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Takeaways & Player Grades: Lilley takes Hounds’ depth for early season test drive in the Motor City

Photo Courtesy Detroit City FC

The Riverhounds SC came away with a point on the road, in a fairly hostile environment at Detroit City FC, in a match that ended in a 1-1 draw on Saturday.

When the lineup cards were announced, there was some surprise that Hounds Head Coach Bob Lilley, who’s always willing to throw in a wrinkle or two in every lineup selection, wasn’t afraid to go much deeper into his bench for a challenging road match early in the season.

There are numerous reasons for this.

For one thing, the Hounds have two players, Mekeil Williams and Jesse Williams, who are representing their country, Trinidad & Tobago, in international friendlies this week.

On the other hand, with a long haul ahead, Lilley is trying to manage the workload for some of his key veteran players, and allow them to rest up as they’ve each had their share of knocks and minor injuries early in the season.

All three Hounds veterans over the age of 30, Kenardo Forbes, Alex Dixon and Dane Kelly, did not start in this match and only Forbes was available and made the trip.

This provided Lilley with an opportunity to take a new set of players out for a test drive in the Motor City.

Formation & Tactics 

The Hounds’ lineup included first starts of the season for two Hounds’ veterans, Albert Dikwa and Dani Rovira, while a pair of rookies made their first start with the club, Kevin Silva in goal and Nathan Dossantos on the back line.  It was also the first start of the season for Hounds Academy product, Wyatt Borso, who is in his second season playing with the first team.  The 18 year-old Notre Dame commit started his first pro match last September at San Antonio.

Fun side note: with Arturo Ordonez and Nathan Dossantos on the back line, the Hounds used two center backs who both were part of the 2020 College Cup, (Ordonez with Pitt and Dossantos with Marshall).

Lilley opted to go with giving Danny Griffin (making his third straight start — picking up where he left a year ago leading the team in minutes played and starts) a close companion deeper in the central midfield, Marc Ybarra.  The rookie from Michigan, Ybarra, has now started in both of the Hounds’ road matches this season.

Here’s a look at how the Hounds lined up to start the match.

And here were the average positions for each starter (note the Hounds in black)

The only simliarity from previous starting lineups came with the back line, as the Hounds had three center backs from the win at Memphis in the season opener, but added Dossantos as an outside back.

Rovira, who had an excellent preseason, showing more aggresive mindset in the attacking third in his fourth season with the club, started higher in the formation than we’ve ever seen him as a Hound.

Returning to his hometown, and hearing some chants directed his way, Russell Cicerone was on the other side of Rovira, his usual spot underneath the target forward.

Dikwa was at the top of the formation, doing a little bit of everything from the dirty work and scoring the Hounds lone goal.

Coming off the bench in the 61st minute was Kenardo Forbes, who came on for Borso.

The Hounds also unloaded the bench further in the 75th minute trying to bring fresh legs on to help turn the tide of the match. At that point, newcomer Luis Argudo replaced Albert Dikwa, while William Eyang came on for Russell Cicerone and Angelo Kelly-Rosales slotted into the match for Marc Ybarra. 

Only field players on the 18 who didn’t get into the match were Robby Dambrot and Luke Biasi.

Tale of Two Halves 

As documented in our post match recap and reaction coverage, the Hounds played the first 45 minutes according to Lilley’s game plan, taking away what Detroit City FC has shown to do well early in their USL Championship tenure.  The Hounds pressed the back line with its wingers (namely Dani Rovira and Wyatt Borso), but also at times let them possess the ball a bit more through the middle of the field. Still, much of DCFC’s build-up would get turned away or intercepted, while their dangerous wingers were not able to create any opportunities.

At the end of the first half, the Hounds were doing plenty in the counter attack and creating opportunities. They had the edge in shots (7-1, with a 3-0 advantage in shots on frame).  They capitalized on another set piece goal, this time it was Albert Dikwa who was in the right place, on the back post following a corner kick.

“It’s tough. I thought we played pretty well,” Riverhounds SC Head Coach Bob Lilley said after the match when asked about the overall result.

“I am disappointed we broke their midfield line a lot, and didn’t end up with a chance at more opportunities. The cross or the pass wasn’t good enough. The quality was lacking a little there, but some of the build up play was good and the defending was very, very good in the first half.”

Trevor James made some key adjustments in the second half, getting his team to exercise a bit more patience when keeping the ball, and giving them a chance to find more room on the wider channels by pushing his wingers up higher even if that meant leaving less numbers on the back end.

Early in the second half, this resulted in a couple chances from wingers getting behind the Hounds for shot chances and setting up numerous corner kicks, which flipped the momentum.

Lilley wasn’t thrilled with this development.

‘”We were not as good in the second half,” Lilley said. “They were able to get in behind us and get a lot of service.”

The pressure started coming in different waves.

The Hounds may have dodged a serious bullet in the 57th minute when Antoine Hoppenot’s shot attempt appeared to deflect off Dossantos’ left arm.

