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Takeaways and Player Grades: Red-hot Riverhounds complete remarkable May stretch with set-piece success at Loudoun

Photo courtesy Loudoun United FC

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

The Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC were put to the test in its shortest road trip of the season, but took care of business against Loudoun United FC on Sunday at Segra Field in Leesburg, VA.

In a match that was up for grabs entering the final 20 minutes, the Hounds’ came up with a clever — and what appeared to be a designed short corner sequence — with Arturo Ordonez charging in with the game-winning goal in the 77th minute.

With the win, Pittsburgh remains in the top four in the USL Championship standings, by keeping pace with both Louisville City FC and Tampa Bay Rowdies at 20 points, while the trio of Eastern Conference annual contenders are trailing front-running Charleston (24 points).

The result ended a remarkable run of play through the month of May for the Riverhounds, as they were without a loss in seven matches (they’re currently on an eight match unbeaten streak in all competitions).

The Hounds will return home for a match vs Phoenix Rising FC on Saturday, then will once again try to refocus on its run in the U.S. Open Cup, in looking to defeat a third straight MLS opponent, FC Cincinnati, on Tuesday, June 6.

How well are things going for the Hounds, even Head Coach Bob Lilley jumped in to take a ‘victory selfie’ photo with the members of the Steel Army who had ‘boots on the ground’ at Segra Field, after the match — along with Lilley’s mother — who was also at the match.

Lineup, Formation and Tactics 

The USL Championship’s leading scorer, Albert Dikwa went down and had to leave the Hounds’ Open Cup match last Wednesday against Columbus Crew with what Bob Lilley described as a hip flexor injury, but Dikwa was not listed on the team’s injury report, but he was also not among the 18 players available for selection.

It appears that it turned out to be time to give Dikwa some much needed rest.

With each passing game since he’s returned to Pittsburgh, Danny Griffin continues to make his way further and further up the pitch.

The Hounds lined up in a 5-4-1 to start the match, though it appeared that Griffin was underneath Edward Kizza, the target forward, but there was a lot of movement between the two, and with Kizza coming back a lot with his back to goal, doing some hold-up play at times, it turned out that Griffin and Kenardo Forbes ended up higher in the formation when the Hounds were moving into the final third.

The squad rotation for the match, one that marked the end of a three-game-in-eight day stretch for the Hounds, included the addition of Robbie Mertz off the bench for the start of the second half (replacing DZ Harmon), while Marc Ybarra and Tola Showumi were also key subs, coming in the 58th minute (for Blackstock and Etou), who helped spur the push for the game’s lone goal and tilt the second half momentum toward the Hounds.

Once Pittsburgh scored, Lilley also brought on Trevor Zwetsloot (80′ — for Kizza) and Mike DeShields (85′ – for Forbes).

Set Piece Magic Bails Out the Hounds 

A former Hounds Academy keeper and one-time student at Allderdice High School, Dane Jacomen finally got a chance to play against his hometown team.  The former DC United Academy and University of Pennsylvania standout held his own in a couple dicey moments in facing a dangerous Kenardo Forbes strike and on several other balls into the box.

In the run of play, the Hounds were bringing pressure, but were failing to connect in those moments.  Luke Biasi set up Danny Griffin in the middle of the box, but DG’s header went wide right.

The Hounds have shown the ability to create goal scoring chances the few times they’ve been without Albert Dikwa this season, namely in the Open Cup win at New England, but without their goal scoring security blanket even being available, they had to find a way to get an important three points.

Defensively Pittsburgh’s well-structured shape, with Junior Etou working in front of the three man center back grouping, was mostly keeping a Loudoun side which prefers to build possession, at distance, except for the occasional counter chance, but even in those moments, the center backs continued to play well in moments of recovery (the cover shot of this article shows a superb tackle from Ordonez in denying a Tommy Williamson chance).

Thought possession for the match was pretty even, the Hounds were spending a fair share of the match working hard in denying Loudoun’s ambitions in the final third. Some of it was proactive (7 interceptions), but a lot was reactive (26 tackles and 16 clearances), but once again, Pittsburgh did what they do best — limiting its opponents shot attempts and chances to create dangerous moments.  Loundoun finished the night with six shots, one on frame.

Former Hound, Williamson did get between Farrell and Ordonez on one long direct ball from Panos, but Williamson couldn’t hit his shot attempt effort cleanly, allowing for Jahmali Waite to deny anything that would do damage.

