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Hounds Notebook: Preseason 2022 primer

File Photo courtesy John Krysinsky

The Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC 2022 preseason has arrived.

An strong number of returning players will be coming back along with the same coaching staff under the direction of Bob Lilley, who’s now heading into his fifth year at the helm in Pittsburgh.

Expectations will be high for this group as they embark on the 2022 campaign, which will include a 34-game regular season plus returning to Open Cup competition for the first time since 2019.

The club will be training at Highmark Stadium on Monday. Remaining preseason practices will be split between Highmark Stadium and the new AHN Montour Center in Coraopolis.

The preseason schedule won’t begin until Saturday, February 12 when the Hounds have a double header — playing both West Chester United and Villanova University at Highmark Stadium.

This year’s group of Hounds head into training camp looking to embark on a new season, looking to take care of unfinished business after the sudden end to last season, when COVID-19 positive results forced the cancellation of their first round playoff match at Birmingham in November.

In this first edition of Hounds Notebook we set the table for the preseason.

Look for more coverage throughout the preseason as our team which includes Jordan Smith, Mark Goodman and I will be heading out to training sessions, preseason friendlies (all which will be in Pittsburgh), filing features and we’ll also see the return of ‘Sounding Off on Soccer’ on Pittsburgh Sports Live.

The Current Roster

The Hounds currently have 15 players signed to the roster, which is right about where Bob Lilley and his coaching staff would like to be at the start of training camp.

In early December, the Hounds announced they would be picking up contract options on nine players (it was originally nine, but Tood Wharton announced his retirement, bringing that number to eight). They also brought back two players who had contracts expire, re-signing Danny Griffin and Albert Dikwa, which should help with keeping team chemistry and continuity intact.  Five of the seven defenders along with attacking and midfield trios are all coming back for another run together.

Over the years, Lilley has wanted to be aggressive in trying to bring in top players on the open market, but when the right opportunities allowed.

This year, the Hounds picked up three USL Championship veterans to bolster the roster, including the league’s all-time leading goal scorer, Dane Kelly.  Plus, by adding Robby Dambrot (who played at Pitt) and Jesse Williams (a third Trinidad & Tobago defender) to this roster, each have connections and bonds with other players on this team, as Dambot and Shane Wiedt were teammates in college and with Loudoun United, while Williams reunites with two of his elder National Team mates with the Soca Warriors.  The other additions, Angelo Kelly-Rosales (a four-year regular with Charleston Battery) and William Eyang, were brought in to complement an already veteran-heavy roster.

Of course, with these additions and a very strong returning cast, this year’s club will be expected to finish high in the Eastern Conference table and make a deep run in the USL Playoffs.

Still, there’s roster building to do.

Obviously they’ll be looking at filling some spots with competition among the trialists likely to come at goalkeeper, central midfield, possibly another center back or two and maybe another winger/attacker.

  • Goalkeepers (0) — None
  • Defenders (7) — Ezra Armstrong, Robby Dambrot, Jelani Peters, Dani Rovira, Shane Wiedt, Jesse Williams, Mekeil Williams
  • Midfielders (3) — Kenardo Forbes, Danny Griffin, Angelo Kelly-Rosales
  • Forwards/Wingers (5) — Russell Cicerone, Albert Dikwa, Alex Dixon, William Eyang, Dane Kelly

Bold – returning from 2021

Once again, LIlley has numerous interchangeable parts.  Players like Dani Rovira, Ezra Armstrong and even Kenardo Forbes and Danny Griffin can move around and be ‘tactically flexible’ in the Hounds’ line-up.

Taking a deeper look at the Hounds depth chart, here’s about where things stand.  Again, with numerous players who can move around, here’s still our best guess at where most of the players will line-up.

They Said It

“Finally the fans are going to be cheering for me. Whenever I go there, the place, it’s hell, because they keep shouting and enjoy it. Finally they get to cheer for me this time and not against me.” 

Dane Kelly, the USL Championship’s all-time leading goal scorer, said in an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Trialists List

This list has not been made available, but we’ll update this post once the Hounds share this information.

Dane Jacomen Signs with Loudoun United FC

While the Hounds will be looking to sign a goalkeeper, one of them won’t be former Hounds Academy product Dane Jacomen, a goalkeeper who currently is still attending Penn, has been signed to play with Loudoun United.  He will be completing his education, then joining the club full-time on June 1.

Jacomen played with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds Academy before moving to D.C. United’s, where he appeared with the Black-and-Red in their 2018 preseason.

Jacomen recently announced he would forego his final year at Penn University following summer at West Chester United where he allowed five goals in 13 games and was the recipient of the Gold Glove Award for the USL League Two.

In Case You Missed It 

Open Cup will be back in 2022.  Look for the Hounds to learn their first-round opponent very soon.

US Open Cup returns with largest field ever in 2022; Hounds to enter in second round

My interview with Riverhounds SC President, Vic Gregovits.

PSN 1-on-1: Riverhounds SC President Vic Gregovits

Riverhounds SC Preseason Schedule

Date Opponent Time
12-Feb Villanova University 11 a.m.
12-Feb West Chester United 3 p.m.
16-Feb Loudoun United 2 p.m.
19-Feb Pitt 1 p.m. 
22-Feb Indy Eleven 12:30 p.m.
26-Feb Louisville City FC 2 p.m.
5-Mar West Virginia Univ 6 p.m.

all matches at Highmark Stadium except for match vs Pitt (Ambrose Urbanic Field at Peterson Sports Complex) 

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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