Twice this year, Danny Griffin was found in the premises of Highmark Stadium. The first time came after a preseason match, when he was back in town for a quick weekend.
The second time came following the Hounds’ Open Cup win vs Maryland Bobcats FC, on Tuesday, April 25, when he was spotted in the Highmark Stadium suites.
He just couldn’t stay away — and now he’s back for good.
The 24-year old midfielder has reached an agreement to return to the Pittsburgh, where he was a mainstay of the team’s midfield from 2020-22 and a fan favorite back to the fold this season.
“I’m absolutely buzzing right now. To say I’m excited isn’t enough to describe the feeling. Pittsburgh became a home to me after I made the move from Connecticut to Pittsburgh, and I know the coaches, Bob and Viss (assistant coach Dan Visser), and the owner, Tuffy (Shallenberger), have always been supportive of me and my career,” Griffin said. “I’m ecstatic to be back in Pittsburgh. I’ve been following the team while I was gone, and I’m happy to say that I’m coming back home.”
Griffin arrives via a transfer from Huntsville City FC, Nashville SC’s affiliate in MLS NEXT Pro, and the Hounds hold his rights through the 2025 season.
Terms of the transfer were not disclosed.
We've transferred midfielder Danny Griffin to @RiverhoundsSC of the USL Championship for an undisclosed amount.
All the best, Danny!
More: https://t.co/nvSXIh76SN pic.twitter.com/JPpjsSDhBV
— Huntsville City FC (@HuntCityFC) May 3, 2023
This season with Huntsville, Griffin scored one goal in five matches.
“Danny shows up every day in every way. He brings energy to the group, quality on the pitch and is certainly one of the most complete and versatile players I have coached,” Hounds head coach Bob Lilley said.
“As an organization, we are delighted to have Danny back in Pittsburgh helping us chase a championship.”
Playing mostly in the holding midfield spot, Griffin led the team in minutes and games played from 2020-22.
The former Providence Friars standout became more than a fixture for the Hounds, he’s become one of the team’s leaders and a part of one of the best midfields in the league.
Griffin did have a chance to get some looks from MLS ahead of last season, but ultimately ended up back in Pittsburgh, but signed on for an unique one-year deal without a club option year.
In 2022, Griffin showed his ability to be a solid box-to-box midfielder with remarkable durability (starting and playing in every match last season for a single-season record in club history). In the off season, Griffin opted not to sign with the Riverhounds, as he out of contract, instead moving to the Nashville SC organization’s MLS Next Pro club, in Huntsville, AL, Huntsville City FC.
After three solid seasons in Pittsburgh, Danny Griffin will not return to Riverhounds
Impact on the return of Danny Griffin
The addition of Griffin to the fold, adds tremendous depth to the Hounds central midfield, which includes a strong unit that includes Kenardo Forbes, Robbie Mertz and Marc Ybarra. This will also allow Bob Lilley more tactical flexibility and ways that he can use, in particular Mertz and Forbes in attacking midfield roles.
Additionally, with the injury to Junior Etou, and unknown timeframe for the veteran’s return, along with Dani Rovira sitting out recent matches due to a knee injury, the Hounds could use another experienced option in the lineup in the central midfield.
The Hounds have struggled to hold the possession edge or keep the ball for longer stretches in matches this season, especially on the road, where they have not had more than 40% of the ball in any of the last five matches.
Adding Griffin may help with this, though the Hounds have taken a different tactical approach this season in many games when they’ve been outpossessed, and have lacked playmaking capabilities to create more quality chances and moments in the final third.
This will also be an interesting shift to see how the Hounds utilize some players who have stepped in early this season, including Trevor Zwetsloot and Marc Ybarra, with the latter getting a lot more playing time in his second season in Pittsburgh, as he’s made improvement.
It may be a stretch to see Griffin in the starting lineup in one of the first few matches, as we works his way back into the fold upon his return to Pittsburgh.