It doesn’t matter where Alex Dixon’s penciled into the line-up card, the native of Bay City, Texas has proven to be a valuable addition to the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC this season.
The 31-year old was signed by his former coach Bob Lilley to revitalize and help make the Hounds’ attack more dynamic, which by looking at his production, has been the case.
However, Dixon’s versatility and his durability has also proven to be a huge asset for the Hounds this season.
When the Hounds begin preparations for a new opponent, typically at the beginning of the week, Lilley and his staff look to find ways to utilize Dixon most efficently.
“We look at the match-up. Sometimes it the opponent that will determine how we play him,” Lilley explained. “We want to get his quality on a consistent basis. Especially when we were going through a difficult stretch, playing a lot of games, he came through for us in various ways.”
Dixon’s appeared in all 25 of Pittsburgh’s matches, starting 22 games, scoring eight goals and adding seven assists while playing in a variety of roles.
Having a reputation in the USL in recent years as a wide attacking player dangerous in open spaces, this year Dixon has also slid into the central midfield at times and dropped back deeper as an outside back.
“Actually, I started off my career mainly as a six or an eight. I’ve moved around a lot into different positions,” Dixon said. “It seems like I’ve played every position besides center back and goalkeeper this year.”
As a veteran, sometimes Dixon will add his input, but said that puts his faith in Lilley and the coaching staff and is open to play where ever he’s needed.
“He’s (Bob Lilley) receptive to things. It depends. We have conversations throughout the week leading up to games. Does a good job keeping us on our toes. He puts a lot of time. Lot of determination into what we’re going to do against each opponent,” Dixon explained. “Sometimes he’ll even come in the day of the game, and add something. He never rests. I like it. I’m always learning something new.”
During game situations, Dixon acknowledges that playing for Lilley requires a constant ability to adapt and acknowledged when it comes to tactics, Lilley always has the final say.
Dixon already came to Pittsburgh with wealth of professional soccer experience, especially in the USL Championship, where he’s played for numerous teams including Hartford Athletic, Rochester Rhinos, Oklahoma City along with a stint with NASL’s Jacksonville Armada in 2016.
He began his career by signing a homegrown contract with the Houston Dynamo of Major League Soccer, where he made his pro debut in 2011, then had 13 total appearances during his three years with the club.
After being waived by the Dynamo, Lilley swooped him up as he was rebuilding the Rochester Rhinos into a championship contender.
In his two seasons in Rochester, Dixon thrived as one of the Rhinos’ key attacking threats, scoring six goals in 46 appearances.
It was in 2015 when Dixon came into his own as a two-way player for a team that only lost one game and surrendered just 15 goals. His goal scoring impact came early that season, scoring three fimes in the first six games, but added to his repetoire as a play-maker and ball winner. That season, Dixon helped Rochester win their first ever USL Regular Season title in club history, topping the table by 13 points. Dixon started all three of the Rhinos’ playoffs games as they went on to win the playoffs.
It was when he was with Oklahoma City, then in his two seasons with Hartford, where Dixon stepped up his goal scoring totals, with 29 total goals from 2017-2020. Now in Pittsburgh, Dixon’s doing whatever it takes to help his team win games, much like his did when he helped lead the Rhinos to lift the USL Cup.
“Goals and assists don’t matter as much what we’re doing as a team and how I can have an impact,” Dixon said. “There were times this season, I was not meeting my expectations. I expect more from myself. I want to have an impact both offensively and defensively.”
Dixon’s become adept at drawing fouls in dangerous areas, using his pace and positioning to create opportunities for the other forwards.
With seven assists, he’s joined his previous and current teammate Kenardo Forbes as the Hounds’ most productive facilitators this season. Dixon leads the club with seven helpers, one ahead of Forbes, the USL Championship’s all-time assist leader.
Dixon has connected with Russell Cicerone on five of his team leading 14 goals this season — as together the two have become a dynamic scoring duo.
In August, when the schedule hit a frantic pace, Dixon was slotted into the outside, winger spot in a 3-4-3 which morphed into a 5-2-3 when in defensive shape, pitting him deeper and further back on the field at times.
Against Atlanta United 2, recognized openings from the deeper spot to set up Cicerone
— Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (@RiverhoundsSC) August 22, 2021
“I haven’t really played there much in my career,” Dixon acknowledged. “The deeper you are, the more time you have on the ball.”
Dixon also contributed a second assist to Cicerone in that game, helping his teammate pick up his first pro career hat trick.
“It’s awesome, and like I’ve been saying all year, the chemistry between us is getting better and better. We’re pretty experienced in this league, and I know what kind of runs he likes to make, he knows what kind of runs I like to make, and we’re obviously communicating on the pitch,” CIcerone said that night of his teammate, Dixon.
“Even on that third goal, I was going to stay back and let the defense go past me, but he told me to keep running hard because he must have seen a line. So I kept running hard, and that’s how that final goal turned out.”
The Hounds are currently in the thick of a race to take the top spot in the Atlantic Division, but Dixon knows it won’t be easy.
The veteran acknowledges that this far into the season, it’s hard to go unscathed.
“There’ve been little nicks here and there, but I’ve been fortunate. At this time, nobody’s going to go through the season without bumps and bruises, but I’m holding up.”
One of things that has made the current experience in 2021 a lot better for Dixon and his teammates, has been playing before fans.
“It’s been tough. Last year was difficult. It was a crazy time,” Dixon said. “I used to come here and would get heckled, but The Steel Army, the fans, they’ve been great. They bring great energy. They set the tone. They even travel to support us on the road.”
Dixon said that’s been among the most rewarding and enjoyable parts of playing in Pittsburgh, but he knows there’s still work to do.
“Hopefully our path through the playoffs will keep us here in Pittsburgh for some games,” Dixon said.
“It would be awesome to go really far in the playoffs, and play for a championship.”
Interview Early in 2021 Season with Alex Dixon