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Back to the Drawing Board: A New Year to bring more Riverhounds SC player signings

Will the Hounds opt to re-sign Albert Dikwa? Photo courtesy Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC/Chris Cowger

The arrival of the New Year, means it’s back to business for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC in preparing for another season.

Heading into January, the Hounds currently have filled nine roster spots after announcing in early December that they’ve re-signed nine players who they held contract options.

With the regular season expected to start in mid-March, look for free agent veteran player signing announcements and other details such as the league schedule to start coming as soon as early this week.

Head Coach Bob Lilley still has work to do to fill his dry erase board in his office as he gets down to the business of building his roster for 2022.

Lilley and his staff will be looking to fill anywhere from six to eight roster spots with signings ahead of the opening of the club’s preseason training camp which is expected to start in early February.

PlayerPrimary position(s)2021 Club 
Kenardo Forbescentral/attacking MFRiverhounds SC
Russell Ciceronewinger / forwardRiverhounds SC
Alex Dixonwinger / forwardRiverhounds SC
Shane Weidtcenter backRiverhounds SC
Mekeil Williamscenter backRiverhounds SC
Jelani Peterscenter backRiverhounds SC
Todd Whartoncentral MFRiverhounds SC
Ezra Armstrongoutside back / wingerRiverhounds SC
Dani Roviraoutside back / wingerRiverhounds SC

Judging by this list, the Hounds have a strong core returning in a few areas including veteran playmaking attacking/central midfielders and wingers (Forbes, Dixon, Cicerone, Wharton) center back (Wiedt, Williams, Peters) and outside backs (Rovira, Armstrong).

The club also made it known after announcing the signing of these nine players, they were also hopeful to sign a few players back who’s contracts expired to further maintain roster continuity. Three players fit into that category:  Danny Griffin, Danny Vitiello and Albert Dikwa.

Vitiello was announced last week as Sacramento’s newest keeper.

This leaves Griffin and Dikwa as the two possibilities of players the Hounds could very likely still bring back under a new contract.

Dikwa was acknowledged as a valuable player as part of the core attacking group in 2021. Lilley did recognize his contributions often as a center forward to do a lot of the dirty work. Unfortunately for Dikwa, for the second consecutive year, we never really had a chance to see his full potential, as he was injured for much of the second half of the season with a nagging groin issue.

Griffin firmly established himself as the team’s invaluable workhorse in the middle of the pitch, leading the team in minutes played (2,868) and appearances/starts (32), and only being subbed out one time the entire season.

UPDATE: On Monday, the Hounds announced they have re-signed Griffin to a new deal.  

With Forbes and Dixon in their early 30’s, the Hounds are going to have to carefully manage their workload and minutes during the course of a 34-game schedule plus Open Cup and more.  Having Griffin back in the fold would provide a very strong returning midfield that they could build around with younger players and maybe one additional veteran addition.

The Hounds would then focus on adding more forwards, defenders, goalkeepers (none currently on the roster) ahead of and during the preseason.  The MLS SuperDraft is scheduled for January 11, but in recent years, that hasn’t stopped Lilley from signing players he liked from open tryouts and combines prior to the draft taking place.  Anthony Velarde, Lukas Fernandes and Louis Perez were examples of players who flew under the radar coming out of college, not part of the MLS combine.

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Meanwhile, another couple former Hounds have also moved on to new soccer homes for 2022:  Preston Kilwien and Neco Brett.

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).

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