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Hounds Notebook: It’s ‘Friday Night Lights’ for home opener, Hogan’s a Hero too and impact of another USL academy contract signing

File photo courtesy Ed Thompson

The Riverhounds SC are in the midst of a short week, and that also means a relatively short edition of Hounds Notebook.

Yeah right, who am I kidding? The season has begun so there’s lots of Hounds content to digest.

The club played on Saturday afternoon in Memphis, coming away with three points with a fairly strong 3-1 win against a club, which is clearly struggling under a new coach, but still are expected to be in contention for the top spots in the Eastern Conference.

In preparation of the 2023 home opener at Highmark Stadium — celebrating its 10th season this year — scheduled for Friday evening, the Hounds are mixing up training sessions between Montour Junction and at Highmark.

On Tuesday night, the Hounds also hosted their annual ‘Meet The Team’ get-together at Highmark Stadium suites.

The other two big news items that came from the Hounds and the league, were the announcement of Hounds Academy player and Kiski Area standout Ander Bodroy, to the a USL Academy contract for the 2023 season.  I’ll have more on that below.

In addition, on the heels of his hat trick performance against Memphis, forward Albert Dikwa was named as the USL Championship’s Player of the Week.

Albert Dikwa earns USLC Player of the Week honors

In addition, one of the newest Hounds starters, Pat Hogan, was also named to the USL Championship Team of the Week.

Hogan was a Hero too

Sure, Dikwa received and really deserved all of the accolades, but Pat Hogan had himself a pretty good game too on Saturday.

After a couple of seasons in Charleston, Pat Hogan was brought to Pittsburgh to provide an added central defensive presence along the back line.  He came to Pittsburgh in February, beginning preseason camp as a non-roster invitee, and quickly earned his place alongside the others on the backline.

Standing at 6-foot-4, Hogan is the Hounds tallest player, and has made his presence felt both in the air, but also with his feet.

Against Memphis, Hogan won 2 of 2 tackles, 2 of 3 duels and 3 of 4 aerial duels and defensively recorded six clearances and six recoveries while being credited with an assist on the Hounds’ opening goal in a 3-1 win at Memphis 901 FC.

With Hogan’s emergence alongside Arturo Ordonez in the starting line-up in the first two games, plus having a veteran in Joe Farrell added to the mix, Head Coach Bob Lilley has three experienced center backs who make up what is evolving into an effective rotation.  If needed, the Hounds could also use three center backs, as was the case when Farrell entered the match looking to maintain a two-goal lead late.

Another interesting fact is in two matches, the Hounds have assists coming off the feet of center backs in each game,

Academy Addition: What Does This Mean For the Hounds and Anders Bodroy?  

Very little should change with the addition of Anders Bodroy to the Hounds first-team roster.

The Riverhounds Development Academy product has already been training with the club at times in the Pathway to the Pros program, and now he provides roster depth.

The impact of adding one of the Hounds Academy players sends a clear message that the club is serious and eager to keep up with the growing trend among teams in the league to develop more homegrown players and, in doing so, promote players from within its own Development Academy to train and when called upon, to get valuable playing time.

The Hounds brought up another Academy player, Wyatt Borso, to the First Team in 2022.  Borso played in two league matches and one Open Cup match for a total of 89 minutes in 2022, prior to leaving the club as he enrolled and played at Notre Dame in the Fall.

If all goes well for Bodroy, this will likely be the same scenario.  As a midfielder, it will be hard for him to crack the lineup with the Hounds depth and rotation, but when the club is dealing with short turnaround time and potential injuries that pop up, it will be helpful to have a young, eager player ready when called upon.

Bodroy excelled locally in WPIAL competition, at Kiski Area, receiving numerous accolades and honors.

USL Academy contracts allow Academy products at USL clubs to sign, train and compete in matches with professional senior teams without affecting their eligibility to play college soccer.

Some clubs, like Louisville City FC, are ahead of the curve in adding Academy players to their first teams rosters.  In fact, if you look around the USL Championship, there are many clubs featuring top-level players who have been part of the US Youth National Team talent pool.

In the 2022 playoffs, one of those players had a huge impact in beating the Hounds, scoring one of the goals in a penalty kick shootout.

Josh Wynder, a 17-year-old who plays for LouCity alongside his 19-year-old brother, Elijah, are among five first team members to date that signed professional deals out of LouCity’s nascent youth academy.

Others are defender Owen Damm, midfielder Carlos Moguel Jr. and defender Sebastian Sanchez.

The Wynders, who have signed contracts with LouCity through 2025 may be the exceptions who will bypass playing in college.

While the the pathway to the pros is the goal for most players, more, like Borso will take the route to college careers and getting their education. Last year, the NCAA had more than 180 players who came from USL Academy programs.

Bodroy is committed to University of Memphis, should he stick to his college route.

The Hounds are clearly trying to play catch-up, and by bringing on Bodroy, they’re beginning to scratch the surface, as this is the second season in a row that an academy player has been called up.

Interestingly, while the league touted Borso’s signing last year as the first-ever Riverhounds Academy Contract signing, if you go back 10 years, they actually had a few youth trailblazers who were also brought up to the first-team.

Former Pine-Richland standout Tyler McCarthy and Sewickley Academy start Steven Munn had a taste of the action with the Riverhounds first team, well before the recent flurry of signings across the USL.

Each young player agreed to United Soccer League Academy agreements with the club in 2013. McCarthy agreed to a standard agreement, while Munn had a training-only situation.

McCarthy would end up playing at California University of PA and Dunn, at The Ohio State University.

McCarthy practiced with the team two days a week from December 2012 through February 2013. In June 2013, Riverhounds then head coach Justin Evans signed McCarthy. The only game action for McCarthy game in the only international friendly ever played at Highmark Stadium, against the highly-touted Wigan Athletic team late that season.

Home Opener & Highmark’s 10th Anniversary 

Look for a lot more to come on Pittsburgh Soccer Now ahead of Friday night’s home opener against The Miami FC.

We will have a more detailed preview and scouting report on Miami, who have started the season without a win, including a 1-1 draw at Tulsa and 1-0 loss at New Mexico.

On match day, we anticipate having team coverage that include Jordan Smith providing updates on the live blog, Ed Thompson on photos and yours truly adding analysis and commentary. We will have post match reaction from Highmark Stadium too.

In addition, look for our 10th Anniversary All-Highmark Stadium era Player selections to be posted this week.

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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