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Pittsburgh Riverhounds

Hounds’ Joe Farrell returns to native Pennsylvania in hunt for more trophies

Photo courtesy John Krysinsky / Pittsburgh Sports Live

After five seasons out West, experiencing his share of professional soccer success, Joe Farrell is excited to return to his native state, where he is reuniting with his former coach, Bob Lilley with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC.

“In your professional journey, you never are too sure where it’s going to take you,” Farrell said after training on Wednesday at AHN Montour Junction Complex.

“I had the opportunity to come back to play with Bob.  I know he’s been very successful. It’s always a transition when you go West.  I’m a Pennsylvania guy. It’s good to transition home. It’s a good unit, and I am getting to know the guys now and enjoying it so far.”

A hard-nosed central defender, Farrell was a mainstay with Rising FC, making 125 appearances in five seasons, scoring 14 goals and tacking on seven assists.

Prior to going to Phoenix, Farrell began his pro soccer career playing for Lilley in Rochester in 2016 and 2017, even earning all-USL Championship second team honors in his rookie season.

“Joe is an experienced center back that is very strong in the tackle and has a presence in the air,” said Lilley.

“He is also comfortable on the ball and a good organizer from the back line. I’m excited to bring Joe to Pittsburgh after seeing his habits and quality for two years in Rochester.”

Farrell is a native of Blue Bell, Pa., in suburban Philadelphia, and he played his college soccer at La Salle from 2012-15. While in college, he also played for the New York Red Bulls U-23s.

Proud of his City of Brotherly Love roots, when asked, Farrell didn’t hold back on his Super Bowl prediction for this Sunday. (Farrell has the Eagles winning 35-31)

In Pittsburgh, Farrell joins a core group that brings 10 players back from a Riverhounds team that reached the Eastern Conference Semifinals a year ago, and believes he has a lot to offer this club.

“I hope to be a leader. I am going into my eighth year professionallly,” Farrell said.

“Not only do I have experience (playing) with Bob, but I won three trophies. Two Western Conference championships and a regular season championship as well (in Phoenix).  I want to win here as well. I come here looking to bring my experience, my voice, my leadership. Give these guys a voice. Not only lead by example, but that communication, talk through things verbally, motivate them and keep them going, because it is a long year.”

As Lilley and the Hounds work through building the rest of the roster through the rest of the preseason, Farrell’s excited about the prospects of working with many young players in Pittsburgh, as he and Kenardo Forbes are the only two players on the roster over age 26.

If anyone knows the grind of the USL Championship season, it’s Farrell, who at 28 years of age, is in that generation of players who’ve been part of the league as its expanded into year-round proposition.

“Some of the college guys, they have a three, four month season, but here, it’s a haul. It’s 30, 34 games over nine months,” Farrell explained.

“It’s a matter of being ready, and pushing every single week of preparing. We have to stack as many points as possible.  We plan to get better each and every game.”

After playing in the Western Conference for five years, Farrell admits that it will be a transition in playing in the Eastern Conference, even as the league has been in the process of integrating its regular season games to feature more inter-conference matches and travel.

“There is a difference,” Farrell points out.

“The East is a little bit more condensed playing style. Little bit more organized. The West, you would say is a little more open. Some would say creative.  Some would say that comes with risk. Coming back here to Pittsburgh, I’ll have the opportunity to take what I learned out there, bring it here, adjust to the style.  I’ve done it before, in Rochester, and excited to do it again.”

Farrell knows that his primary responsbility will be in helping anchor the Hounds back line, along with former Pitt standout Arturo Ordonez, who will be entering his second season as a pro, and additional reinforcements who will provide valuable depth.

Having scored 14 goals and adding seven assists in his career is a noteworthy line for a central defender, and Farrell adds a knack for coming up with some big goals in big moments.

“I hope to bring a strong presence. I like to be physical. I like to attack, but I am a center-back, so I make my living in the 18-yard box,” Farrell boasted.

“But I like getting forward on free kicks, corner kicks. Being big. Being strong. Jumping, challenging anything I can get. Getting my body and my frame in the way, and getting my head on things causing as much trouble as possible.”

There’s still four weeks to go in the preseason, but Farrell can’t wait for the season to get started.

“I am looking forward to nights at Highmark (Stadium).  Getting under the lights. Seeing the skyline right there.  I’m excited to meet the Steel Army, and their passion,” Farrell said.

“And, I’m excited to give it right back.”

Riverhounds SC defender Joe Farrell 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).

Riverhounds MF Kenardo Forbes

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