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Analysis & Player Grades: Hounds find scoring groove on the road

Analysis & Player Grades

FINAL: Riverhounds SC 3, Loudoun United FC 2 

USL Match Center (Game Stats) 


The Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC found their scoring groove on the road, winning for the second time in five days scoring three goals as they held off a persistent challenge from Loudoun United FC, 3-2, at Segra Field in Leesburg, Virginia on Wednesday evening.

Anthony Velarde and Russell Cicerone bookended the Hounds scoring, while Alex Dixon had an assist and also sent a ball into the box late in the first half that resulted in an own goal.

It was a choppy performance from the Hounds, who looked very sharp in the early portions of the match, but were victimized when sitting back at times, allowing the United to build up possession into the box for a pair of goals in the second half.

The United also pushed hard for the equalizer in the late moments, but the Hounds survived the home side’s challenge.

With the win, the Hounds improve to an overall record of 2-2-1 (7 points), and land above the playoff line in the Atlantic Division for the first time this season. 

Despite the struggle in the second half, which had to frustrate Head Coach Bob Lilley, the Riverhounds are a team with a lot of talented pieces that is progressing as a group with each match.


Riverhounds SC’s Formation & Tactics 

The Riverhounds came out in a 4-1-3-2 (which also morphed into a 4-3-3) formation and line-up that was built to possess with the likes of Kenardo Forbes, Danny Griffin and Todd Wharton in the central midfield, but also Anthony Velarde roaming higher up.

After Friday’s win in New York with a 3-man back line, the Hounds went back to a four-man defensive group.

Getting starts for the first time as Riverhounds were Jalen Robinson and goalkeeper Jake Leeker.

Despite starting personnel that provided for accurate passing through the middle and dynamic attacking tandem of Alex Dixon and Russell Cicerone, the Hounds conceded the possession battle throughout the match.

Nursing a 2-0 lead, while the match shifted in momentum with back-and-forth scoring in the second half between the side, Pittsburgh brought on subs to keep its rotation fresh as they’re in the middle of a three-game in 11 day stretch.  Among the subs, Dani Rovira and Jordan Dover replaced Robinson and Velarde.

Josh Gatt would also come on for Cicerone in the 70th minute, then Jelani Peters and Louis Perez last two to enter match in 82nd minute.

Match Takeaways 

As said at the top, this was an inconsistent performance — but it was a road win which early in the season provided the most important takeaway — three points and back above the playoff line in the Atlantic Division.

Early in the season, there’s often a tendency for erratic performances, especially with a team where some players are still getting to know each other.

The Hounds will have plenty of time to continue to get things right.  Lilley tried a few different things throughout this match.  It was clear that after getting the lead, they took the foot of the gas. 

Lilley has admitted that sometimes he likes to tinker with things too much.  Early in the season, sometimes that can lead to inconsistent execution as many of the players are still adjusting. 

The first 25 minutes though, Pittsburgh was the better side.    They created numerous opportunities through crosses into the box and multiple corner kicks.

They finally found the same formula to success from the previous match, when they blitzed NY Red Bulls II with a pair of first half goals set up by positive build-up and crosses from the left side.  In this case, in the 18th minute, after a quick restart on the left side past midfield, Alex Dixon accelerated deep to the end line, then as he turned up toward goal, delivered a chipped cross toward the middle of the box for Anthony Velarde.

Once again, it was a ball from the left side and once again, a one-time finish.

For nearly a 10 to 15 minute stretch after the 20th minute mark, the Hounds pulled back a bit more, allowing for Loudoun to have the ball and build things up a few times into the box.

The first serious chance for Loudoun arrived in the 34th minute as Robbie Dambrot squeezed off a low shot to the left corner that was saved by Hounds goalkeeper Jake Leeker,

As the Hounds were continuing to absorb more pressure, they were still looking to get forward when opportunities presented.

Sure enough, that moment came in the 41st minute when they moved into the final third, and this time, on the right side with the ball at his feet and without any pressure from Loudoun, Dixon showed extra patience, taking a moment to observe before sending a well-placed ball into the center of the box for Kenardo Forbes, who was cutting between a pair of scrambling Loudoun defenders.  Attempting to get a head on the ball, Forbes slipped, and the ball ricocheted off the back of Loudoun’s Wahab Ackwei and into goal to give the Hounds a two-goal lead.

The Hounds continued to allow Loudoun to possess for large stretches of the second half, and this time, they would let the United back into the match.

This allowed Loudoun a chance to build confidence and find opportunities.  Jovanny Bolivar put the home team on the board in the 50th minute with a second-chance shot after the initial attempt at goal was blocked.  Jovanny Bolivar tried to feed a pass into Samson Sergi in the penalty area. Sergi’s shot was blocked as he tried to turn his defender, but the ball caromed kindly for Bolivar to finish at the second attempt for his second goal in as many games.