This match appeared headed to be a potential disappointing road draw before Pittsburgh pulled out the stops with some ingenuity on a corner kick attempt in the 77th minute.

It started with Forbes on the ball for the Hounds’ fourth corner attempt of the match.

The veteran midfielder and USL Championship’s all-time leading assist man threaded a slightly in-swinging bending pass along the end line for Ybarra who made his run a little past the near post.

Ybarra froze his mark for split second, looking as if he was going to send the ball into the goal box, but instead cut-back a pass right to the 12 yard penalty kick spot, where Ordonez came flying in between two flat-footed Loudoun defenders.

If you watch the play on repeat, you’ll start to notice that it was clearly well-drawn out play, which was executed to perfection.

Ordonez often will get the call on set piece attempts, as well his counter parts on the back line.  After last week’s win at Las Vegas, Ordonez talked about how he’s been working on this aspect of his game, and was glad that it paid off.

It paid off yet again.

It was a very deserved goal, not just for the execution, but for a guy who was probably the best player on the field in a match that included three former fellow Pitt men’s soccer alums (Yanis Leerman and Bryce Washington started on the back line for Loudoun, along with the Hounds’ Kizza).  Ordonez was all over the place, especially in working against Tommy Williamson for much of the night, with six clearances, nine recoveries, and winning seven of eight duels.

As I’ve said in this column a few times already this season, Ordonez continues to make his case in his second year as a professional, to be considered for All-USL Championship honors this season.

In a match where it seemed like the Hounds would come up short to find a goal, they found a way to get the job done, and not only was their best defender a difference maker in the denying goals — he scored another one.

#LDNvPIT Player Grades 

Riverhounds SC Lineup  (5-4-1) — Jahmali Waite; Luke Biasi, Nate Dossantos, Joe Farrell, Arturo Ordóñez, DZ Harmon (Robbie Mertz 46’); Langston Blackstock (Marc Ybarra 58’), Junior Etou (Tola Showunmi 58’), Danny Griffin, Kenardo Forbes (Mike DeShields 85’); Edward Kizza (Trevor Zwetsloot 80’)


Jahmali Waite – 6.5 – another clean sheet. Made one save, had 24 total touches. Came off line nicely when needed — sans one moment on a very high ball in the air when he left the net exposed.


Luke Biasi – 6 – solid 90 minutes. Two-way play was efficient — including having eight recoveries.  Total of 66 touches, 77% passing accuracy (33/44). Connected on one of two crosses for one chance created.

Mike DeShields (86′) – late sub.  Is becoming a reliable part of the rotation of central defenders.

Arturo Ordóñez – 8.5 – Arturo’s scored three goals in his professional career — and two of them have come in the last two weeks. The Spanish center back won all three of his tackles, 7 of 8 duels overall and led all players with six clearances.

DZ Harmon – 6 – feels like he’s getting more comfortable with each start. Won 6/8 duels.

Langston Blackstock -6 – yet another player who didn’t get a lot of time early in season, but starting to come into his own, and know his role with this team.  Was 84% passing and 3/6 in duels.

Nate Dossantos – 6.5 – In the tradition of having at least one or two center backs who were previously midfielders with good skills on the ball, Dossantos is showing a lot of confidence as a player who can navigate tight spots and carry the ball forward from the back line.


Trevor Zwetsloot (80′) – N/R – seems like he’ll continue to rotate with Etou as a solid holding midfielder rotation.

Danny Griffin – No goals or chances created but still, higher up into the final third, he continues to do the little things well.  Drew a pair of fouls, won 5/10 duels, had nine recoveries.

Marc Ybarra – (58′) – 7 – came off bench, and delivered the set piece assist on a designed play.  He sold it really well.  Created two chances in the game plus 82% passing.

Robbie Mertz (46′) – 6 – effective off the bench. Drew a foul, but also committed three, as he was dealing a lot with the speedy Abdoul Koanda who also came in off the bench at the start of the second half. 

Junior Etou – 7 – solid ‘middle-of-the-park’ outing for Etou. Six recoveries. Never dispossessed. Had 56 passes (78%) with eight into the final third.

Kenardo Forbes – 6.5 – another ‘hockey assist’ for Forbes. I wonder how many times in his impressive career, he’s had the pass that led to the assist?


Edward Kizza – 5.5 – just one shot, but drew foul and won 2/6 duels.  His work rate was excellent and covered a lot of ground coming back to keep possessions going.

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).

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Glory on the Grass

Riverhounds MF Kenardo Forbes

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