At no point was the connection between the Riverhounds’ top scorer Albert Dikwa, and top play maker, Kenardo Forbes, more evident than in the second half of late September match at Highmark Stadium against FC Tulsa.
With the Hounds holding on to a 2-1 lead, but adding a sense of urgency to add another goal to secure yet another home victory as Head Coach Bob Lilley was demanding more dynamic play, Forbes and Dikwa connected to give the club a 3-1 lead, on a perfectly placed free kick from Forbes that ended with Dikwa expertly heading the ball into goal.
— USL Championship (@USLChampionship) October 1, 2023
“We have a good connection,” Dikwa said after that match.
“He looked at me. I looked at him. There were some hand signals, but he knew where I wanted the ball.”
As the season concluded on Saturday night, the Riverhounds completed the 34-match trek with league’s best record (19-5-10 | W-L-D) and points (67) total, that connection paid off both for the team and now with individual achievements.
Dikwa ends the 2023 regular season as the league’s top goal scorer, with 20 goals, as the Cameroonian forward, in his fourth season in Pittsburgh, will be the recipient of the USL Championship’s Golden Boot award.
Forbes, already the league’s all-time leading assists king, ended the season tied with San Antonio’s Jorge Hernandez, with 10 assists.
It’s the Riverhounds’ first Golden Boot winner since Jose Angulo took the honors in 2013, the club’s opening season at Highmark Stadium, when he scored 15 goals, as co-leader that season with Dom Dwyer. That season, coincidentally, was the last time a Riverhounds’ player led the league in assists, as Matt Dallman had 12, many of them coming when connecting with Angulo.
Recently, Pittsburgh Soccer Now featured Dikwa’s remarkable emergence as a scoring leader, with came from taking a team-oriented approach and lots of hard work.
While he’s led the league in scoring for much of 2023, despite missing nearly six weeks due to a collar bone injury, the only thing that truly matters to Dikwa is his team’s success and the brotherhood that he’s developed with his teammates including Forbes.
“For me, it’s about the family. They’re my brothers. We’re always ready to go to war,” Dikwa said on Saturday after reclaiming lead in the race for the USL Championship’s Golden Boot.
“When you (personally) achieve success, everyone can have success, and that’s most important to me.”
Tampa Bay’s Cam Jennings, recently voted the USLC’s Player of the Month for September, closed in on Dikwa’s total, picking up two goals on Saturday, but finished one short to at least tying Dikwa, with 19.
At 35 years of age, Forbes completed a remarkable season in which he added to his all-time assists total, now 65 for his career, but also was second on the team in minutes played, with 2,382 total minutes in league play, starting 29 of 32 matches.
Hernandez earned the Golden Playmaker award after recording 10 assists in 1,905 minutes, edging out Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC’s Kenardo Forbes on the minutes-per-assist tiebreaker.
Here’s Pittsburgh Soccer Now feature on Forbes written this preseason.
“He just understands how things work,” Riverhounds’ fellow midfielder Robbie Mertz added when asked about Forbes in the preseason.
“That’s such an important element to the team. He’s not always going to be a guy that’s most vocal, but he certainly leads by example and he shows up in the big moments. I can’t say enough about him.”
The Hounds will host Detroit City FC, in the first round of the USL Championship Playoffs, on Saturday, October 21, as the match will kickoff at 7 p.m. at Highmark Stadium.