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Hounds Notebook: Without a win, pressure mounts with another two-game road swing

Photo courtesy Ed Thompson

The schedule will take a bit of a diversion for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC in the next couple of weeks after opening its season with games played on three straight Saturday evenings.

With added pressure in seeking its first win, the Hounds (0-2-1, 1 point) will face two more Atlantic Division opponents, New York Red Bulls II on Friday and Loudoun United on Wednesday, both on the road before coming back home for a Sunday, June 6 encounter with its first match against a Western Conference team since 2014.

NYRB II are younger than they’ve ever been — but very talented too. They’re coming off a 2-2 draw against Charleston Battery, after being down two goals at halftime. Defender Mandela Egbo converted his third penalty of the season, while forward Roald Mitchell recorded his first professional goal in his first professional start. Left back Juan Castillo was credited with his first professional assist on the play.

This will be the first meeting of the season between the two clubs. The last time they met, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC defeated NYRB II, 3-0, on September 5, 2020, at Red Bull Arena.

The Hounds will be training through Wednesday at Highmark Stadium before they hit the road for Jersey, where they’ll train on Thursday before playing the Baby Bulls at Montclair State University complex.

Look for Mark Goodman’s game preview and scouting report of the Baby Bulls on Friday and our live gameday blog that evening.

Highlights from Bob Lilley Press Conference

Why haven’t they won a game yet?  

“That’s the million dollar question. We’re better. We knew it would be tough game against Charlotte. We still created 20 to 25 difficult moments. When you get guys getting forward into spaces. With a (Russell) Cicerone or (Alex) Dixon, breaking lines, we did well the other night.  Look, the execution though is still not there. We had our 20 moments, but couldn’t capitalize.  They (Charlotte) had six to eight moments, and they executed. They put enough pressure on (goalkeeper) Danny Vitiello and eventually got their goal.”

“You could see that we’ve been better the last two games. Any other time of year, we probably win those two games.  It definitely adds pressure, not having a win. We now have a big task, going to New York.  They have dynamic attackers, who are going to give us problems.  They were down 2-0 to Charleston, and came back to tie it.”

“We have to start executing. There’s no day like the present.  We have a lot of games to play — but we have to finish our chances.”

Thoughts on back line and what the rotation will look like in the next week with three games in nine days.  

“It was good to get Jelani Peters a start (on Saturday vs Charlotte).  We know we have to rotate guys, with Friday, Wednesday, Sunday stretch coming up. It will be good to give guys more time.  We have to take care of the first game.  When we start to play multiple games in a week, we’ll need to get more contributions from more guys.  We have to take it one game at a time. The effort was there last week.  We trained well heading into Hartford match. We trained well last week and were expecting a good performance.  We created a lot of good moments. Have to keep that up.  You can see the building blocks forming.”

“It’s always tricky, with three games in short period of time.  We’ll definitely rotate lineups.  Maybe (team captain and veteran midfielder) Kenardo Forbes will play more minutes than he usually does, but he’ll probably sit for one of those games too.”

Elaborating on how Hounds will use center backs, with the additional pick-up of Jalen Robinson and addressing how he used them in last match vs Charlotte 

“We were getting a bit more creative with our line-up.  We wanted to have a bit more size against Charlotte (in starting four natural center backs across the back line)..Anticipated that Charlotte’s size would be something we’d have to contend with on set pieces.  We’re still figuring out what to do at times as a group. The guys are still adjusting.  There’s a lot going on both ends. The defense hasn’t been great. They’ve made a few critical mistakes. Nobody wants to stifle teams more than me.  We’ll have to do better in closing spaces.  Press more when those opportunities present. Use our outside backs more in getting forward.  As a group we have good size, athleticism. It takes time to come to gel.  We have to figure out our identity.  I am hopeful that we’ll have a clear picture, but we’re still in the process of pinpointing how it’s going to look. We’ll iron it out as we move forward.”

Being patient with process of improvement through 32-game schedule

“We were better in possession (in the last game).  Had some good transition moments.  We have to keep checking boxes.  Against Hartford and Charlotte, we’re starting to find ourselves.  If we play like that we’ll be winning on a consistent basis.  I wish we were at game eight or game ten by now, but in a way, I am happy it’s game three, because we haven’t gotten a win yet.  There’s a lot of areas we still need to improve.  It’s a 32-game schedule and we’re still getting to know the players.  I am excited with the fact that we’ll have three games in short amount of time to see even more what our guys can do.”

Discussing reasons for second-year midfielder, Danny Griffin, wearing the captain’s armband 

“I felt a certain way about (former Riverhounds midfielder) Robbie Mertz.  Danny (Griffin)’s on the similar path. With Kenny (Forbes) and Jordan (Dover) not being in the line-up, we looked at Danny to fill that spot.  It’s not necessarily always going to be the oldest or the loudest player.  The guys who play with Danny really respect him.  They know how important he was to our team last year and now this year.  I am happy for him.  We discussed this as a staff.  It’s a good opportunity to give him that responsibility.  He had a good performance — and is always doing the right things. Sure, he might make a few errant passes. But its everything. He is putting in the work in every practice and comes to play.”

“You have to earn the captain’s armband.  Pittsburgh’s a unique city. We’ve had Robbie Mertz, Danny Griffin, Ryan James — players who show up every day. They’re a big reason why we’re successful. They’re chasing our aspirations.  It takes guys who know how to compete, and put in the work, day in and day out.”

On using advanced metrics and analytics 

“We always use them.  I will admit, I’ll turn to (assistant coach) Dan (Visser) to learn more from them.  Sometimes it can be misleading.  If teams are playing more physical or a certain way, you can’t always go by what (analytics) they show. But there’s a lot of things I like to see and use.  Touches in opponents box, the final third,  Some of it you have to apply to your group of players.  I suppose it’s an advantage to have younger guys on (coaching staff) who can understand and use these tools.”

“It’s one of the reasons why we changed (our) style, our attack. Using (analytics) can help us improve in the long run.  Help us with becoming more versatile in the attack and in general.  There’s a lot of things that go into building our team.  Everything we can use to our advantage helps.”

Atlantic Division Standings

Pos. P W L T GD Pts Form
Tampa Bay Rowdies
Tampa Bay Rowdies 4 4 0 0 8 12
Hartford Athletic
Hartford Athletic 3 2 0 1 2 7
Charlotte Independence
Charlotte Independence 3 2 1 0 1 6
The Miami FC
The Miami FC 4 2 2 0 0 6
New York Red Bulls II
New York Red Bulls II 5 1 2 2 -1 5
Charleston Battery
Charleston Battery 3 0 1 2 -3 2
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC 3 0 2 1 -4 1
Loudoun United FC
Loudoun United FC 2 0 2 0 -2 0


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).

Riverhounds MF Danny Griffin

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