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Hounds roar back to defeat Villanova, 3-2, in preseason opener

Photo courtesy Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC

From Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC report 

Riverhounds SC came from behind to open its preseason with a 3-2 win over visiting Villanova University in a morning kickoff at Highmark Stadium.

Wyatt Borso, Russell Cicerone and Dane Kelly scored for the Hounds (1-0-0), who trailed 2-0 before tying the game 2-2 before halftime. Balthi Saunders and Akinjide Awujo scored for the visiting Wildcats, an NCAA Tournament qualifier out of the Big East last fall.

The Hounds used 22 different players in the match — two full units that each got 45 minutes — and started the match with seven non-roster trialists, putting many of the players battling for a roster spot to the test early.

While the Hounds looked good in possession and created plenty of chances, the Wildcats hit the board first with Saunders’ goal on the counterattack in the 13th minute, which came moments after Cicerone was denied on the other end. Awujo then made the score 2-0 in the 29th minute by tapping in a low cross from close range.

Borso nearly got a goal back three minutes later when his shot struck the left post, but in the 43rd minute, the 17-year-old entering his second year on a USL Academy contract got his goal by stealing the ball off the foot of a defender and scoring with a shot placed in the top corner.

The Hounds cashed in fully on their momentum in first-half stoppage time, as Cicerone, the team’s leading scorer a year ago with 16 goals, got his first of the preseason with a hesitation move in the box that let the defenders drift by and gave him an open look at the net.

With a new 11 on the field for the second half, including the first appearances of new signings Kelly, defender Robby Dambrot and midfielder Angelo Kelly-Rosales, the Hounds worked their way back into the flow of play in the second half.

In the 73rd minute, Kelly showed the skill that has made him the USL Championship’s all-time leading scorer. The Jamaican striker bagged the winning goal with a well-struck shot from distance that was set up by Albert Dikwa winning a ball played forward and laying it back into Kelly’s path.

The Hounds return to practice Monday with a short turnaround before their next preseason match. They will host their first USL opponent of the year, Loudoun United FC, at 2 p.m. Wednesday at Highmark Stadium. That game, like all of the Hounds’ preseason matches, will be open and free to the public.

[Attached are two photos for media use. one of Wyatt Borso (left) and Russell Cicerone (center, on ball), and the other of Kenardo Forbes. Please credit Riverhounds SC.]

Scoring summary

NOVA — Balthi Saunders 13’
NOVA — Akinjide Awujo 29’
PIT — Wyatt Borso 43’
PIT — Russell Cicerone 45+1’
PIT — Dane Kelly 73’

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