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Hounds Notebook: Road success provides momentum to ‘finally get some home wins’

Photo courtesy Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC

The Riverhounds return home after a successful two-game road swing for a short week of training ahead of its next match on Friday night at home against New York Red Bulls II.

The team has been training this week with sessions on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

There will be no rest for the weary, as the Hounds will again face another busy slate from Friday through the following Saturday, playing three matches in an eight day stretch. Each will be a rematch against Atlantic Division foes in the second of what will be four games against each divisional opponent this season.

Add on a visit to old-guard rival Charleston for the first time since 2019 on July 7, and they’ll be facing a harried four-games in a 13-day span.

After the Red Bulls encounter, they travel to Loudoun again for a mid-week, Wednesday match on June 30, then return home to face Charlotte Independence on July 3. Four days later, they turn around to visit Charleston.

The reward for that busy stretch for the club will be a 10-day break between games, as they won’t return to action until Saturday, July 17, at home for the third go-around against Loudoun.

In addition, the home match on July 3 means this will be the first time since the opening of Highmark Stadium, the Hounds will not be playing on Independence Day.  We’ll share more of our thoughts on this in next week’s edition of the Notebook.

The good news for the Hounds is that — as of now and barring any postponements — they’ll be busier in the earlier and middle portions of the 32-game season.  After September 1, they will not have a scheduled mid-week game for the final portion of the schedule through the end of October.

Injury Report

For the first time this year, one Hounds player has been listed on the team’s injury report ahead of Friday’s match.

Veteran defender / winger Jordan Dover has been listed as questionable with a lower body issue. The usually durable Dover has not started since the last home game on June 12 against Miami FC when he made his 100th appearance with the Riverhounds.   Dover has started five times in eight appearances this season.

One-on-One with Shane Wiedt

In the early part of the season, one of the players logging among the most minutes and appearances for the Hounds has been Shane Wiedt, a consistent presence on the back line.  Wiedt has appeared in all nine of the Hounds matches thus far, with 747 minutes played, second to midfielder Danny Griffin (810).  Wiedt leads the team with 38 clearances along with four blocks, 13 interceptions, 11 tackles and has won 33 of 61 duels.

Wiedt earned a roster spot and a contract this with the Hounds after working through the most of the preseason as a trialist. After playing collegiately at Akron, then at Pitt in 2018, Wiedt earned his first pro contract with Loudoun United FC.  While still an amateur, he also suited up for the Erie Commodores (2017) and Virginia Beach City (2019) of the NPSL.

After Wednesday’s training session, I caught up with Wiedt to talk about his experience at the University of Pittsburgh, playing for coach Jay Vidovich, his experiences with the Erie Commodores and becoming a regular with the Riverhounds SC.

Roster Depth/Squad Rotation Important During Gold Cup

On Friday, the Hounds learned that three players, Jordan Dover, Mekiel Williams and Jelani Peters have been selected to the preliminary rosters for their respective national teams for the upcoming CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament.

Three Riverhounds SC players selected for preliminary Gold Cup rosters

It’s still too early to tell if any of the three players will be included on the final roster selections.  Either way, Hounds Head Coach Bob Lilley will continue to rely on what’s worked out so far as a solid, next-man-up approach.

In Dover’s case, in the past two road matches, he hasn’t been able to get the start, but Josh Gatt and Jalen Robinson provide experienced players who can take on a role on the right wing or outside back spots if needed.

If there was a case where Williams and Peters would both be gone, the Hounds would probably have to dip a bit deeper into its center back rotation. Wiedt, Robinson and Preston Kilwien are the only other center backs to play this season. In addition, Casey Bartlett-Scott, a rookie from England, who played collegiately at Columbia (MO) was late to join the club due to some visa issues, but he’s been training with the team since mid-May. Thus far, Bartlett-Scott has not been penciled into a lineup card yet this season.

Look for more information to come with final Gold Cup Roster details to come by the weekend or early next week.

Highlights from Bob Lilley’s Zoom Call with Media (Tuesday, June 22)

On his team’s current form and squad rotation… 

“It was a good week for us.  We were disappointed in the result (draw) vs Miami (on June 12). But we played with a sense of urgency that was lacking in games before. That was something to build on.”

