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DC United GK Luis Zamudio developing on loan with Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC

Photo courtesy Ed Thompson

DC United goalkeeper Luis Zamudio is working hard on loan with Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, as they continue their fight to stay at the top of the Eastern Conference in the USL Championship.

Zamudio has started in goal the past two games for Pittsburgh. He faced little action, but managed to hold a clean sheet in a 0-0 draw on the road against Oakland Roots SC on June 17. Zamudio then took on San Diego Loyal SC last time out on June 24 at home, allowing one goal thanks to a great shot, but also keeping the net empty the rest of the night, en route to a 2-1 comeback win.

He joined the Riverhounds on a month-long loan on June 16, as starting goalkeeper Jahmali Waite is currently not available. Waite is on international duty with Jamaica, as they play in the 2023 Gold Cup. Jamaica have many talented players from the Premier League and many consider Jamaica to be a favorite in the tournament, which runs until the Final on July 16.

Zamudio signed with DC United prior to the 2023 season and is their third-string goalkeeper. The DC United goalkeeper coach notified him that Pittsburgh wanted to sign him. Looking for more time, Zamudio took the opportunity to earn extra minutes and joined the team just a day prior to the Oakland game.

“The more you play around, the more doors you open,” Zamudio said. “My dad would tell me when I was young, ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.’ It’s good to go to different places and meet different people.”

Joining the Riverhounds provides great chances for Zamudio to prove himself as a potential starting goalkeeper in the future, but it won’t be an easy time for him in net. He faces off against Louisville City FC this Saturday and in a midweek matchup on Wednesday, July 12 on the road. He’ll also face Sacramento Republic FC, top of the Western Conference, on next Saturday, July 8 and then Detroit City FC the following Saturday, both at home.

“I started looking at the games I had to play, which were tough games, they weren’t easy games,” Zamudio said. “If you want to be the best you have to play against the best. I look at it as a great opportunity to obviously prove myself for DC and prove myself in the USL that I can play these type of games.”

Zamudio has played in the USL Championship before, playing for Loudoun United FC last season. He made 27 appearances and eight clean sheets in 2022, the last season the club served as the reserve team for DC United.

Joining the Riverhounds has been easy for Zamudio, who has spent time bonding with the players and getting to know everyone over his time with the club. As an dual citizen of both Mexico and the United States, he has gotten to know Spanish speaking players like forward Tony Lopez and defender Arturo Ordoñez really well.

He also has a relationship with forward Langston Blackstock. Zamudio spent time in the Club América organization from 2016-19 and one of his teammates there played with Blackstock later on in his career.

“I love it so far,” Zamudio said on joining the Riverhounds. “Great group of guys, everybody. Obviously it’s hard coming in the middle of a season to a new group, but I feel like I’ve been accepted well. The guys have accepted me into the group and we’ve done pretty well.”

Pittsburgh is one of the best defensive teams in the USL Championship, allowing just 12 goals, second behind Sacramento, who have allowed just 10 goals. Defenders in Nate Dossantos, Michael DeShields, Pat Hogan, Luke Biasi, Ordoñez and others have played a large role in making Pittsburgh one of the toughest teams to score on, making it an easier job for Zamudio.

“We’re very, very good defensively,” Zamudio said. “I feel like we’re really, really solid. I very rarely concede many shots…On defense, we just try to get each other’s habits. Like, how am I a little higher, sometimes I just play a little but higher off my line. Just got to get everyone’s tendencies, but I feel like we’ve been doing pretty well. We’ve been communicating well and getting good chemistry.”

Members of the Riverhounds in goalkeeper coach Jon Busch and head coach Bob Lilley have served as great sources of development for Zamudio.

They have worked to help Zamudio transition his game to fit the Pittsburgh style of play more. He works mainly as a “sweeper keeper” at DC United. The role of a sweeper keeper entails that the goalkeeper push higher up the field, work with the ball and distribute quickly, almost playing as an extra defender. Pittsburgh works more so with trying to push the ball up the field and relying less on the keeper to function in the build-up of play from the back.

“The style is different, it’s kind of more keep the ball in their half, play a little more forward all the time,” Zamudio said. “I’m a goalkeeper that adapts to different styles and I don’t have a problem playing a certain style.”

Busch researched Zamudio prior to bringing him in to the club and liked his character. He is pleased that Zamudio has settled in with the rest of the team, that he has an open-mind and is ready to learn.

He has also been the main one working with Zamudio to make him to work in the Riverhounds system better. He is communicating each day with Zamudio on how to improve his game overall, but also use it to benefit the aggressive nature of Riverhounds goalkeepers.

“A few things we’ve been working on and looking at video and communicating about is the tempo of play at times,” Busch said. “Speeding it up, slowing it down depending on what the situations are and just being active off his line and being aggressive. It doesn’t matter who it is in goal, we want, as a coaching staff and as a club, we want aggressive, active goalkeepers.”

“That’s kind of an ongoing conversation of him and I every day with starting positions, not just vertically, but into the channels as well, depending on where the ball is and what they’re looking at. There’s constant conversations, constant video analysis and just trying to continue to progress him, not just as a pro, but also specifically what we need out of our goalkeepers.” 

Zamudio also has experience playing at Highmark Stadium prior to joining Pittsburgh. Playing for Loudoun last year, he dealt with the wrath from the Steel Army, the supporters’ group for Pittsburgh, and fell in a 2-0 loss back in April 2022.

He is now on the home side and loved playing last time out against San Diego. He spoke on the great family atmosphere prior to the game with lots for fans to do, including tailgating and just meeting new people. His girlfriend went down before that San Diego match and he said she loved the food, the environment and everything Pittsburgh has to offer.

Zamundio also enjoys watching the train pass by and met with the fans after last game, who took a picture to celebrate his 25th birthday.

“I loved it,” Zamudio said about Highmark Stadium. “One of my favorite stadiums to play at in the USL. I wish I could keep playing [there] and maybe in the future I’ll be back and maybe I’ll be on the other side again or maybe on the home side, but I prefer to be on the home side as much as I can.”

This month might not seem like a long time, but it will prove great for Zamudio if he can stay strong and develop as a goalkeeper. He hopes to try and feature for DC United when he returns in the Leagues Cup, a new annual competition between MLS and Liga MX clubs, if he receives the opportunity.

He will continue to work with the Riverhounds and hopes that his play keeps the team in good standing when Waite returns following the Gold Cup.

“Collectively, try to get as many points as we can,” Zamudio said. “Keep the team in first place as much as we can. I would like to keep us in first place when I leave and I would like to leave on a good note.”

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