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Pittsburgh Riverhounds

Hounds sign veteran forward Russell Cicerone

Hounds sign veteran forward Russell Cicerone

The Riverhounds SC are not done making player signings this week.

After Tuesday’s news that they’ve re-signed All-USL midfielder Kenardo Forbes and picked up team contract options of five additional players from last year’s roster, the Hounds announced they’ve signed forward Russell Cicerone to a one-year contract with a club option for the 2022 season, pending USL Championship and USSF approval.

Cicerone, 26, is a Michigan native who has spent the past four seasons competing in the USL Championship, the last two with Saint Louis FC. With the versatility to play on the wing or in a central role, Cicerone scored five goals in each of the 2019 and 2020 seasons while totaling 49 appearances for Saint Louis.

“We are excited to welcome Russell on board. His versatility, energy, and competitiveness are traits that we value on our roster,” Riverhounds head coach Bob Lilley said. “He’s a dynamic player with good pace who likes to get behind defenses, and he has the ability to score goals as well as create for others. Russell is a big part of our plans for 2021.”

Prior to joining Saint Louis, Cicerone made 10 appearances in the 2018 season with FC Cincinnati. The 5-foot-11, 170-pound forward began his professional career with Portland Timbers II in 2017 after being a fourth-round selection by the Timbers in that year’s MLS SuperDraft out of the University at Buffalo.

In total, Cicerone has 78 appearances and 12 goals in his USL career.

As a collegiate player, Cicerone scored 42 goals and 22 assists in 71 games for the Bulls from 2013-16, and he also scored 20 goals in two seasons as an amateur player for the Michigan Bucks of the USL Premier Development League.

Along with Cicerone, players currently under contract for the Hounds in 2021 are forward Albert Dikwa, midfielders Kenardo Forbes, Danny Griffin and Anthony Velarde, defender Jordan Dover and goalkeeper Danny Vitiello.

Kenardo Forbes signs a new deal plus Riverhounds exercise five player contract options for 2021

Instant Analysis

In light of the apparent losses of Ropapa Mensah, Steevan Dos Santos, Mark Forest and Lukas Fernandes, the Hounds are looking to upgrade and provide more depth at every position, including the attacking and wing positions.

Coach Lilley believes that Cicerone will be a ‘big part of their plans for 2021′ — and this appears to be a good destination for a forward who has grown into a solid USL Championship level player — primarily in his past two seasons with Saint Louis FC.

If he could be compared to another player Hounds may be familiar with — it might be Louisville City FC’s Brian Ownby.

He is the type of player who is all over the field, who plays at 100% energy the entire time. He will be an aggressive winger and attacker that could fit in well in Pittsburgh where the Hounds have excelled in recent years with its high press and taking advantage of other teams’ mistakes.

After a prominent collegiate career which he scored 42 goals and had 22 assists, he was taken by the Portland Timbers in the fourth round, 76th overall, in the 2017 in the MLS Superdraft.

Once he entered the pros, with PT2, then FC Cincy, the goals fell off and reality set in.

But at FC Cincinnati, for a team that was incredibly deep and shattered USL regular season points total, Cicerone played behind Emmanuel Ledesma, but found his way into the starting lineup for a few games but ultimately only made 10 appearances (with five of those starts) with one goal.

Cicerone took his playmaking skills to Saint Louis, where he had a much more sizable impact in 48 total appearances over two seasons with ten goals.

He’s a durable player — having started 28 of 33 games in 2019 with Saint Louis, then this past year, he started 17 of 18 matches with more than 1,500 minutes played.  He had a 64% success rate on tackles and 46% success rate in his duels, winning 28 fouls while conceding 10.

We already know Cicerone will be playing alongside the likes of Albert Dikwa, who’s also a pacy high line attacker who can break behind defenses, along with quality midfielders like Forbes, Velarde and Griffin, and suddenly the Hounds have some good core components to developing a strong attack.

Of course a lot more pieces have to be added to the puzzle, but this is a promising start for the Riverhounds as they turn the page toward 2021.

 

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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