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Hounds Notebook: Finding Neco Brett… in The Lab?

The Pittsburgh Riverhounds are riding a three-game winning streak, but will face another stiff challenge on Saturday night, when they travel West yet again.

This time they’ll be flying out to face another Western Conference opponent for the first time ever when they head to the Land of Enchantment to face the New Mexico United.

This will be a meeting of two teams that are in very similar position at this point in the 2022 season.  They both sit in fourth place in their respective conferences with 33 points.

Both are well-disciplined (among lowest in cards accumulated), rank fairly low in passing accuracy (both 17th at 76%), close in goals scored (Hounds – 9th with 32; NM 11th with 28); Shots (Hounds with 233; NM with 224), Conversion Rate (Hounds 18%; NM 16%).  While Pittsburgh has two more clean sheets (7-5), New Mexico has surrended just 15 goals total this season, while the Hounds have surrendered 24 total goals.

Look for more on this match in our preview and live blog post coming tomorrow ahead of the match, which kicks off at 9 p.m.

In the meantime, it’s been a busy week for the club.

They hired a new President, Jeff Garner.

Robert Morris alum Jeff Garner to take over at Riverhounds SC president

The Hounds also generated some excitement among the local fan base by bringing a new player to the roster, Edward Kizza, on loan from the New England Revolution, who many around here may recognize.

Kizza returns to Pittsburgh after being one of the most decorated players in the history of the Pitt men’s soccer program.

Back in the ‘Burgh: Edward Kizza joins Hounds on loan from Revs

As the weekend approaches, the Hounds have to focus on the task at hand.  The team wrapped-up training in Pittsburgh and will be traveling West on Friday.

There will be little room for error in the second half of the season for the Hounds. They’re sitting six points behind front-running Louisville City, along with Memphis 901 FC and red-hot Tampa Bay in a tie for fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings.

With two more road matches ahead in the next two weeks, picking up at least four points will enable them to keep pace with the top teams.

In addition, another fun storyline ahead of the match against New Mexico, will see some of the longer tenured Hounds renew acqaintances with an old friend of Pittsburgh soccer, Neco Brett.

Finding Neco in the ABQ 

You can find former Riverhounds and Robert Morris University standout Neco Brett doing most of his work this season in ‘The Lab’.

The Lab is another name for Rio Grande Credit Union Field at Isotopes Park, known since 2019 as only Isotopes Park, a baseball stadium that is primarily home to the Albuquerque Isotopes of the Pacific Coast League.

(Fun Fact: Before you start thinking that there’s some connection with the acclaimed TV series Breaking Bad, which was based and filmed in Albuquerque, and at one point featured a ‘Super Lab’, the ‘Isotopes’ name, a scientific term, derives from the long-running TV series The Simpsons, first appearing in the Season 2 episode “Dancin’ Homer” (aired in 1990) in which the main character Homer Simpson temporarily becomes his local baseball team’s mascot.)

Brett will face his former club for the first time since leaving Pittsburgh in 2019.

With Birmingham in 2020 and 2021, the Hounds didn’t face the Legion FC, though they were supposed to meet in the first round of the playoffs, but we know how that turned out.

Brett led the club in scoring as the primary target forward during Bob Lilley’s first two seasons in Pittsburgh with 32 goals in 67 appearances.

For Brett, his success in Pittsburgh culminated with a four-goal output in the 2019 USL Championship First Round playoff win against the team that would eventually sign him, Birmingham.

For many Riverhounds SC and Pittsburgh soccer fans, that may have been one of the top moments in franchise history, especially during the Highmark Stadium era (since 2013).

Brett was the go-to guy at the top of the attack.

His former teammate Robbie Mertz may have said it best when describing what makes Brett such an oustanding goal scorer at this level.

“He is fantastic when the ball is played in behind, making first contact with the defender, getting low and getting that body position,” explained Mertz.

“His cuts in and around the box are really, really tough to defend. He creates a lot of chances on his own. We’ve just got to get the ball forward and do the work in behind him.”

Also considered a popular teammate, Brett was known as the unofficial team cook when he was in Pittsburgh, cooking up some of his mom’s favorite recipes.

