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Takeaways & Player Grades: Taking ‘half measures’, Hounds end up on losing end in Vegas

Photo courtesy Las Vegas Lights

The Riverhounds SC came up short on a blustery, windy Saturday in Las Vegas, losing to the Lights FC, 1-0 for the club’s first defeat of the season, as they paid the price for moments of hesitancy and waiting for the game to come to them.

Head Coach Bob Lilley, as he usually does, didn’t mince in his post match comments, on Saturday, pointing out his team’s shortcomings in the desert.

“We just didn’t put enough urgency or energy into the game. Obviously the goal was a mistake, but we weren’t creating chances and there wasn’t enough impetus going forward,” Riverhounds head coach Bob Lilley said.

It’s going to be a quick turnaround for the Hounds, who spent Sunday in Vegas recouping before heading back to Pittsburgh only to turnaround to get on a bus to Cincinnati, where they’ll face MLS FC Cincinnati in 3rd Round US Open Cup match on Tuesday.

#LVvPIT Match Takeaways

Lineup/Formation/Tactics

The Hounds came out with a rotating back line which included Arturo Ordonez (15) and Mekeil Williams (5) in the middle, flanked by Jesse Williams (23) on the right and Shane Wiedt (3) on the left.

However, it was clear that Jesse Williams was further up the right side, with Robby Dambrot (22), was also out on the left flank .

While the Hounds did begin the match with some initiative, with the back line building out possession by successfully connecting on the wider channels, particularly on the left width, where Dambrot found Kenardo Forbes beyond the midfield line a few times.  Wiedt also kept pushing up higher leaving what looked like Ordonez and Wiillams back as the deeper defenders most of the time.

Forbes created two crosses and earned a corner kick in the first ten minutes.

Russell Cicerone was playing almost as high as Dane Kelly, trying to make runs behind the LVLFC back line, while Kelly did more of the grunt, hold up work.

For the first time this season, Lilley made a pair of substitutions in the first half, taking out Ybarra and Dambrot, in favor of Alex Dixon and Nathan Dossantos.

At the start of the second half, the Hounds lined up in a 3-5-2 that also morphed into the 3-4-3 as Dixon pushed higher up to join Kelly and Cicerone (and Dikwa) as the match evolved and subsitutions were made.  Argudo and Rovira also jumped into the action when the Hounds brought numbers forward for the equalizer.

Lilley said there would be a lot of lineup rotation with three games in eight days, but it’s pretty evident that the first half substitution was not planned.

Luis Argudo and Albert Dikwa came on in the 62nd minute for Cicerone and Jesse Williams, while Danny Rovira replaced Wiedt in the 81st minute.

Lack of Urgency 

Unlike recent matches, the Hounds could not generate an early shot on frame nor could they really put their opponent on their heels.

The match turned in the second 10 minutes when Vegas’ midfield started to pressure the Hounds’ deep central midfielders Danny Griffin and Marc Ybarra every time they would receive a pass from the back line.

Vegas’ midfielders were bottling things up in the middle, forcing Pittsburgh to play the wider channels. What followed were some passes that went to the open spaces on the left side, but it appeared there was confusion, with no Hounds in the vicinity on a few occasions those pass attempts.

Before the Hounds could regain control and get back to dictating terms as they’ve done so well this season, the league hottest scorer made them pay for a poor mistake.

Danny Trejo beat the Hounds’ deepest central defender, Ordonez, and goalkeeper Kevin Silva.

Alvaro Quezada pounced on a pass out of the defense and quickly played the ball forward to Trejo. One-on-one, Trejo was able to switch the ball over to his right foot despite a touch on the ball by Arturo Ordóñez, who also began the sequence a bit out of position.

Trejo placed a shot into the bottom right corner of the net

The center mids were showing a tendency to play the ball back to the back line instead of looking to quickly transition into the attack mostly do their their inablity to deal with the Las Vegas’ pressure getting in the way of  passing lanes, leading to the takeaway and opportunity that led to Trejo in a one-on-one chance.

Giving away a ball that found the feet of a top notch goal scorer like Trejo in space, put the Hounds behind the eight ball in the first half.

Rare First Half Subs; Second Half Push Not Enough

Lilley clearly was not happy with his holding midfielders and Dambrot’s positioning, that he made a rare first half double sub to change things up, adding veteran Alex Dixon for Ybarra and rookie Nathan Dossantos for Dambrot for a rare first half line-up change.

