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Takeaways and Player Grades: Tough, cohesive Hounds’ makeshift lineup grinds out ugly road draw in Oakland

Photo courtesy Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC/Oakland Roots SC

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

The Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC found away to grind out a result to extend its unbeaten streak to eight league matches and are now unscored upon in the last 392 minutes, as they played the Oakland Roots to a scoreless draw on Saturday night.

Stalemate! Riverhounds battle Oakland Roots to scoreless draw

The Hounds fell flat in its attacking efforts in the first half while also doing everything to slow down the more ambitious Roots, but as the game grew, they matched and overtook Oakland with the possession edge on the night (52%), as they turned up the pressure in the final 45 minutes.

This is a team that has now posted four straight shutouts and proving that regardless of who they throw out there on the field, they’re going to be a very tough team to play.

Personnel, Formation and Tactics 

Pittsburgh came out in the same formation they’ve been using a bit more of late, a 5-4-1, with a few interesting player selections.

We already knew ahead of the match that goalkeeper Jahmali Waite would be unavailable due to National Team duty, and Albert Dikwa is out due to clavicle injury.  But center back mainstay Arturo Ordonez and midfielder Robbie Mertz were not even in the 18, and the Hounds opted to start its newest player, Luis Zamudio, in goal.

For the second straight match, Hounds Head Coach Bob Lilley opted to use midfielder Junior Etou, on the left side of a very tight central midfield rotation, while Danny Griffin stayed back deeper, but much like the previous match, there was a lot of rotation and movement with the other midfielders which included Marc Ybarra and Kenardo Forbes.

With Ordonez or Pat Hogan not making appearances, the backline consisted of some rotation that included Joe Farrell, Micael Deshields and Nate Dossantos starting as the center backs, but both Farrell and Dosantos, sitting on early yellow cards, were removed at the half, in favor of Tola Showunmi, and as the Hounds retooled the back line, Trevor Zwetsloot.

Later in the second half, Forbes came off in favor of Burke Fahling, while Langston Blackstock also came on for Edward Kizza.

If you fell asleep early, you didn’t miss much 

For those of you who fell asleep early or missed the match altogether, quite frankly, you didn’t miss all that much.

The Hounds started the match struggling at times to slow down the Roots, as the hosts were looking to move quickly through lines.  The Hounds resorted to some clutching and grabbing, with both Ybarra and Farrell getting put in the books in the 10th and 21st minutes respectively.

The Hounds held the dubious edge in fouls, 12-3, by the end of the half, while Oakland was also getting to the second balls quicker, holding a 27-12 advantage in duels won after 45 minutes.

There was just one shot on frame in the first half.  That came from a nearly 30-yard effort by Anuar Peláez that forced Zamudio into his first save wearing the Riverhounds’ crest.

Regarding the Zumudio late addition, credit to the Hounds and the coaching staff.

If you are a Riverhounds fan, the Zumudio pick-up is a clear indication that Bob Lilley is not messing around and leaving nothing to chance while Jahmali Waite is on National Team duty, opting to pick up the fairly experienced Zumudio, who faced the fire starting a lot of matches for Loudoun United last season.  In this match, the Mexican-American DC United third string keeper came up with three saves — two of those were diving stops — and was in command in the goal area all match long.

Pittsburgh took shots at trying to send balls behind an Oakland backline which was also missing a few regular starters, but the Roots defenders weren’t fooled and kept Hounds forward Edward Kizza in check and completely limited his touches.

The Hounds adjusted well with its halftime subs.

Tola Showunmi continues his sold form, as he immediately made a difference in pressing and forcing Oakland into conceding a few corner kicks.

Pittsburgh finally started to dictate terms of the match, and started to look more comfortable on the ball advancing the ball furthers into the final third, as they had 13 touches in the Oakland box after halftime, while limiting the hosts to only two.

Luke Biasi recorded the Hounds’ first shot on goal by driving into the box and forcing a low save from Blanchette, and Kenardo Forbes set up Junior Etou for a shot that sailed high in a flurry of attacking activity around the 66th minute.

Zamudio made his biggest save minutes later, when he dove to his right to stop a shot by substitute Treyvone Reid that found its way through traffic on a play beginning with a free kick.

Another sub who brought some positive energy was Burke Fahling, who before stoppage time started, outworked the defense to win a ball near the goal line. Under pressure, he squeezed through a pass that was just behind Showunmi, and the tall forward was able to get a backheeled touch on the ball, but the close-range chance went right at Blanchette for the save.

Considering the Hounds had to patch together a makeshift line-up for a tough road contest, they still continue to show that they are one of  — if not — the best coaching staffs in the league who’ve built a roster with reliable depth and they are a very cohesive group that is not giving an inch to any opponent, no matter who they put out there.

#OAKvPIT Hounds Player Grades 


Luis Zamudio – 7.5 – outstanding job in first rodeo with his new (probably temporary) team.

Defenders / Outside Backs

Dani Rovira – 7 – second start since coming back, and looks like DR is finding his form and in a match that required physical play and toughness, he won 6/7 duels and also created a few chances.

Nate Dossantos – 6 – early yellow card forced coach Lilley’s hand, to take him out at the half, but accurate in his passing out of the back (84%), committed two fouls but also had 7 recoveries.

Joe Farrell – 5 – same as Dossantos. With Ordonez not even available, Farrell’s leadership in the center of back line was helpful to have, but his struggles with some of Oakland’s pacy attackers and getting an early yellow card also forced him to leave at the half too.

Trevor Zwetsloot (46’) – 6 – with the defense down to few center backs, this was a great ‘step-up’ performance for the New Zealand native, who had 30 touches (87% passing accuracy), drew a foul and generated four passes into the final third.

Mike DeShields – 7 – while the other center backs couldn’t finish the match, the Hounds got a very valuable 90-plus minutes from DeShields, who had eight recoveries, two interceptions and drew two fouls on 85% passing accuracy.

Luke Biasi – 6.5 – continues to show he’s a reliable two-way man on the width — with a lot of touches (64) in this match including 11 passes into the final third.


Junior Etou – 5 – even though he scored the goal last week, and is working well in the midfield rotation in the 5-4-1, wasn’t able to create or get on the end of many scoring opportunities.

Marc Ybarra – 7.5 — holding midfield role. He led all Hounds starters by connecting on 87.5 percent of his passes (64 of 80, both team highs), while also creating two chances and winning possession eight times — tied with Luke Biasi for the team lead.

Danny Griffin – 7 – started the match deeper, but as the Hounds started to create more chances in the second half, Griffin was involved and did a nice job extending numerous possessions.  With 87% passing, three interceptions and six recoveries, plus drew a pair of fouls, Griffin was one of the glue guys who kept the group together on a night they could have wilted.

Kenardo Forbes – 6 – always important to have Kenny have a lot of touches  (52 which is good) — he created a chance, was looking to shoot (took three!) and had four recoveries in 79 minutes of action.

Burke Fahling (79’) – NR – thought it was a positive late push when he came on for Forbes.  Created one of the most positive chances working to end line and sending ball to Showunmi at near post late that nearly stole the match.

Edward Kizza – 5.5 – there wasn’t much there for Kizza to connect with in the final third, with one chance created but no shots. He worked hard to get seven recoveries, with 35 touches often playing it back to the wide guys or the central MFs.

Langston Blackstock (79’) – NR – late sub for Kizza

Unused subs:  Pat Hogan, Illal Osumanu and Jonathan Gomes 

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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