Earlier this week, Riverhounds SC Head Coach Bob Lilley was asked about facing Steevan Dos Santos on opening night in Tampa Bay, the durable veteran forward from Cape Verde who served as the club’s target forward during the 2019 and 2020 season.
Lilley’s response to a question posed from Pittsburgh Soccer Now provided some coach-speak and potentially, a little jab thrown at his former player, Dos Santos, who played for him in Rochester for two years as well, when they won a USL Cup Title in 2015.
“When motivated,” Lilley started when assessing his former player, Dos Santos. “He can be a handful. He’s a big, strong presence in the box that we’ll have to deal with.”
Dos Santos scored 14 goals in his two seasons in Pittsburgh, but maybe more importantly, the Hounds attack often built up through the final third through Dos Santos’ feet. Using his broad 6-foot-4 frame, Dos Santos has been incredibly effective at this level in holding the ball up, drawing defenders (and his share of fouls and physical play) then redistributing it to maintain and sustain possession. In addition, with 46 total goals in USL Championship career, Dos Santos also can finish effectively.
Lilley made it clear that he wanted to retool the Hounds approach this season after what he assessed as his attack falling short in the final third, particularly in 2-0 playoff loss to Louisville City FC. One of the things he addressed during off season and through the preseason was that he had to make difficult decisions not to re-sign some valuable players from the past few years, including Dos Santos.
When assessing what he anticipates from the Hounds’ revamped roster for Saturday night’s game, Tampa Bay’s Head Coach Neill Collins added that he was more than happy with adding Dos Santos to his talented team for the 2021 season.
In his first game with Tampa Bay last Saturday, the 31-year old Dos Santos played nearly the full match, doing his usual grunt work, instrumental in two of the Rowdies three goals including getting an assist on their third goal, by feeding Sebastian Guenzatti inside the penalty area.
When assessing the Hounds roster, Collins is about as curious as anyone else to see what Lilley comes up with on Saturday and this season, but he wasn’t shy about being pleased to lure Dos Santos away from Pittsburgh.
“A lot of new players, so how Bob uses them will be interesting,” Collins said to Tampa Bay Times this week.
“I think the player that’s been very effective for Pittsburgh and for Bob is Kenardo Forbes, very creative in the midfield, talented player. And thankfully we took his other most talented player, and we put him on our team.”
In addition, Dos Santos said all the right things when speaking with the Tampa Bay Times this week.
“I just have to focus like I’m playing against any team,” he said. “Of course I’ve been there before, but this is not the first time. When I was in Ottawa I played against Rochester, and when I was in Pittsburgh, I played against Ottawa. I just have to do my best to help the team..”.
With four meetings between the two sides this year, how things play out should be very interesting.
Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay soccer fans won’t have to wait much longer.
Look for more coverage of Riverhounds SC opener here on Pittsburgh Soccer Now including our match preview, live blog and post-game analysis.