In the second half, Pittsburgh started to sharpen its passing and began to get deeper into the final, attacking third, generating 11 shots, with five on frame. The Hounds were unable to convert in their late push as they ended the match holding a slight possession edge (51%/49%).

In fact, the Hounds were on the front foot for most of the second half, finishing with the last six shots of the match and holding Las Vegas without a shot for the final 30 minutes of the match.

Always the playmaker, Dixon started to made some noise on the right side, finding Dane Kelly in front of goal, only to see Kelly’s shot denied with a reaction save by Tomás Romero — the first of four for the Lights’ goalkeeper.

On the same play, Kelly was bulldozed after the shot attempt.

The Hounds also had two near misses from corner kicks served in by substitute Luis Argudo in the late stages.

In the 80th minute, the usually reliable and clinical Kelly missed his header chance, then in stoppage time, the Hounds had a few attempts to redirect the service, but Vegas cleared away from danger.

Vegas Experience, Quick Turnaround & Other Quick Hits

The Hounds were definitely the better team in the last 45 minutes, but for the first time this season, they could not salvage the match or find a second half goal.

It really was their poorest performance of the season.

The match was played in windy conditions with paper flying around and on a narrow pitch.

The broadcast production value seemed to be an issue with a lot of Pittsburgh fans watching the match.

With Griffin, Forbes and Kelly each playing the full 90 minutes plus, it’s unlikely they’ll all be in the starting line-up for the US Open Cup match on Tuesday in Cincinnati, but you never know.  Griffin in particular has shown a propensity to play another 90 minute match on short notice.

Player Grades

Goalkeeper

Kevin Silva -5.5 – only faced two shots and made one save.  He was beat on the Trejo goal — as it would have been a tough one to stop as it was perfectly placed.

Defenders

Shane Wiedt – 5.5 – Relatively quiet performance with 2 interceptions, 2 clearances. Also had a cross and created a chance.

Mekeil Williams – 6 – 44 touches were the most of the back line as he and Ordonez shared the duties, winning 8 of 14 duels.

Arturo Ordonez – 4 – was caught slightly out of position on the goal, in a one-on-one situation with the league’s hottest player. Had a blocked shot, four intereceptions, clearance and a tackle.  To add to the rough day, he also was booked for a yellow card.

Midfield

Kenardo Forbes – 5.5 – a full 90 minute match for Kenny, who lead the team in passes (46) but only connected a 68% rate.  Won 6 of 10 duels as he also helped settle things down in the middle of the field when needed.  Only 1 of five crosses connected.

Danny Griffin – 4.5 – not his best outing, but he steadied a bit after a rough stretch in the first half.

Marc Ybarra – 3 – lost all three duels, conceded two fouls and was subbed out after the goal in the 36th minute.   Tough road experience for Ybarra, but he’s a rookie with lots of upside.  75% passing accuracy in just 15 passes.

Shane Williams – 4 – Only 15 touches and not really involved on right side (1 unsuccessful cross and conceded a foul) as he dropped deeper and was less involved especially once Dixon moved into the attacking wide right side spot.  Only won 2 of 8 duels.

Robby Dambrot – 4 – Poor positioning may have been an issue for his early departure.  He was pretty busy in the first 10 minutes (20 touches in 36 minutes), also won 4 of 9 duels.

Nathan Dossantos – 5.5 – won 5 of 8 duels, had a shot on frame and was a bit more involved.

Luis Argudo – 5 –  As a sub he had some ups and downs. The good — was involved in creating chances — with two successful crosses (of four).  The bad and ugly — conceded four fouls and was zero for five in his duels.

Alex Dixon – 6.5 – solid off the bench in the 36th minute. He had a pair of crosses and was second to Kelly — a 90-minute player — in touches in the opponent’s box as the Hounds played a lot through him to push for the equalizer.

Forwards

Russell Cicerone – 5 – work rate is never an issue with Russ.  Won a foul but not getting any shots.

Dane Kelly – 5 – you want to put Kelly in position to score goals. He did have four shot attempts, with two on frame.  But it wasn’t his day.  His work rate remains solid as he even created a chance for himself with an intereception that led to one of those shots on frame.

Albert Dikwa – 5 – won a couple fouls, won two of six duels off the bench in the final 28 plus minutes, but couldn’t find the same magic from the previous games.

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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