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Ahead of Hounds’ road challenge at Detroit, Lilley acknowledges ‘We need to play much better’

Despite bagging a couple of wins in their first two matches of the season, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC head coach Bob Lilley hasn’t exactly been thrilled with the way his team has been playing.

Looking ahead to Saturday’s match at Detroit City FC (4 p.m. kickoff), the veteran coach has been emphasizing to his players in training this week that even though this is a new club in the USL Championship, the Hounds’ next opponent are a very cohesive group, which has numerous players who are part of the same system with the same coach, Trevor James who have tremendous support from the community, giving them an advantage in home matches at Keyworth Stadium.

“Trevor (James) is an excellent coach. They have a system in place, know who they are. They’ve built a culture of winning, in NPSL and NISA before moving up to USL Championship. They’re going to have a great crowd.” Lilley said.

“We’re going to have to play well.”

We’ve set the stage, addressing numerous storylines in Hounds Notebook earlier this week, including more about Detroit City FC’s rise as a lower division club ahead of its move to the USL Championship for the 2022 season.

Hounds Notebook: Revvin’ up for early season trip to Motown, where Bob Lilley once held the keys to The Ignition

DCFC has split its first two matches, losing a hard-fought match at Western Conference side San Antonio FC, 1-0, in its opener on March 12, They returned home to defeat the Charleston Battery, 1-0.

‘Against San Antonio, it was a pick ’em game,” Lilley said.

“They (Detroit City FC) came out and had the better chances, especially in the first half. They were the better team against Charleston. San Antonio and Charleston are going to be good teams this year. Although it’s their first year (in USL Championship), they’ve been very good.”

James brought back a core group of players to the roster, some with MLS experience, with a mix of veterans and young players, much like the Hounds roster make-up.

One familiar face to Riverhounds SC fans, Antoine Hoppenot, who previously was with Louisville City FC and began his pro career as part of the Harrisburg City Islanders crew that the Hounds battled with when the Keystone Derby Cup was still going strong.

Hoppenot scored the only goal in DCFC’s win against Charleston.

“With Detroit, Hoppenot has a bigger role than he did with Louisville City. They’re getting the most out of him,” Lilley stated.

Lilley cited that Detroit City FC bring waves of pressure that include three attacking midfielders, including Hoppenot who sits below the forwards, but also notes that they’ll bring their wing backs way up.

“They’ll push you a lot,” Lilley explained. “The wing backs are very good, and they’ll look to get in behind. They can string passes pretty well as a team, so we’ll have to be ready for that, but what they are effective at playing direct.”

And that’s something that the Hounds struggled with in the first two weeks.

Both Memphis 901 FC and Hartford Athletic put pressure on the Hounds’ back line that left Lilley a bit frustrated after each match.

This was further outlined in this week’s Takeaways and Player Grades following the Hounds win against Hartford.

Takeaways & Player Grades: Kenardo Forbes adds to his impressive Hounds’ legacy

“I don’t think our defending has been good enough,” Lilley exclaimed after Saturday’s win. “Not tonight, not last week at Memphis.”

By the same token, Lilley pointed to the fact that they have not allowed many chances (goalkeeper Chase Vosvick didn’t have to make a single save on Saturday), but he feels they’re easy to play against, with his defense lacking the support and second defenders getting in to stop opponents from creating attacking moments.

“Against Detroit, we have to be able to deal with the full width,” Lilley added. “They really dictated the game against Charleston. They really pushed the tempo. This is a team that has an idea of who they really are. And they’re in really good form right now.”

Look for a more detailed breakdown on Detroit City FC coming from PSN’s Mark Goodman ahead of Saturday match here on Pittsburgh Soccer Now.

After successful coaching career that took him from Hershey to Montreal and Vancouver in the A-League (U.S.’s second division league in the 2000s), Lilley followed his friend Mark Pulisic to return to the coach the Detroit Ignition of the Major League Indoor Soccer League for one season.

Compuware Arena in Plymouth, Michigan to be exact

The team became a member of the MISL in 2006. Pulisic was its first coach.

Lilley then became the head coach in 2007, leading them to a 22-8-0 record and a first place finish in the regular season. They were defeated in the league playoff semifinal round that season.

Ask him about it now, and Lilley acknowledges that his previous experience in the Motor City, he really didn’t have a chance to get settled and establish any significant connections.

“It’s hard. It was very different,” Lilley said. “We were in the suburbs, no where near the city. playing out in Plymouth (Township, Michigan). We were indoors, not outdoors. It went by pretty fast.”

Among the players who were on that Ignition squad? Jose Rife, who some around these parts may remember was a Hounds assistant in 2015 and 2016, under Mark Steffens. These days, Rife is the Head Coach of Women’s Soccer team at Ball State University.

While the Hounds may have played Detroit City FC in a preseason match in 2021, it may have been a long time since there was an official professional soccer match between teams from Pittsburgh and Detroit.

Looking through the entire year-by-year history of the Riverhounds from 1999 through now, and the only time the Hounds played a team from Michigan, came when they faced Western Michigan Edge during the 2005 season.

Lilley’s Stingers did take on the Detroit Neon in the 1995, and thanks to our Pittsburgh soccer video historian, Patrick McCarthy, a record of this exists on YouTube.

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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