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Hounds Notebook: Waite gets start for Jamaica, an Open Cup ‘win’ and matching up with Memphis

The Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC have already had a fairly eventful week as they prepare for their second league match of the season, once again in the Central Time Zone, as they’ll follow up their season opening draw at Birmingham, with their only visit to the City of Blues in 2023 when they face Memphis 901 FC on Saturday (5 p.m. kickoff).

The Hounds stayed indoors earlier this week, then switched outside on Wednesday and Thursday in preparation for the showdown with one of the clubs who finished ahead of them in the standings a year ago.

PSN’s Mark Goodman was at practice on Tuesday, and will have a short write-up to come soon, after interviewing goalkeepers coach, Jon Busch.

“You’re never going to be satisfied with just a point,” Busch told Goodman about the team’s performance at Birmingham.

“We wanted to bring energy. We knew it was their home opener. They (Birmingham were a very experienced group, We need to match them from the beginning, and we did.  It was the first game of the season, so we’ll build off that, and move forward.”

He also caught up with defender Arturo Ordonez, who had the assist on a terrific diagonal ball over to Robbie Mertz for the game’s equalizing goal in the 75th minute.

“In first half, we had some nerves, and came out playing better in the second half,” Ordonez told Goodman after Tuesday’s training.

“Overall, we’re pleased with the performance, but we have a lot to do early in the season.”

An Eventful Week To Say the Least 

Among the eventful happenings this week included:

  • Hounds made it official, in signing that ‘other’ guy on the bench, Trevor Zwetsloot, who has been with the team, and played in a few of the latter preseason matches.

  • Goalkeeeper Jahmail Waite did join the Jamaican National Team after Saturday’s Hounds’ season opening match, starting in the second of the Reggae Boyz series of matches vs Trinidad & Tobago on Tuesday night at the National Stadium in Kingston.  It was the 23-year old’s second appearance for his home country. While T&T took the win in the opening match of the series on Saturday, Waite and the Reggae Boyz came up with a clean sheet in a 0-0 draw on Tuesday. These matches were important as both National Teams prepare for the CONCACAF Nations League.  The first two games for Jamaica will be Sunday, March 26 (vs Mexico) and April 15 vs Guatemala.

Taking a Glance at This Week’s Opponent: Memphis 901 FC

A year ago, after the Hounds soundly defeated Memphis, 3-0, at Auto Zone Park in the opening match of the season. Things changed in the second half of the season when the resurgent boys from 901 FC returned the favor, stunning the Hounds, 2-0, in August.

Memphis finished the 2022 season in second place in the Eastern Conference standings, as they opened up the playoffs by defeating Detroit City FC, 3-1, before bowing out to Tampa Bay, 1-0, in the Conference semifinal round.

Following that playoff disappointment, the club, entering its fifth season in the USL Championship, lost a key figure very instrumental in its turnaround, Head Coach Ben Perimann, who was named the USLC’s Coach of the Year.

Under Perimann’s direction, it was the best season in club history, earning 68 points and 21 victories along with its first postseason victory. The club set new records for wins, points and goals scored in the banner year.

In November, the club quickly announced the hiring of Steven Glass, former Atlanta United and Aberdeen FC manager to become the new Head Coach.

Glass previously coached four players on the Memphis’ roster including Phillip Goodrum and Laurent Kissiedou.

Among the key returning starters is Irish midfielder Aaron Malloy, who believes that Memphis can be as good as they were a year ago.

“I think a lot of the returners still have that fire in their belly from last year and I think we want to keep on and go a step forward, get to a final or win the whole thing,” Molloy said. “That’s our mindset. This year, our sights are on a trophy and I think we can do that.”

The club has signed a few new goal-creating weapons in Bruno Lapa and Sebastián Velásquez while retaining the core of one of the most dangerous midfields in the USLC.

“The new guys have come in and they’ve actually raised the level,” Molloy said. “There’s spots up for grabs and everyone wants to play in the game on March 11 so the competitive nature has risen. That brings out the best in people. These players coming in are all fantastic people, fantastic players and we’re all excited to get going in the season.”

But all hasn’t gone very well for 901 FC thus far in Glass’ short regime.

For starters, Goodrum, a former Atlanta United highly touted prospect who had a breakout season in USLC in 2022, made it public that he wasn’t happy with still being in Memphis.

Actually, he said he’s ‘devastated’ to still be on this team.

To make matters worse, Memphis took one in the chin again in the season opener last week, when they were soundly outplayed by Loudoun United FC, 3-1, at AutoZone Park. Leading the charge for Loudoun included former Riverhounds SC forward, Tommy Willamson, who scored in the first minute of the match.

The only Memphis goal came when Kissiedou found himself on the end of a quick counter effort with just the keeper to beat for the first goal of the season, showing that 901 FC can be very dangerous in transition.

With that in mind, the Hounds will have to do much of what they did last week in Birmingham, in controlling possession and dictating terms, and keeping its defensive shape to deny any quick striking opportunities for Memphis.

Memphis, which fell behind 3-0 early had to absorb more salt to their wounds, they will be without Kissiedou after a red card in the second half of the opener.

The scariest of teams to play is a team that is very talented and looking for something to prove.

The Hounds will have to be fully aware that Memphis will be a desperate side on Saturday and will have to be at the top of their game if they want to come away with a full three points.

“They’ll be a different opponent, than (Birmingham), but they are very talented,” Ordonez added.

“We’ll have a different game plan, but we’ll be ready.”

Looking over the Lineup: What Zwetsloot brings to the mix

Each week in the Notebook, we’ll take a look at how things are shaking out in the Hounds player rotation and lineups.

On Saturday, Bob Lilley was moving his chess pieces around the board through the course of the match at Birmingham.

Kenardo Forbes was utilized to assist with playing the ball out of the back in the first half and early portions of the second half, but once the Hounds started pushing for the equalizer, Forbes and second-year midfielder Marc Ybarra essentially switched spots, as Forbes moved over to the right side.

Ordonez spoke about this with Goodman, acknowledging that Birmingham’s attackers presented some concerns, so the Hounds prioritized keeping the ball, and what better way to do that than by utilizing Forbes to be a caretaker in playing the ball out of the back.

“Having Ken in there, helped us to be more calm in possession,” Ordonez said. “That helped a lot. They’re really talented up top, and we knew we had to have the ball a lot, on a bigger field, so we didn’t have to spend too much time defending.”

 <<< Check out our first edition of Takeaways & Player Grades (Pittsburgh 1, Birmingham 1). >>> 

The line-up rotation saw all five subs used, as Tony Lopez, Joe Farrell, Tola Showumi Luke Biasi and Burke Fahling were used.

The question is, where will the native of New Zealand, Zwetsloot, be utilized?

The former New England Revolution and second-division Australian-league player offers versatility as a player who can play along the back line but also could play in the holding midfield spot, where we saw him in the final preseason match vs Louisville City.

If the Hounds will continue to move Forbes around, to suit their tactics, then having more interchangable players like Zwetsloot, will provide much valued depth.

Here’s a video of Zwetsloot in action when playing in Australia…

Look for more from Mark Goodman and his interview with Busch, plus we have a very special St. Patrick’s Day Hounds-related short feature coming on Friday, and of course, look for our preview, match day coverage and reaction from Saturday’s showdown in Memphis.  

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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