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Hounds Notebook: Jelani Peters becomes a steady presence on back line

The Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC will look to keep its unbeaten start to the season going when tney face Loudoun United FC on Saturday night at Highmark Stadium.

The Hounds have been back to business this week, after 1-1 draw at USL Championship newbies, Detroit City FC on Saturday.

In fact, it will be the busiest stretch of the early part of the season, as they’ll be playing three matches in a seven day span, if you include this upcoming Tuesday’s Open Cup match at Highmark Stadium.

The stretch will wrap-up with another Saturday afternoon matinee, when they travel to Oklahoma to take on Tulsa FC on April 9 (2 p.m. kickoff).

And the following week they’re in Vegas.

 Catching Up With The Big Fella: Jelani Peters 

The Riverhounds have surrendered two goals in its first three matches.

Of course there have been a few lapses and concerns that Head Coach Bob Lilley has pointed to where the team’s overall defending could be improved. In comparison to last season, the Hounds are clearly in better shape and have more depth along the back line.

A big reason for that is because they have three returning center backs, Shane Wiedt, Mekeil Williams and Jelani Peters.

Of the three, Jelani Peters stands tallest, standing at 6-foot-4 and has become a steadying presence.   He is one of three players — all defenders — from Trinidad & Tobago.

The Trinidadian has become a steady force on the Hounds back line.  In 2021, he made 16 starts in 22 appearances, and by sesaon’s end, he was part of the regular roation of center backs along with Wiedt and Mekeil Williams.

With his height and ability to get to the ball in the air, Peters will be one of the targets for the Hounds on many corner kick and free kick opportunities.  Last season he scored once. Early this season, Peters has been very solid in the air, winning 12 of 16 arial duels.  In addition, in his had 14 clearances, two tackles, three interceptions and overall has won 16 of 25 duels.

With fellow countryman Mekeil Williams and Jesse Williams off on international duty this week, Peters has been an anchor for his team in the back and who knows, b by season’s end he could be among the leaders in minutes played and appearances.

In three matches, all starts, he’s played every minute.

Hounds Squad Rotation 

With the Hounds returning to Open Cup play on Tuesday, against the Maryland Bobcats FC, Lilley will be counting on some squad roation.

As outlined in detail following the Hounds draw at Detroit on Saturday, in Takeaways / Player Grades and our post match reaction show, the Hounds went very deep into its roster on Saturday, and expect a heavy dose of squad rotation in the next two to three games.

In early February, Lilley told Pittsburgh Soccer Now that it was his intention to use everyone he could, early and often this season.

“We could have the deepest team since I’ve been here.  Most years, we’ve been able to count on about 13 to 15 guys who can realistically start for us without any significant dropoff,” Lilley said.

“This year, we could be looking at 18 to 20 guys, possibly, who can be part of that rotation.”

Just three games into the season, and the Riverhounds have utilized 21 players, with all but three of them getting at least one start.

That’s some signficant squad rotation, and exactly what Bob Lilley was hoping to do when he put this roster together.

Dane Kelly and Alex Dixon, two key players in the attack didn’t even suit up as part of the 18 on Saturday, instead, sat in the corner in the cold, windy confines of Keyworth Stadium, along with Hounds’ Director of Media Relations, Matt Grubba.  In addition, two other players who were in the starting 11 in the first two weeks, Robby Dambrot and Chase Vosvick, also didn’t play on Saturday.

As long as they’re healthy, look for all four of those players to be back in the starting lineup on Saturday.

Lilley is likely to go with the rotation that included starters in the first two matches on Saturday against Loudoun United FC, then probably dig back deeper into his bench for the Open Cup match on Tuesday.

Here are some hypothetical projections.

PSN’s projections for Saturday’s Starting Lineup: 

PSN’s Projections for Open Cup Match on Tuesday: 

Open Cup Returns

The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup is back after a hiatus of two years.

We will have much more on the Open Cup, including a special edition of ‘Sounding Off On Soccer’ on Pittsburgh Sports Live coming ahead of Tuesday’s match, as we’ll have at least one (or more?) special guests to talk about the oldest running National Soccer tournament in the United States.

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

The Hounds, as all second and third division teams, will enter the tournament in the second round.

A total of 103 teams, including a record-breaking 71 professional teams (previously set in 2019 with 52 pro teams) and 32 Open Division teams, are set to compete for the 107th edition of America’s national championship.

Locally, the lone representative in this year’s field is the Riverhounds SC.

Things will happen quickly, if the Hounds win on Tuesday, they’ll find out their opponent for the third round only a few days later (April 8 is the date for the third round draw).

The Hounds last participated in the Open Cup in 2019, when they advanced to the Fourth Round, where they were defeated by Major League Soccer’s Columbus Crew, 1-0.

The Hounds and its fan base would love nothing more to get a chance to host an MLS team in the third or fourth round at Highmark Stadium.

The last time that happened, was in 2015, when the Hounds battled DC United, eventually losing 3-1 in Extra Time.

RIVERHOUNDS GIVE DC UNITED A FIGHT, FALL 3-1 IN EXTRA TIME

 

For more on U.S Open Cup, visit thecup.us / US Soccer

Pittsburgh Soccer Now’s Hounds Coverage 

As the Hounds take on Loudoun United FC, look for Jordan Smith to anchor our coverage on Saturday night from Highmark Stadium.  It will be a 7 p.m. kickoff.

Also be on the look out for Mark Goodman’s Scouting Report of the surprising, and unbeaten Loudoun United FC.

 

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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