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Hounds hold 2023 contract options for bulk of roster (Update: Russ Cicerone to move on)

On Wednesday, November 2, when the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC and Allegheny Health Network revealed its new joint venture, the state of the art AHN Montour Sports Complex, the club’s Head Coach Bob Lilley had one word that described the way he was feeling so soon after his team’s playoff loss to Louisville City FC.

“Gutted,” Lilley said.


UPDATE (11/29/2022) — Russell Cicerone, Hounds leading goal scorer the last two seasons, announced on his Instagram account that he will be moving on from the Riverounds as his contract has expired. 

Cicerone scored 30 goals in 66 appearances for the Hounds, and fit very well into Bob Lilley’s attacking system, as his high energy and intelligent runs behind defenders provided consistent results through the course of two full seasons.


The Hounds came awfully close to pulling out a second consecutive road playoff win at Louisville, but they fell short in a match that was decided by a penalty kick shootout only a few days before.

It was soon after that season-ending loss, Lilley was fast at work, communicating with each and every player on the roster about their status heading into the 2023 season.

In addition to Lilley, Hounds players on hand for the November 2 festivities included Robbie Mertz, Russell Cicerone, Albert Dikwa, Shane Wiedt, Kenardo Forbes and Danny Griffin.

The first order of business for Lilley will be to make some tough decisions in terms of which players the organization will pick up contract options for the 2023 USL Championship season and which players will they choose not to bring back.

Essentially every player that finished the 2022 campaign with the Hounds will have a contract expire at the end of November, and they currently hold 2023 contract options for 16 of the 24 players who were on the roster.

Among the players who the Hounds signed to new contracts ahead of the 2022 season, and the club holds an option to pick up their contract for another season include:

  • Luke Biasi
  • Kevin Silva
  • Jahmali Waite
  • Chase Vosvick
  • Arturo Ordóñez
  • Nathan Dossantos
  • Danny Griffin
  • Kenardo Forbes
  • Toby Sims
  • Luis Argudo
  • Albert Dikwa
  • Dane Kelly
  • Jesse Williams
  • Angelo Kelly-Rosales
  • Marc Ybarra
  • Wiliam Eyang

Those players who’s contracts will expire on November 30, who played out their option year in 2022 include:

  • Mekeil Williams
  • Alex Dixon
  • Jelani Peters
  • Shane Wiedt
  • Dani Rovira
  • Russell Cicerone

In addition, two players who joined the roster in the middle of the 2022 season included Edward Kizza (on loan from New England Revolution — and his contract was not picked up by the Revolution) and Robbie Mertz (who’s contract was transferred from Atlanta).

Hounds Academy product, forward Wyatt Borso started the 2022 season on the first team’s roster, but began his college experience in the Fall at the University of Notre Dame, and is not eligible to play as long as he is competing in NCAA.

Who Stays and Who Moves On?  

Although he didn’t go into detail or on the record after the season ended, Lilley acknowledged that he had an opportunity to connect with each player to discuss their future with the club. Without giving anything away, Lilley said the club will make a formal announcement soon on which players will have their 2023 contract options picked up.

He also hinted that a ‘good portion’ of the roster from this past season will be back.  In the meantime, Lilley will be conducting ‘Open Tryout’ sessions again in December and possibly in January too.  He’s pulled some signees from these sessions in the past, and will likely do so again.

While we wait for the Hounds official announcement to come on players they’ll be picking up contract options for 2023, most likely on or after December 1, if we had a ‘voice in the room’, for where things stand for next year’s roster here’s our assessment:

Pick-up contract options for the following players: 

  • Jahmali Waite, Arturo Ordóñez, Nathan Dossantos, Danny Griffin, Kenardo Forbes, Toby Sims, Albert Dikwa, Angelo Kelly-Rosales, Marc Ybarra, Wiliam Eyang

Decline contract options for the following players: 

  • Luke Biasi, Dane Kelly, Chase Vosvick, Kevin Silva. Luis Argudo, Jesse Williams

This leaves the back-up keepers (Kevin Silva and Chase Vosvick) to pursue opportunities with other clubs, and the Hounds will head to preseason 2023, with a clear-cut number one keeper (Jahmali Waite), who also holds some value with his outstanding play in 2022, and some competition for the back-up spot between younger players.

