From Riverhounds SC report
The Riverhounds SC kicked off its preparations for 2022 by picking up contract options on nine players who will return next season.
Headlining the group locked in for next year is Kenardo Forbes, an All-USL Second Team selection and the team’s longest-tenured player, who will be back for a fifth season in the Pittsburgh midfield. Forwards Russell Cicerone and Alex Dixon, the team’s top two scorers from a season ago, also will return for a second season in the Steel City.
Here are players Hounds who had contracts expire in 2021.— John Krysinsky (@JohnKrysinsky) December 6, 2021
Albert Dikwa@JSmith_1187 and I broke down 2022 roster possibilities last week on @PGHSportsLive including our thoughts on these four…@RiverhoundsSChttps://t.co/WhyCSEETWl
The center of the defense will remain stable with second years secured for former Pitt defender Shane Weidt and Trinidad and Tobago internationals Mekeil Williams and Jelani Peters. Midfield staple Todd Wharton and speedy wing back Ezra Armstrong also return for another year with the Hounds, while versatile and energetic defender/midfielder Dani Rovira will return for his fourth season with the club.
The Hounds and coach Bob Lilley are negotiating with other players whose contracts with the Hounds ended in 2021, as the team seeks to keep building upon a group that went 17-8-7 this season and qualified for a club-record fourth consecutive USL Championship playoff berth.
With the nine players already slated to return, a good foundation is already set in place for 2022.
Much of last season’s scoring punch remains, led by Cicerone, who had a career-best 16 goals last season. Dixon had nine goals and a team-best nine assists in 2021, and Forbes, the club’s all-time assists leader, finished with a personal best of five goals to go with six assists. Led by those three, the nine optioned players accounted for 36 of the team’s 52 goals — 69.2 percent — a season ago.
Wiedt and Wharton were ever-present in their first seasons with the Hounds, as both appeared in all 32 games in 2021 while recording 29 and 24 starts, respectively. Williams and Peters also were regular starters on defense, though both missed time with the Hounds after they were called up for international duty with Trinidad during last summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Rovira had a breakout year in his own right in 2021. The Colombian went from a part-time role in his first two seasons with the Hounds to playing 29 of 32 games and logging a career-high in minutes as a wing back, holding midfielder and occasional outside midfielder. Armstrong also grew into his role during his first year with the Hounds, providing a speedy two-way threat on the flank and making 11 of his 14 appearances in the second half of the season.
Takeaways: Strong Core to Come Back
Bob Lilley will have a stronger and deeper nucleus returning for another season. With these nine players. There are key attackers, wingers, versatile guys, three center backs/defenders, veterans and good young players returning for 2022 season.
The Hounds have work to do in building the 2022 roster but what Lilley will do is focus on getting better at each position. By not re-signing any goalkeepers, they will start from scratch at that position, but this is no surprise to those who follow Bob Lilley’s roster building strategies.