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Takeaways and Player Grades: Hounds fail to score on the road again

Photo courtesy El Paso Locomotive FC

FINAL: El Paso Locomotive FC 2, Riverhounds SC 0

Match Statistics: USL Championship Match Center

Post Match Coverage is presented by The Bulldog Pub

Former Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame Head Coach Bill Cowher used to say often the line between winning and losing is very thin.

The Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC have been walking that line a lot this season.

Unable to come up with any solutions in the final third for the third straight match on the road compounded by defensive lapses, the Hounds were defeated by the El Paso Locomotive FC, 2-0, at Southwest University Park in a match that ended late (here in Eastern Time Zone) on Saturday night.

FINAL: El Paso 2, Riverhounds 0

Not only did the Hounds struggle to finish, but they also allowed two goals which were, by-and-large, preventable and were often scrambling to slow the match down against an El Paso side which had not played since April 8 but is in excellent form, not having lost now in its last four matches.

This result keeps the Hounds (2-2-3) at nine points, and in fourth place in the USL Championship’s Eastern Conference standings.

Pittsburgh will travel back and have very little time to sulk over the loss, as they’ll be facing the Maryland Bobcats in the US Open Cup Third Round match on Tuesday night at Highmark Stadium.

Hounds Formation, Tactics, Personnel

For the first time this season, the Hounds started all three experienced, traditional center backs, with Arturo Ordonez, Joe Farrell and Pat Hogan getting penciled into the lineup, while they were flanked by outside back/wingers, Luke Biasi and Nate Dossantos.

The Hounds came out in a 5-3-2 formation, with Kenardo Forbes and Marc Ybarra sitting deeper while Robbie Mertz roamed higher, looking to link up with both Albert Dikwa and Edward Kizza on the high line.

With three matches in seven days, Head Coach Bob Lilley brought on a bevy of substitutions, as DZ Harmon, Tola Showunmi and Trevor Zwetsloot came on in the 61st minute for Hogan, Biasi and Kizza.

Harmon was (rather quickly) replaced by Burke Fahling in the 79th minute, as was Dossantos, who came off in favor of Langston Blackstock.

What’s more concerning, defensive lapses or third straight road match without a goal?  

The Hounds held plenty of possession mainly because El Paso chose not too press too much, giving the back line plenty of time on the ball (Ordonez, Farrell and Hogan combined for over 170 passes).

On the surface, the Hounds defended well for most stretches, but allowed a couple of breakdowns and the midfield and outside backs were often getting caught flat-footed and a step off in their battles, which resulted in 21 fouls conceded.

As pointed out, other than Lucho Solignac’s 4th minute shot from pretty close range, when the El Paso forward cut inside Ordonez in the box, the Hounds were marking well, and were doing well to take away El Paso’s typical strength of building up play with short passing through the middle and from the width.

In fact, once the Hounds started to settle into the match, they were on the front foot as the first half evolved, and looked on the verge of getting the go-ahead goal.

In the 30th minute, Dikwa chipped a ball over to Kizza, who couldn’t connect on a header that could have beaten El Paso keeper Benny Diaz. This misconnection was pretty symbolic for the former Pitt star, who has struggled this season to finish or create chances. Through six appearances (four starts and 321 minutes of action), Kizza has yet to score or add an assist.

A few minutes later, Dikwa, who leads the Hounds with four goals this season, had a solid chance, but went right, hitting the side netting.

With the Hounds defending well and doing its part to slow the game down, El Paso decided to take a shot at playing direct.

And sure enough, it paid off.

Denys Kostyshyn’s ball over the top found space between Hounds right center back Pat Hogan and Luke Biasi.  Make no mistake, it was a brilliant ball, that found the foot of Petar Petrovic, but the Hounds left way too much space.

Prior to last week’s match vs Rio Grande, the Hounds almost exclusively started a four-man back line, but for the second straight match, they lined up with three center backs.  With clear numbers behind the ball, there should be little reason for being exposed on a long, direct pass, no matter how precise it is.  In this instance, Hogan was the closest to Petrovic, while Biasi was scrambling back to close space, but he was too late.  Either way, Petrovic had way too much time and room to get a solid first touch, and finish.

The Hounds were prone to giving up goals to direct balls a year ago, when they played heavily with a three-center back set-up, and Bob Lilley must be thinking to himself, “Oh boy, here we go again.”

In a tight, 1-0 match, Pittsburgh continued to build up possession at a fairly decent clip, to the point where in the second half they had more chances to get the equalizer.

Then it all fell apart on one play.