“Then, we made seven line-up changes from Miami to Indy (Eleven).  Those guys who got the start, stepped up for us.  We had to survive playing down a man for the final 30 minutes, but they showed a lot. We took that confidence with us to Tampa.  That’s a hard place to play. You have to deal with the head. The pressure that they bring.  But we were confident.  That was our best half of the year, the first half at Tampa.  We created a lot of good chances.  We were decisive, committed when getting forward.  We started the second half well too.  Liked everything except for the final 10 minutes.”

“It’s going to take the whole squad to get us through these parts of the season when we’re busy. We just played three (games) in eight (days), now we’ll have four-in-twelve coming up. It is important to rotate players. We’re about one-third of the way through the season, and now we’re in good form. It’s important that we start winning at home.  It will be tough to keep the same pace (on the road) the rest of the season. Hopefully we can build some momentum and get some home wins.”

Thoughts on continued development and maturation of third-year Hounds, Dani Rovira and Anthony Velarde… 

“They’re good pros.  The know the system better now. Glad that you asked about them.”

“Anthony (Velarde) goals/assists ratio per minute is really good. It’s been a crowded midfield to get in, but this year, in his starts, he’s been very good. Against New York (Red Bulls) he was instrumental in helping us keep the ball, creating chances.”

“It’s been nice to have them on the roster as they’ve grown.  There’s always competition to get into the starting eleven.”

“Dani Rovira’s had good moments going back to his first year.  When we won the East(ern Conference), in his rookie year.

Team captain, midfieder Kenardo Forbes’ impact on this team

“His feel for the game is unique.  He had a sense of where his teammates are at all times.  He brings a lot of experience. We’ve been able to use him different ways.  Against Tampa, we were able to play him up a bit higher.  He works tirelessly to get in the right spots.  He makes players around him better.”

“He’s been off to a slow start this year, but the last few performances, he’s shown he’s rounding into top form.  It’s nice to have a player who is as creative as he is, but reliable too.”

How has Forbes developed since he first started playing in Rochester (with Lilley)?  

“When we first got him, he was a winger.  He was very good out there, always with attacking mindset.  Actually, I didn’t trust him defensively. He needed some time to develop a better understanding of what I wanted him to do.  More time with him, the more I learned what he can do, and began to use him in different ways. He’s done a lot of work to become the player he is now.  I thought he was an excellent player for us (in 2015) but he’s a more complete player now. He’s been a massive player for us. He’s been a massive player for this league.”

Thoughts on this team’s group of defenders’ performance to this point in the season

“They’re getting a better understanding of things.  At this point, we’ve used five center backs. There’s been different formations and different combinations used.  We’ve had some issues. In the last game, the last five to ten minutes, guys haven’t been in the right spots.  There are some mental errors we need to fix.  But they played well for most of the last game. Tampa has a lot of firepower.  They came into the match on an eight day break. We did well against them.”

“We’ve improved a lot.  There were times this year when we shot ourselves in the foot. Some of the goals we’ve allowed were self-inflicted.  We want to keep getting better. At the end of games, we don’t want to have anxious moments.  It was nice to be up 2-0 (against Tampa), but we could have put the game away. We had a few more chances.  We’ve had some big wins.  We’re moving in the right direction. We were tough in Indy and Tampa. Played with a sense of urgency.  Now we have to stay on top of it.  You don’t know in this league. So far, I haven’t seen a team that can’t beat us.  If we become complacent, we’ll get punished.  If you don’t take risks, you’re not going to score goals either,”

“We’re in a good place now. The guys are confident.  We hope to keep it going now.”

Atlantic Division Standings (as of 6/21/2021) 

Pos. P W L T GD Pts Form
Tampa Bay Rowdies
Tampa Bay Rowdies 8 6 2 0 8 18
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC 9 4 3 2 1 14
Hartford Athletic
Hartford Athletic 6 4 1 1 9 13
Charlotte Independence
Charlotte Independence 7 4 3 0 0 12
The Miami FC
The Miami FC 8 3 4 1 -2 10
Charleston Battery
Charleston Battery 5 2 1 2 -1 8
New York Red Bulls II
New York Red Bulls II 9 2 5 2 -10 8
Loudoun United FC
Loudoun United FC 7 1 6 0 -5 3

PSN Coverage

We’ll have more full team coverage this week, as Jordan Smith will continue as our primary correspondent, as he’ll be at Highmark Stadium to cover the NY Red Bulls II match along with PSN photography contributor, Justin Berl.

We also had interviews with Todd Wharton and Russell Cicerone, which will be sharing over the course of the next week.

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).

Sounding Off on Soccer: Riverhounds Road Woes

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