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Takeaways and Player Grades: Hounds Cup-Set of Revs provides a showpiece of three cornerstones of ‘Lilleyball’

Photo courtesy Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC

Riverhounds SC Post Match Coverage on Pittsburgh Soccer Now is presented by The Bulldog Pub


The Riverhounds SC were sniffing an Open Cup upset win against the New England Revolution as soon as the whistle blew and the ball was kicked off on Tuesday night at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA.

Within the first 30 seconds, Hounds’ midfielder Marc Ybarra found himself on the edge of the box with room to shoot, and sure enough, he fired a shot that forced Revs goalkeeper Earl Edwards Jr. into a diving save.

In a match against a top division club, on the road, the Riverhounds knew that getting off to a positive start would be essential to pulling off their first win against a Major League Soccer outfit for the first time in 22 years.

Of course, by now, you know that the Hounds came away with the 1-0 win, as the stars aligned for Pittsburgh as a well-executed effort of Head Coach Bob Lilley’s game plan coincided with MLS’ Supporters Shield leaders putting forth a disappointing effort on their end.

FINAL: Riverhounds SC 1, New England Revolution 0 (US Open Cup – 4th Round)

Back at the start of the 2021 season, Lilley was asked and subsequently shared what he feels are three cornerstones for each team he coaches to be successful.  Thus, providing the three cornerstones of what many of us who follow and cover his teams call ‘Lilleyball’.

“Don’t give anything away”

“Dictate the game”

“Be Dynamic”

“We can try to do things differently. Change things up, but these have to be consistent,” Lilley remarked in 2021.

If you look closely at the Hounds success in New England, they checked all of the boxes in executing the three cornerstones of ‘Lilleyball’.

Lineups, Formation and Tactics

Bruce Arena’s rotated squad still featured some important players at the start of the match, including Designated Player Giacomo Vrioni and well-established veteran Jozy Altidore as the striker pairing up top, while Jack Panayotou and Latif Blessing comprised the midfield with Damian Rivera and Justin Rennicks were on the wings.

As Lilley said he would two weeks ago after the Third Round victory vs Maryland Bobcats, he would continue to be unwavering in using midweek Open Cup matches as platform to get valuable playing minutes for a core group of players who have not started much in USL Championship action this season.

Sure enough, with Tola Showumni as the top forward, Michael DeShields featured on the back line and DZ Harmon and Burke Fahling on the wings who tucked back deep to make up the five-man back line, the Hounds went deep into its roster, using some fresh young legs to its advantage.

The Hounds came out in a 5-4-1 formation — which morphed into 5-1-3-1 at times.

After Joe Farrell took a few too many knocks, he would come out, making way for former Revolution II product, Trevor Zwetsloot to come into the match.

Additional subs included Luke Biasi and Kenardo Forbes in the 65th minute (for Fahling and Mertz), and lastly, the Hounds’ leading scorer, Albert Dikwa, coming off the bench for the first time this season in the 78th minute, for Showunmi, and Junior Etou made his return to action after an arm injury at Tulsa, coming on for Kizza.

Lilleyball Cornerstone #1: “Don’t give anything away”

While Pittsburgh wasn’t exactly knocking it around and keeping it away from the Revs, the Hounds took care of the ball well enough, passing at a 77% rate overall, but held their own in duels (each side won 29 duels, 7-7 in the air), which is pretty impressive for a second-division side against MLS, to be on equal terms on every 50-50 ball.

Lilley knew it would take a certain level of discipline to stay on the front foot in this match.

“We were positive with our play going forward, we were positive with the ball,” Lilley said afterwards.

“And that gave us the energy and time to get back and defend properly.”

In terms of discipline, while the Hounds have resorted to taking too many fouls, and uncharacteristically more yellow cards than most Bob Lilley teams do in league play this season, they were highly disciplined on Tuesday night, walking away with just one yellow card and just seven fouls committed (to New England’s 13).

