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Hounds Notebook: With reprieve from Open Cup ‘win’, rejuvenated players take advantage of extra rest period

Photo courtesy Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC

The Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC haven’t really slowed down much since the start of the preseason, so having some time off and extra time between games has been a welcome reprieve, especially since they’ve had a pretty rigorous travel schedule to start the season.

The Hounds completed another trip into the Central Time zone last week, playing a Tuesday night tie in Tulsa.

All three road matches thus far this season have come in the Central (Birmingham, Memphis and Tulsa).  For good measure, they’ll travel to Colorado Springs to take on the Switchbacks this coming Saturday.

Upon return the players were given the rest of the week off, with optional workout on Friday.  The team resumed full training on Monday in preparation for the first-ever meeting against the Switchbacks.

While all of the other USL Championship clubs have added midweek US Open Cup matches this week, the Hounds are fortunate in their second round Open Cup opponents, Rochester NY FC, ceased operations, allowing the Hounds to advance to the Third Round of the National Competition.

In the meantime, the players have been like all the other die-hard soccer fans around the country, paying attention and watching the games.

The Hounds will learn their Third Round opponent on Thursday, after the Second Round matches have been played.

United States Soccer will conduct its pairings announcements at 6:30 p.m.

It’s likely the Hounds will either draw a winner of a second round match between another USL Championship side and/or League One side or a lower division club, or they could be matched up against a Major League Soccer side right off the bat.

Roster Updates: Junior Etou injury update & a new signing

Very late in last Tuesday’s match, Hounds midfielder Junior Etou went down with a scary injury, but the broadcast feed cut away pretty quickly as he was receiving medical attention, so it was difficult to see what happened to the USL Championship veteran.

This week, club officials confirmed that Etou did not practice with the team this week, due to an arm injury, but his specific injury detail nor his status was not confirmed.  That is all we could confirm for now.  It’s likely that Etou will be on the inactives/injury report ahead of Saturday night’s match at Colorado Springs.

Etou has been a mainstay through the first four matches as the deepest holding midfielder for the Hounds.  It is unfortunate that he went down with with the arm injury, as he put in another solid 90-plus minute performance against Tulsa, doing a lot of the dirty work in the middle (drew three fouls, had three interceptions, won majority of duels) and even had arguably the Hounds most dangerous chance on the night.

If he’s going to be out for a while, the Hounds will have to find someone else to step into this valuable role.

For now, they’ll likely rotate some combination of Marc Ybarra, Kenardo Forbes, even Dani Rovira, and quite possibly, call upon one of the later additions to the roster, Trevor Zwetsloot. The New Zealand native made his debut in the waning moments of the Tulsa match, replacing Etou.

In addition, the Hounds added another defender to the mix, announcing the signing of Illal Osumanu.

Adding Depth to the ‘D’: Riverhounds SC sign defender Illal Osumanu

Osumanu has been with the club through the preseason, but his signing announcement was held up due to some international hang-ups with the league office.

The Ghanian defender last featured with Union Omaha in USL League One in 2022, making a total of 32 appearances between regular season and postseason, and he played every minute of Omaha’s 2021 playoff run to the League One title.

“Illal is an athletic defender who brings intensity to the group and can play anywhere across the back line or as a defensive midfielder,” Riverhounds coach Bob Lilley said. “He reads the game well and will continue to grow as he gets more comfortable with our system, and we think he will be a great addition for the 2023 USL Championship season.”

Ironically, current Hounds defender Nate Dossantos was the player who replaced Osumanu at Marshall in 2020, and got to know fellow Thundering Herd alum by training together and staying connected in recent years.

“He brings a lot of quality,” Dossantos added.

“Illal is not the biggest player, but he’s strong and uses his body well.  He will fit in very well here in Pittsburgh. I am excited to have him here.”

Recharged and Rejuvenated Riverhounds

Each player appreciated the extra time off late last week.

“Last year, we didn’t really get any time off without a break, until August, so it’s nice to get some now,” Nate Dossantos, Hounds defender said on Wednesday.

“Many of us have been here, and training hard since early January.”

While it’s always important for professional athletes to give their bodies some additional rest, Hounds defender Pat Hogan, believes it’s just as important to help with mental well-being.

“It really helps with the mental aspect,” Hogan acknowledged after training earlier this week.

“Just taking a break.  Getting your mind off soccer. It’s nice to sit back, relax, and helps with being able to come back and be rejuvenated, refreshed for upcoming games.

The Hounds will return to weekly league matches, but throw in the addition of an Open Cup match between two road weekend matches, and suddenly as they reached the end of the month, the club’s depth will be put to the test once again.

Next Up: Colorado Switchbacks

One of the biggest things the Hounds will have to be ready for when they take on the Switchbacks on Saturday, will be adjusting to the high altitude.

“It’s going to take more than 11 guys,” Dossantos remarked.

The Hounds have used the extra training time this week to prepare accordingly.

“We’ve done a few drills, where getting the lungs working, opening those up. Hopefully that will help us be ready,” Hogan said.

The Switchbacks, a playoff team a year ago, are currently 2-1-1 in league competition this season, and unlike the Hounds, will have an Open Cup match on Wednesday, so they’ll be on shorter rest.

Upcoming PSN Riverhounds SC Coverage: 

Look for a more extensive preview on Saturday match to come plus we have a lot more from our interview with Nate Dossantos to come later in the 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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