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Pittsburgh Riverhounds

Hounds wrap up preseason with an intense, scoreless battle with rival Louisville City FC

Photo courtesy Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC

Riverhounds SC took on league rival Louisville City FC as the sides concluded their preseason schedules by playing to a 0-0 draw on Saturday afternoon at Highmark Stadium.

To both sides, it felt much like another in-season, intense contest between many players and coaches who know each other all too well.

With the draw, the Hounds complete their preseason with a 2-0-3 record in regulation matches and with only one goal allowed in their last five outings.

Both coaches affirmed that it was a good test.

“They have a very good group, with a strong lineup.  I thought our guys battled well,” Hounds Head Coach Bob Lilley said.

“Coming to Pittsburgh, it’s always a good game. A challenging game.  Bob always does a good job with his group,” Danny Cruz, Louisville City FC Head Coach said.

“Ending up on this note. We didn’t get the play the type of football that we like to play.  It presents challenges here in Pittsburgh that we are going to see a lot on the road.”

The Hounds started the game off in a 4-2-3-1 formation.

They didn’t generate much in the early going, as Louisville City dictated terms in the beginning stages of the match.

The first chance of the game came at the 11th minute with a cross into the box that was cleared away. Goalkeeper Jahmali Waite was called into action early with a huge save in the 20th minute to keep Louisville’s Oscar Jimenez from opening the scoring.

“We know they’re a very good passing team. They like to play between the lines,” Arturo Ordonez, Riverhounds defender, said.

“For us, it was stay compact.  Know when to press, know when to drop back. Just stay together as a team.  I think we were pretty organized today.”

Louisville continued to maintain pressure, and moments before halftime, tempers began to heat up in a confrontation that resulted in multiple yellow cards issued when Hounds defender Pat Hogan collided with Louisville City FC player.

“Even if it was preseason, it didn’t feel like preseason. It was an important game. We’re getting ready for the (regular) season next week.” Ordonez chuckled, then let a big smile show.

“The intensity was there, sure.”

What Lilley didn’t like in the first half, was that his team was settling for longer, more direct passes.

In the second half, they started to exercise more patience, allowing build-up play to commence through the ground, making more combination passes that got them deeper into the box.

Quality service was also possible when the ball got to the feet of both Kenardo Forbes and Robbie Mertz on the width.

In the 57th minute, thanks to a nice cut-back pass from Etou that sliced through the Louisville defense, Kenardo Forbes got in behind where he was one-on-one with former Hounds goalie Kyle Morton, but the captain’s shot went wide in what was the closest chance for the Hounds up to that point.

The Hounds continued their second-half resurgence with a shot by Albert Dikwa going just wide. Another close opportunity came shortly afterward for the Hounds with the ball lying in the box, but they were unable to connect despite the pressure on Louisville’s back line.

“In the second half, we saw what we want to be,” Lilley boasted.

“If we passed it better today (throughout the match), we could have had a few more chances.”

The Hounds worked their way into the bench for the final 20 minutes and created another huge chance in the 75th minute.

Robbie Mertz sent in a beautiful cross connecting with new signee Tony Lopez, but the header flashed just wide.

Cruz came away from Pittsburgh once again believing that the Hounds will be one of the toughest teams on their schedule.

‘Strong. Organized tactically. Both with the ball, and without the ball. And a winning mentality,” Cruz explained.

“It’s usually a group that’s going to fight for one another. Going to fight for Bob. They’re just tough to break down.  Just look at the preseason, and the results. They haven’t conceded many goals.  That’s a testament to him.”

With preseason concluded, the Hounds open up their regular season on Saturday, March 11 at Birmingham Legion FC.

“It’s been a good preseason for us,” Ordonez, who is going into his second full season as a pro, said after the match.

“We’ve learned a lot under Bob. It’s been a slow build. Today was a good performance and we’re improving as a team. I’m excited to start the season and show what this team can really do. We’re really hungry for that first game.”

The 7:30 p.m. match is another rematch of last year’s playoffs, as the Hounds return to Protective Stadium, where they advanced in dramatic fashion from last year’s Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, 2-2 (8-7) in a shootout.

How the Hounds lined up… 

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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