If you look at all of the key moments in the game, it was New England who failed this test.  They allowed the Hounds to create too many chances throughout the match, while the Revs didn’t get a shot on frame (and it’s only one on target) until the 75th minute.

In fact, New England were lucky they weren’t playing down a man, as Latif Blessing received what might have been a soft yellow in the 19th minute but five minutes later he had a very physical slide tackle on Farrell that easily could have seen him get his second yellow card but the match official decided to give the Riverhounds a free kick.  While Blessing’s energy and chaotic play in the midfield can energize a team, he was undisciplined early, and it took some of the edge off his play until he was finally pulled in the 63rd minute.

Much credit should go to Lilley’s squad’s well-organized defensive shape, which constantly did two things very well:

1.) keeping numbers behind the ball

2.) maintained pressure on New England’s efforts to get to the point of attack as much as possible, forcing the Revs to be more patient, instead of finding moments to break through the lines. Pittsburgh were successful, for the most part of the night, in denying any clear-cut or ‘big’ chances for New England.

Lilleyball Cornerstone #2: “Dictate the game”

The Hounds defended solidly to the tune of 14 interceptions, six blocked shots and 25 clearances.  They were clearly prepared for everything that came their way on the edge and into the defending final third.

The first two chances for each team in the early portions of the first half told the story of what each team was able to do.  For the Hounds, as stated in the lead paragraph of this piece, just 26 seconds in, they put goalkeeper Earl Edwards Jr. and the Revs back line on edge when Ybarra fired a missile that forced a high quality save.

The Revs on the other hand, turned to the imposing Altidore on the left side of box, who may have lost a step, but still can fire deadly shots when in close range.  But Hounds’ Micael DeShields didn’t give him a chance, blocking his shot.

In total, Hounds keeper Jahmali Waite, who was tested over and over again last year at FC Cincinnati, only had to make one save the entire night at Gillette.

While New England did tilt all of the passing statistics in its favor (62%-38% possession, 84% passing accuracy on 467 passes, and 5-2 edge on corners), they couldn’t use those advantages to dictate the terms of the match.

As Lilley pointed out, the Hounds may have conceded possession and were on the end of some late pressure, but his team was never truly in danger.

“It never felt like we were under siege,” Lilley said.

“The last 5-10 minutes got a bit hairy, but the key was we found outlets,”

What the Hounds did effectively, was connect passes in getting out on the counter and in its advances into the final third, as they turned out to be the more dangerous side in generating 10 shots, with three on target.

Lilleyball Cornerstone #3: “Be Dynamic”

Ybarra’s shot in the early portion of the match showed that the Hounds were ready to rumble.

In the 44th minute, Ybarra, who was winning balls back, and did a nice job in his deep midfield spot to extend some key possessions, displayed his most dynamic work in the 44th minute to set up Danny Griffin, by taking the space that the Revs were willing to give him after he won the ball back, then sending a clever through ball.

If you watch the play closely, Ybarra is looking all the way at Edward Kizza (#19), who is right in front of him, but at the same time, uses the outside of his right foot to slice a ball between the two center backs, who get crossed up when Griffin blazes through to make his touch on the ball count, but putting it into goal.

That’s the type of dynamic play that can make a difference in a match where one moment can make a difference.

Looking back at Bob Lilley’s most successful teams over the years, different players at different times would come through, time and time again executing in small, dynamic moments of brilliance.

The evolution of Marc Ybarra as a player, since his rookie season, when he didn’t register a goal nor an assist while still trying to find his role on the club, to now, as he’s become an essential piece of the Hounds’ midfield puzzle with drastic improvements with tangible statistical categories like passing accuracy and in his duels, to the intangibles (case in-point — having the confidence now to pull off the Magic Johnson ‘no-look’ pass). With his mentor, Kenardo Forbes, watching from the sidelines, Ybarra showed that once again, another player can step up and ‘Be Dynamic’.