Of all of the first year field players the Hounds’ signed in 2022, Arturo Ordóñez and Nathan Dossantos shone brightest, and if they’re brought back, each can be part of a solid core to the back line in the year ahead. The only question will be, can Dossantos return from his knee injury, to get back to his form from his first professional season?

Griffin, Forbes and Dikwa are all likely no-brainer moves to keep around for another season.

Although he’s now 33 years old, Forbes showed that he still has more left in the tank with a double-digit assist season in 2022 while also being top-5 in minutes on the team as he was the only Hounds’ player who received All-USL Championship honors.

With Mertz and Griffin, and presuming that Kelly-Rosales and Ybarra return to the mix, the Hounds will have one of the deepest and strongest central midfield units in the entire USL Championship.

Griffin did have a chance to get some looks from MLS ahead of last season, but ultimately ended up back in Pittsburgh, and once again showed how valuable he was as a box-to-box midfielder with remarkable durability (starting and playing in every match last season for a single-season record in club history).

Toby Sims started find his way into lineup a bit more toward the end of the season and in the postseason.  The sense here is that there could be a bigger role for him next season, as he has versatility that Lilley likes to be put along the back line, but can also produce as a winger.

The primary players who clearly fell out of favor last season in Pittsburgh, were Dane Kelly, the USL Championship’s all time leading goal scorer, and Luis Argudo.  Kelly only appeared in two of the Hounds’ final 11 matches, and whether it was injury or something else, it doesn’t seem like he would fit into the future.  Same for Argudo, a former MLS midfielder, who showed flashes early in the season that he could become a solid addition. Once Mertz was brought to Pittsburgh at midseason, made it a lot harder for Argudo to find a regular role in the Hounds rotation.

Eyang showed at the end of the season to be a solid, reliable player that could provide forward/winger depth off the bench. Though he didn’t get a lot of playing time during the season, his contributions late in the playoff matches gave the Hounds much needed energy and lift in extra time at Birmingham where he had an assist.

Players with expired contracts Hounds re-sign to new deals 

  • Robbie Mertz, Shane Wiedt

Players with expired contracts Hounds opt not to re-sign or who likely sign elsewhere

  • Mekeil Williams, Jelani Peters, Edward Kizza, Dani Rovira (add Russ Cicerone to this list!)

Mertz was very happy to be back in Pittsburgh, and it would be hard to see him leave again, unless there was a significant offer out there.

Cicerone had his two best professional seasons in Pittsburgh in a system that seems to fit his ability to make runs and get behind defenders. The only carrot stick that could potentially be dangling there for Cicerone could be if Detroit City FC were interested, would that be a move that makes sense for the Hounds leading goal scorer from the past two seasons to return closer to home?

Rovira could very well come back and continue to serve in a versatile role again for a fifth season in Pittsburgh.  However, with the emergence of Sims, and the midfield having lots of potential depth, Rovira may want to test the waters elsewhere to see if he could have a chance to become a regular starter and find a place as a central midfielder, where it appeared he might play a bit more in 2022, but then Mertz came back and the Hounds needed his experience on the width after Dossantos’ injury.

Of the three center backs in this group that were with the Hounds in both 2021 and 2022, Wiedt is probably the solid bet to return.  Williams is over 30 now, and Peters has been solid presence too, but something tells me they both might be getting better offers elsewhere, and Lilley is more willing to turn things over if he has an opportunity to add high-level veteran center back or look at the young defenders out there, in the mold of Ordonez.

Alex Dixon is another player, like Peters and Williams, who might be a very tough decision to not bring back, but with his productivity dropping late in the season, it’s likely that the Hounds will look to try to get younger on the wing.  This is a very tough call because Dixon was so good for the Hounds in 2021 and early 2022 and a solid locker room presence.  Arguably, he was the team’s MVP in 2021.

