he was pretty calm. He was getting the ball into some dangerous areas when we were probing.”

On the mood of the team after its eight-game unbeaten streak came to an end:

“I was not pleased right after the game, so I got on them pretty good right after the game. We got back together Monday in terms of training. I think they trained pretty well, which was nice to see. I think we all knew that we gave something back. We desperately didn’t want to open the door for them (Hartford). There’s a recognition that we have important games coming up. There’s a desire to make things right. I thought they might’ve had a bit more of a hangover, but I think they’ve come through it a little bit pissed off, if you will, but we have more games to play. They’re a better team than they showed the other night. I’m happy to see them putting it behind them. It might mean a few more road games in the playoffs, but we have to do the job and win games. We have to know we’re good enough to beat anyone. We’re able to win anywhere we play.”

On whether this feels like a typical midseason stretch, since normal seasons are more than twice as long:

“I still can’t believe the playoffs are right around the corner. I think the guys deserve a lot of credit for pulling it together. Without two big wins against Hartford, we wouldn’t have even been in this position, but that’s why that game the other night was frustrating, because we had it in our hands. But I think the team’s grown. They responded to a lot of things early in the season. We told them they’d have to improve as much as they can, and every team has had struggles at some point this season. I look at (Hartford last week) as a one-off game. I don’t think it’s something that should set us back. It’s on how we respond. Know that that’s our focus this week. Let’s take care of Philly and then it’s about getting ready for that (first playoff) game.”

Matt Gajtka (pronounced GITE-kah) is a columnist, analyst and reporter for Pittsburgh Soccer Now. In addition to his four-year role as play-by-play broadcaster for Riverhounds SC, he has experience covering pro and amateur sports for over a decade. Matt got his start in soccer while calling games for the Marshall University men's and women's Division I teams. He fondly remembers attending Hounds matches at Bethel Park High School, although he lapsed during the Moon and Chartiers Valley years. Like many, the construction of Highmark Stadium in 2013 rekindled his passion for the club and local soccer in general.

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