Griffin has not scored a lot of goals in his career, as he’s often been a player who has provided many of the intangibles, with his incredible durability, versatility and understanding of how to play in Lilley’s system as a key linking, box-to-box player.  But his dynamic play on the ball, and in making runs off the ball, were equally impressive on Tuesday.

And, when needed to make a big play, the now more experienced Griffin playing in a higher spot on the attacking line, showed he can contribute in terms of goal scoring too.

When the match reached the 63rd minute, Bruce Arena brought on four subs, who, for all intents and purposes, should have been able to turn the tables of the match, to add dynamic play.

That quartet that included former MLS MVP Carles Gil.

Gil’s creativity paid dividends, and the Revolution finally looked more dangerous, never more than in the 77th minute when he threaded a diagonal pass through to Altidore, only to have the shot fired over the crossbar — and seemingly soared 30 miles to Downtown Boston.

Things started to open up in stoppage time, maybe even a bit too much to Lilley’s liking as his club held a one-goal lead.

But, it was the Hounds who had the better chances on the counter, despite fumbling once they got into the edge of the box. In two separate 3-on-2 scenarios the Hounds nearly put the game away for good. Forbes’ pass to Diwka nearly created an insurance goal, then moments later, in a rare instance, Arturo Ordonez rambled all the way to the arc, where he had all kinds of time and space, but pulled his shot wide left..

New England’s last ditch efforts were well defended by Pittsburgh, and the upset was in the books.

In reality, it didn’t look like a shocking result.  The Hounds were the better team on the night.

They didn’t give anything away, they dictated terms and were more dynamic.

#NEvPIT Hounds Player Grades 


Jahmali Waite – 6 – only tested on one shot, but came off his line a number of times and showed his quality in the air.


Burke Fahling – 6 – probably made the best defensive play on the night for his club, with a save off the line in the 32′ minute.  Having a good run in Open Cup matches (had assist and goal in the 3rd Round win vs Maryland)

Luke Biasi (65’) – 6 – we’re getting to the point now where his form in league play has been excellent, and is now a high quality option off the bench in this match, where he did some good things, especially on the defensive end (four clearances and four recoveries).

Mike DeShields – 7 – former Revs II player was active and solid as part of the Hounds backline in 90 minutes with 80% passing, four blocks, six clearances and two interceptions.

Joe Farrell – 5.5 – had to come out in 56′,

Trevor Zwetsloot (56’) – 6 – three clearances and three interceptions off the bench

Arturo Ordóñez – 7 – another masterful match for Ordonez who won 6 of 7 duels (6/6 in tackles), had six recoveries, two interceptions and two clearances.

DZ Harmon – 5.5 – asked to play in a two-way role, tracked back effectively (6 recoveries), while only creating a few moments in getting forward.


Danny Griffin – 7.5 – two games into his return, and scores arguably one of the biggest goals in franchise history.

Marc Ybarra – 8 – while Griffin deserves to get much of the notoriety for being the goal scoring hero, Ybarra saved his best match as a professional for this stage against an MLS side with an assist, two chances created, 86% passing accuracy (50/56 passes, with 13 of those coming into the final third), and solid both ways with 10 recoveries and three interceptions.

Edward Kizza – 5 – continues to bring the work rate — covered a lot of ground pressing. Had two shots.

Junior Etou (79’) – N/R — nice to see Etou return after his injury.  He will provide very important depth and a solid option for the holding midfield spot moving forward, allowing Lilley to use Griffin, Mertz, Ybarra and Forbes higher up in the midfield.

Robbie Mertz – 6 – created one chance, 81% passing accuracy (21/26 passes), 41 touches and six recoveries.

Kenardo Forbes (65’) – 6.5 – while Arena had some big names to bring off the bench late in the match, Lilley turned to his long time captain to see this one out in the games most nervy moments.


Tola Showunmi – 5.5 – had another point blank shot that he missed (but it was called off side). Excellent work rate as top man on Hounds pressing efforts.

Albert Dikwa (79’) – N/R – drew a couple fouls to help keep ball and momentum in Hounds favor late.

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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