It would make tons of sense for the Hounds to make a run at signing Edward Kizza, but after the Ugandan forward’s big postseason performance against Birmingham, he may have more options.  It would be no surprise if the former Pitt striker would get looks from other MLS teams ahead of next season’s training camps or a more lucrative offer could come from another USL Championship club, thus making it unlikely that he’ll sign a contract with the Riverhounds.

One final footnote to add here and keep an eye on.  Another player who was training with the club toward the end of the season, was former Pitt midfielder Veljko Petkovic, who earned Top Drawer National Player of the Year honors in 2020-21, but left the program halfway through the 2021 Fall season.

Petkovic resurfaced his past year when he made 17 appearances with Minnesota United FC 2 in 2022.

In summary, our estimation is that the Hounds bring back 13 players, leaving them in the market to fill in another 10-11 players for the 2023 roster.

Most likely their biggest offseason wish list needs will include:

  • Getting more speed on the width —  attacking midfielder/winger(s) and outside back
  • Another solid number nine option and another attacking midfielder
  • Veteran, All-USL Championship level Center Back
  • Build solid depth for back line and keeper positions

2022 Riverhounds Roster 

Player Position Date of birth / Age Joined Contract
Luke Biasi Outside back/Winger Jul 15, 1999 (22) Feb 24, 2022 Nov 30, 2022
Kevin Silva GK Jan 5, 1998 (24) Feb 21, 2022 Nov 30, 2022
Jahmali Waite GK Dec 24, 1998 (23) Mar 25, 2022 Nov 30, 2022
Chase Vosvick GK Jul 28, 1998 (23) Feb 25, 2022 Nov 30, 2022
Mekeil Williams Center Back Jul 24, 1990 (31) Mar 10, 2021 Nov 30, 2022
Shane Wiedt Center Back / Outside Back Jul 19, 1995 (26) Apr 29, 2021 Nov 30, 2022
Arturo Ordóñez Center Back May 22, 1997 (25) Feb 17, 2022 Nov 30, 2022
Jelani Peters Center Back Dec 17, 1993 (28) Apr 29, 2021 Nov 30, 2022
Nathan Dossantos Outside Back Apr 11, 1999 (23) Feb 18, 2022 Nov 30, 2022
Dani Rovira Outside Back / Winger / CMF Dec 15, 1996 (25) Mar 8, 2019 Nov 30, 2022
Jesse Williams Outside Back May 18, 2001 (21) Jan 18, 2022 Nov 30, 2022
Angelo Kelly-Rosales CMF Jan 25, 1993 (29) Jan 24, 2022 Nov 30, 2022
Marc Ybarra CMF Dec 18, 1998 (23) Feb 24, 2022 Nov 30, 2022
Kenardo Forbes CMF/AMF May 15, 1988 (34) Jan 1, 2018 Nov 30, 2022
Danny Griffin CMF Jul 14, 1998 (23) Mar 3, 2020 Nov 30, 2022
Toby Sims Outside Back / Winger Oct 15, 1998 (23) Feb 25, 2022 Nov 30, 2022
Robbie Mertz CMF / AMF Dec 4, 1996 (25) Jul 20, 2022 Nov 30, 2022
Russell Cicerone AMF / Forward Nov 17, 1994 (27) Dec 17, 2020 Nov 30, 2022
Luis Argudo CMF / AMF Dec 13, 1995 (26) Mar 25, 2022 Nov 30, 2022
Alex Dixon Winger / Forward Feb 7, 1990 (32) Jan 8, 2021 Nov 30, 2022
Albert Dikwa Forward Jan 2, 1998 (24) Aug 31, 2020 Nov 30, 2022
Edward Kizza Forward Dec 17, 1998 (23) Jul 15, 2022 Nov 30, 2022
Dane Kelly Forward Feb 9, 1991 (31) Jan 7, 2022 Nov 30, 2022
Wyatt Borso Forward Mar 8, 2004 (18) Mar 1, 2022
William Eyang Forward / Winger Jan 27, 1994 (28) Jan 18, 2022 Nov 30, 2022

 

 

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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