Bob Lilley coached teams are known to swarm attackers on the edges of the attacking third and outside the box to prevent the ball from getting into the final third, but the back line was sitting pretty deep and allowing too much room for Loudoun to connect passes to reach that point in the middle of the box.

Fortunately for Pittsburgh, Dixon again helped create the next Hounds goal, as he got behind the Loudoun defense and was bowled over from behind by defender Micael DeShields, earning a penalty kick.

Cicerone stepped up and placed a low shot into the corner of the net for his team-leading third goal of the season.

Panchot cut the lead to 3-2 with Loudoun’s second goal, a low, driven shot from outside the box that capped a good counter-attacking move. Again, Pittsburgh allowed Loudoun with too much room in transition.

From there, the Hounds did what they could to hold on, but they were put under heavy pressure late, as Loudoun finished the match with 60 percent of possession, though shots were even, 12-12.

There was a wild sequence in the final moments, when Danny Griffin nearly sealed the game with a shot that hit the crossbar in stoppage time, but a minute later, Preston Kilwien was able to clear a Loudoun chance off the Hounds’ goal line that would have tied the game.

The Hounds were glad to get out of dodge with another three points –as they walked away from two road matches with all six points in five days.


Riverhounds SC lineup (4-4-2) — Jake Leeker; Preston Kilwien, Shane Wiedt, Mekeil Williams, Jalen Robinson (Dani Rovira 59’); Danny Griffin, Kenardo Forbes, Todd Wharton (Louis Perez 83’), Anthony Velarde (Jordan Dover 59’); Alex Dixon (Jelani Peters 83’), Russell Cicerone (Josh Gatt 71’)

Loudoun United FC lineup (3-4-3) — Jermaine Fordah; Wahab Ackwei (Gaoussou Samake 45’), Tommy Mehl, Micael DeShields (Massimo Ferrin 89’); Robby Dambrot, Logan Panchot, Houssou Landru (Ted Ku-Dipietro 45’), Jeremy Garay (Darluis Paz 67’); Samson Sergi, Kairou Amoustapha (Jacob Greene 59’), Jovanny Bolivar

Player Grades 

Player Grade

 (out of 10)

Key Stats / Notes 
Jake Leeker 5.5 Neither goal was his fault, as the Hounds didn’t defend well in both instances.
Shane Wiedt 5.5  Points deducted for two goals. Has been steadily growing into role along side Williams at center back — had 4 clearances, 3 interceptions, won 4 of 5 duels.
Mekiel Williams 5.5 See Wiedt but also won 5 of 7 duels. 2 tackles, 3 clearances and 3 interceptions.
Jalen Robinson 5.5 Could see why he was with DC United and MLS level player — showed some moments of brilliance working along the right width. Had 3 crosses and had 4 tackles.  Curious to see how he’ll be utilized going forward this season.
Jordan Dover (59′) 6 as second half sub, brought solid presence, creating chance, winning all his duels (4-4)
Preston Kilwien 7 Kilwien put in a solid defensive performance winning 10 of 13 duels and 4 of 4 aerial duels while making 11 recoveries, and also produced a key late goal-line clearance to preserve the Hounds’ victory.
Jelani Peters (81) N/R
Dani Rovira (59′)  5 off the bench — created one successful cross, one tackle and one clearance
Central Midfield
Kenardo Forbes 6 As expected, most passes (42) as team played through him. And with Wharton in lineup, he took some more opportunities to get forward.  81% passing.  Created one chance. Had two shots — one from 14 yards that forced a solid save.  Hasn’t scored in over a year.  Still waiting for that next-level Kenardo.  Not pressing as much, thought could have closed spaces better at times.
Danny Griffin Won 4 of 13 duels. Hounds struggled to close spaces in midfield to allow Loudoun to get through to final third.
Todd Wharton 6.5 Played deepest of the three CMFs. Team high 85% passing but had fewest touches of the central MFs.  Won 8 of 11 duels.
Louis Perez (81′) N/R
Attacking MF/Forwards
Russell Ciccerone 6 GOAL: Motor keeps going throughout every performance even if — in a match like this — he was in some tough battles (only won 5 of 16 duels).  Created two chances.
Anthony Velarde GOAL: Solid performance for Velarde when the Hounds were clicking well in the first half. Thought he struggled a little bit in final 20 minute of first half and early 2nd half with closing down spaces and connecting passes (only 65% passing accuracy).
Alex Dixon 8.5
ASSIST: What a roll Dixon’s on… Had imprint on each of the last six goals scored by the Riverhounds SC.
 Gets credit for a goal and two assists, but also was fouled in box to set up PK, sent ball in box on own goal.  Add’l goal vs NYRBII had pass that led to assist.  Oh, and had team high 92.6% passing on the night.
Josh Gatt (70′)  N/R

What’s next

The Hounds return home this Sunday for a first-ever meeting with Western Conference opponent Austin Bold (1-1-1). The match will be shown on 22 The Point and streamed on ESPN+. Austin plays at home Thursday night against the El Paso Locomotive.


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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