With the pressure mounting, eventually the Hounds were victimized when Danny Griffin was called for a foul in the box as a ball was redirected in his area at the same time he became tangled up with a DCFC player.

Le Rouge’s Maxi Fernandez capitalized to deliver the equalizing penalty kick past SIlva, who guessed correctly by going to his right.

The Hounds made some subsitutions that gave them some decent energy in the final 15-20 minutes.

Luis Argudo, a former MLS player, showed signs of quality, high level play in winning some balls at midfield (won two fouls) and delivered a near game-winner in the 86th minute as his shot from outside the box in transition just missed wide right.

With Argudo, Angelo Kelly-Rosales and Forbes’ presence late in the match, the Hounds re-established sense of control in the midfield and extended possessions while pushing for the go-ahead goal.

In a match where Lilley tinkered with some new lineup combinations, tried some different tactics and left top attacking talent (namely Dane Kelly and Alex Dixon) back in Pittsburgh, the Hounds grinded their way to the finish line in a match against an inspired and dangerous team with a draw.

Certainly not a bad result at this point in the season.

“Detroit deserves a lot of credit,” LIlley explained.

“They put plenty of dangerous balls into the box. They changed the momentum in the second half. They started to become more and more dangerous and we needed to become more stoudt defensively.  We started to react to the game rather than get on the front foot.  Sometimes that momentum changes. Balls bounce around. Things happen that you don’t want to happen. It was there for us. It feels like we let some points get away.”

What’s next?

The Hounds host surprising Loudoun United FC (2-0-0) in their next match, Saturday, April 2 at 7 p.m. at Highmark Stadium. The D.C. United reserve side won its first two matches ahead of a meeting with Miami later today.

Riverhounds Player Grades (at Detroit City FC)

Riverhounds SC lineup (4-2-3-1) 

Goalkeeper

Kevin Silva – 6 – first start for SIlva.  Was under pressure in second half after a pretty quiet first 45 minutes.  Guessed correctly on the PK but wasn’t going to stop that shot.

Defenders 

Nathan Dossantos – 5.5 – defending the wing against Detroit’s dangerous wide players proved to keep Dossantos active (2 tackles, 3 clearances, 2 interceptions), and in his first pro start, he held his own on the left side in the first half but did get beat a few times in the second half.  He also conceded two fouls.

Arturo Ordonez – 6 – another solid performance in the center back spot alongside Jelani Peters.  Won 6 of 8 duels, had 4 clearances and tied for team-high 52 passes as he’s gaining more confidence in playing out of the back.

Jelani Peters – 6 – won 5 of 9 duels and had team high five clearances.

Shane Wiedt – 6.5 –  playing a little out of position at right back — was all over the place once again with a team-high five interceptions, winning 11 of 15 duels (including 8 of 10 in the air), four clearances, and a team-high 71 touches on the ball.

Midfielders

Danny Griffin – 5 – his fortunes were in line with his team’s performance. Solid in first half, key in creating chances (two of them), passing sharp and solid in defending with numerous tackles and interceptions.  In the second half, he conceded four fouls and had a few too many giveaways dipping his passing accuracy down (to 75% — still pretty good!).

Marc Ybarra – 5 – thought he was steady at times and was on the ball a bit more than previous start (43 passes, created a chance 80% passing accuracy), but also struggled when Detroit started bringing more pressure (only won 3 of 9 duels, had a yellow card and conceded five fouls).

Angelo Kelly (74′) – NR – had some positive moments to help get control of the midfield back for the Hounds later in the second half.

Dani Rovira – 5.5 – in his 2022 debut, Hounds fans got a glance at Rovira in a higher spot in the formation.  He was very active in pressing back line

Russell Cicerone – 6  – didn’t have a chance to create any shot opportunities (had one shot blocked), but did a lot of dirty work in his homecoming, winning 7 of 8 duels, won two fouls

Wyatt Borso – 5.5 –  liked the things he did in first half to generate chances (few crosses, created a chance) while also active in pressuring and denying Detroit from initiating its attack out of back and through wide spots.  Won 3 of 9 chances and conceded 2 fouls.

Kenardo Forbes (61′) – 5.5 – couldn’t create any magic with his service opportunities (3 unsuccessful crosses and free kick late forced a final corner chance). Walked into match when things were hectic for the Hounds, he was having some trouble connecting passes (just 65% passing accuracy!?).

Luis Argudo (74′) – NR – lots of quality as outlined his contributions above in short period of time. In addition to stats outlined above, won 6 of 7 duels. Will be interesting to see what his role will be with this team. He clearly is a talented addition to the squad.

Forwards

Albert Dikwa – 6 – solid day at the office in his first start. Not just the goal, but especially in the first half with holding the ball up, extending possession and with high press.

William Eyang (74′) – NR – with Dane Kelly not making the trip, Eyang is currently the next man up in the target forward rotation.

 

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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