The Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC defeated Pitt, 2-1, at Highmark Stadium on Saturday evening, as two notable returning starters, Kenardo Forbes and Nathan Dossantos, made appearances in competitive action with the club.
Former Panther scoring standout Edward Kizza gave the Hounds the early lead and midfielder Robbie Mertz tapped in the go-ahead goal in the second half. Pitt’s rising senior Filip Mirkovic delivered a wonder goal which leveled the match in the 45th minute.
For the Hounds, it was their second preseason win in five matches (2-0-2, plus the first match vs Columbus score was not officially posted).
This was the opening of the Spring season for Pitt, who have six matches scheduled.
The Hounds began the game on the front foot, and Kizza got his first goal of the preseason just 11 minutes into the game by making a central run and touching home a short cross from the left side. The Hounds continued to threaten in the half, as new signing Langston Blackstock forced a good save and later pushed an open chance barely wide of the post, but the score remained 1-0.
Moments before halftime, Mirkovic found space in the midfield and tied the game for Pitt by curling a shot inside the right post from 30 yards out.
The goal ended a run of 314 minutes this preseason without conceding by the Hounds.
The second half saw a number of scripted changes by the Hounds, including the introduction of captain Kenardo Forbes and Mertz, both of whom were slated to play 45 minutes on the day.
The second half also saw the return of defender Nate Dossantos, who played 30 minutes in his first action at Highmark Stadium since his 2022 season was ended by a knee injury.
The winning goal began with Marc Ybarra working into the left side of the penalty area and driving a low shot at goal. The Panthers’ goalkeeper made the save, but the ball fell to Mertz, who blasted his first goal of the preseason into the top of the net.
The Hounds starting lineup featured goalkeeper Christian Garner, Dani Rovira, Arturo Ordóñez, Pat Hogan, Marc Ybarra, Langston Blackstock, Edward Kizza, along with four non-roster invitees (trialists).
Dossantos has been training with the club throughout the preseason, but both he and Forbes have only been getting back into full field work with the team last week.
These are two good signs for the Hounds.
Dossantos provided solid work as an outside back and winger in his rookie campaign prior to injuring his knee in August. The Ontario, Canada native who played collegiately at both Duquesne and Marshall, made 22 appearances in 2022, with the Hounds, starting in 16 of those matches and picking up three assists.
The 34-year old Forbes, the USL Championship’s all-time assists leader, has admittedly been carefully working his way back onto the pitch with the team, as he began the first two weeks of the preseason doing mostly lighter work, while doing his part in mentoring his teammates.
Now, with 45 minutes of work in the second half on Saturday, it’s clear that Forbes is getting into match fitness to be able to begin the season in the starting lineup. In 2022, Forbes remained among the leaders in appearances, starts and minutes played with the club, while recording his first double-digit assists season.
As long as Forbes is around, the Hounds will have a captain who is focused on one thing: winning.
“I’m getting older, but it’s much easier for me, knowing the system, knowing what to do, when to do it. It’s a privilege playing for this organization. I just want to win a championship here,” Forbes said last week.
With 14 players signed to the roster and the season opener fast approaching, the Hounds will likely be making more announcements of player signings to come this coming week.
The Hounds have one week remaining in their preseason, which will end with a final tune-up against Louisville City FC in a rematch of the 2022 USL Championship Eastern Conference Semifinals. The teams will meet Saturday, March 4 at 2 p.m. at Highmark Stadium; the match is open to the public and admission is free.
Look for more coverage of the Hounds to come this week and leading up to the season opener on March 11, at Birmingham.