Despite leading a team that finished the regular season at the top of the table in 2019, Brett’s Riverhounds career ended with a bitter defeat a week after his four goal explosion vs Birmingham.

The Hounds came up short, losing to Louisville City FC in the Eastern Conference semifinal round, 2-1.

The Hounds dominated much of the first half, taking a 1-0 lead. Early in the second half, Brett had a breakaway chance to double the lead, but could not convert a golden chance.  From there, Louisville, with exceptional playoff experience and a deep roster, wore down the Hounds en route to a match that was decided in Extra Time.

That offseason, Brett signed with Birminingham.

Neco Brett: Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (2018-19), Robert Morris University (2013-15) 


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Brett recorded an individual single-season best 18 goals in the 2021 season which helped the side finish second in the Central Division in the regular season and earned Brett All-League Second Team honors. The honor was Brett’s second All-League selection of his career, having also been voted to the All-League Second Team in 2019 for Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC.

The Jamaican who made quite a splash when starring for Robert Morris’ men’s program, has remained remarkably consistent, with his only non-double-digit goals output since he blossomed in Pittsburgh, was during the shortened 2020 season, when he still had nine tallies.  Brett currently sits seventh all-time in the Championship with 67 goals in the regular season, while having also notched 22 assists, and has recorded 60 goals across the past four regular seasons at a scoring rate of a goal every 145.1 minutes.

This season, Brett continues to make his presence felt.  Through 17 matches, Brett has tallied five goals and two assists with the United.

In addition, despite all of his success, he never had a call-up to the Jamaican National Team, until this year.  This May, the 30-year-old was called up for international duty, making his senior team debut in a 6-0 defeat against Catalona.

When the Hounds step foot on the pitch at The Lab, Brett will only recognize a handful of familiar faces including his fellow countryman Kenardo Forbes, Dani Rovira along with coaches Bob Lilley and Dan Visser.

Yellow Cards and Discipline Report

Prior to this season, sometime in the middle of the week, we would post an updates (usually on Twitter) if the Hounds would have any players on the discipline report.  In season’s past though, players would be suspended for a game if they reached yellow card accumulation of five.

Since 2021, the Championship has increased the yellow card accumulation to eight total before facing a suspension.

This season the Hounds have continued another tradition under Bob Lilley’s guidance.  While they play with physical edge, they are remarkably disciplined.

They’re fourth lowest (24th) in the league with 39 yellow cards (league leaders Charleston have 68 yellow cards).  The Hounds have one red card (Dane Kelly).  Only two teams (Detroit City and Miami) in the Championship have gone this far into the season without a red card. (the worst violators are NY Red Bulls II with six!).

If you are wondering what Hounds players are inching closer to landing on the discipline report (being listed when they reach seven yellow cards), here’s a list of the team leaders in this dubious category:

  • Danny Griffin, Arturo Ordonez (5)
  • Nathan Dossantos (4)
  • Jelani Peters, Angelo Kelly-Rosales, Shane Wiedt (3)
  • Toby Sims, Alex Dixon, Dani Rovira, Dane Kelly (2)
  • Jahmali Waite, Kenardo Forbes, Luis Argudo, Luke Biasi, Marc Ybarra, Mekeil Williams (1)

On the flip side, the Hounds have twice played with a man advantage this season, seeing a player from an opposing side being sent off. Both times it happened in the first half, and both times the Hounds claimed victory.

Despite their consistent discipline (this has been a trait for all Bob LIlley teams), as previously mentioned, they remain a physical team and will concede a lot of fouls.

You could say when it comes to ‘professional fouls’ — the Hounds have been the runaway leaders in the league.

The Hounds have more fouls conceded (293) than won (203).

They’re currently 4th in the league in total fouls, trailing only Oakland, Orange County (both with 304) and Charleston (302).

Sounding Off on Soccer Pod Is Back 

On Thursday night, PSN Riverhounds contributor, Jordan Smith, joined me to take a look back at the Hounds’ up and down first half of the season, and our outlook on the rest of the season.

If you haven’t had a chance to listen, here’s a link to the podcast.

Coverage of #NMUvPIT 

Look for PSN’s coverage of New Mexico-Riverhounds on Saturday, including our preview/game notes, live blog and post match reaction on Pittsburgh Sports Live.

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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