Jahmali Waite made the decision to come way off his line on what amounted to an El Paso clearance out of the corner, with the Hounds all pushed up field.   The long, low-lining ball took a bounce that Waite, seeing Solignac closing in, tried to get up to head, but completely misjudged his timing and positioning.

It was a pretty inexplicable mistake that put the Hounds behind by two goals for the first time this season.

That moment was a tough one, and one that Waite will learn from, no doubt.  It also makes me think about what new Hounds Goalkeepers coach Jon Busch told PSN’s Mark Goodman.

To get Waite, who has featured for the Jamaican National Team, to that next level as a keeper – the level that Busch was at in his playing days, there’s just one notable thing Jahmali needs according to Busch.

“We need to find consistency from one game to the other for him. You know, that’s the difference when when you kind of take that step. To become ‘the guy’ as a goalkeeper,” Busch told Goodman.

Saturday provided another test in building that consistency, as Waite will have to make quality decisions when coming off his line.

That proved to be too big of a hole to climb from for this Hounds squad, which continued to bring pressure, but lacked quality in finishing.

With the Hounds inability to score goals on the road, while relying so much on Albert Dikwa for goals at this point in the 2023 campaign (Dikwa has scored four of the team’s seven goals), the margins for error are too great for this team.

This was a night, against a solid opponent in good form, when the Hounds walked to the side of the thin line where things go wrong. This has been happening in road games too much lately.

Hounds Player Grades (#ELPvPIT)


Jahmali Waite – 3.5 – there were a couple of solid saves in there, but can’t look past his blunder as that took the wind out of the Hounds sails.


Pat Hogan – 3.5 – closest to Petrovic on the first goal, didn’t have as many passes/touches as Ordonez.  Won 2 of 2 duels.  Was pulled in the 61′

Nate Dossantos – 5 – had a few crosses (one successful), caught on heels with three fouls, two tackles and one clearance.

Joe Farrell – 5.5 – thought he was pretty solid.  Three tackles, three clearances.  Drew a foul and conceded two fouls.

Luke Biasi – 5 – Busy night and covered a lot of ground. Had two interceptions. Two chances created. Had shot attempt from distance that was on target. Battled a lot with Borelli. Yellow card too.

Arturo Ordonez – 5 – Won 6 of 13 duels. Conceded two fouls, drew two fouls.  And, again, another late stoppage time yellow card. Sometimes he’s pushing so hard late in matches he gets a little to overzealous with his physical play.


Robbie Mertz – 6.5 – solid return to the starting lineup for Mertz. Dompleted 30 of 32 passes in the match for a team-leading 93.8 percent clip, while he also led the Hounds with four crosses and had three touches in the Locomotive box, tied for the team’s high.

Kenardo Forbes – 4.5 – Although he was solid in passing (85%) and had enough touches to help with distribution and generating chances, he still had just one unsuccessful crosse and conceded four fouls.

Marc Ybarra – 5 – Work rate is there and he’s continuing to evolve into reliable central midfield presence (passing accuracy up over 80% too).  Had a very alert clearance in the 4th minute that averted dangers. Created two chances, but like Forbes, struggled at times to slow down El Paso, conceding three fouls while only winning 1 of 7 duels.

Trevor Zwetsloot (61′) – N/R – workmanlike shift off the bench, contributed to build-up in play (19 passes, 17 short), as the Hounds pushed for late goals.

Burke Fahling (79′) – came on to give the Hounds a chance to create some chances from his service on the right side.

DZ Harmon (61′ / out 79′) – in very short stint, won 2 of 6 duels, had a yellow card on foul, created a chance and had an unsuccessful cross.


Albert Dikwa – 5.5 – continues to play big minutes, and continues to be in position for chances which came a few different times in the match. Had four shots, one on frame. He hit the net in the 35th minute, then got behind his defender in the 85th minute, but he was stopped by a flailing Diaz at the top of the box.

Edward Kizza – 3.5 – effective in pressing, but that’s about it. Unable, in four starts, to add to Hounds quality in the final third.  No shots. No crosses.  No chances created.  Subbed out in 61st minute.

Tola Showunmi (61′) – N/R – one shot on target after feed from Harmon, but was too close to the keeper to work any magic.

Langston Blackstock (79′) – N/R – Came on for Harmon but didn’t create any chances.

What’s next?

Hounds now face the Maryland Bobcats of NISA, in the Third Round of the US Open Cup, at Highmark Stadium on Tuesday night, 7 p.m. kickoff. They’ll return to USL Championship action on Saturday, in Indianapolis.

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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