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Strong Core Remains: Riverhounds pick up contract options for seven, bringing 2024 roster to 11 players

On Wednesday, the Riverhounds SC announced that the club has picked up their team option on seven players for 2024, bringing their total number of players under contract to 11 as preparations for the upcoming USL Championship season are well under way.

Immediately following the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC’s disappointing postseason exit, veteran Head Coach Bob Lilley made a point to share that he was hopeful that he would be able to bring back many of the current players on the club’s roster from what was by-and-large one of — if not the — most successful seasons in the history of the franchise.

“It’s a great group. Lot of guys will be back. I know when we had our huddle after game. (I) said to guys, keep your head up. It was a great season. We made a great run in the Open Cup. We won the regular season (Players Shield). We did as much as we could expect from them,” Lilley said.

“This team has been a pleasure to coach. Great to see fans out there, getting behind the guys all season long.”

Newly appointed Riverhounds’ Sporting Director, and long-time assistant, Dan Visser also echoed similar sentiment on Sounding Off on Soccer Podcast in  early November.

Sounding Off on Soccer Podcast: Riverhounds SC Dan Visser on his new role as Sporting Director

In total, the Hounds now already have 11 players on the roster following Wednesday’s announcement that seven will have their contract option year’s picked up.

This group includes longtime Hounds defender/midfielder Dani Rovira, who will be back for a sixth year with the club, while the other six players will all be entering their second year in Pittsburgh. forward/wing back Langston Blackstock, midfielders Junior Etou and DZ Harmon, and defenders Mike DeShields, Pat Hogan and Illal Osumanu all had their options picked up for the new year

Those players join the four who were already under contract for 2024: forward Edward Kizza and midfielders Kenardo Forbes, Danny Griffin and Robbie Mertz.

The group of 11 already is the largest retained from the previous season under coach Bob Lilley, and one of the largest in club history, as the team looks for continuity from its successful 2023 season in which it won the USL Championship Players’ Shield for the first time.

Among the players who were signed in 2023, and did not have contract options picked up, include:  Burke Fahling (Midfielder), JC Obregon (Forward), Trevor Zwetsloot (Midfielder), Tony Lopez  (Midfielder), Tola Showunmi (Forward), Jonathan Gomes (Goalkeeper) and Christian Garner (Goalkeeper).

Now,  the big question in the coming weeks will be, which additional players from last year’s roster, who had expiring contracts, will the Hounds be able to re-sign?

Among those players include forward Albert Dikwa, who is the reigning USL Championship MVP, Arturo Ordonez, the league’s reigning Defender of the Year, Jahmali Waite, the Jamaican international who has been the club’s primary starting goalkeeper in 2022 and 2023, Nate Dossantos, Luke Biasi and Marc Ybarra, who played in every match in 2023.

Chances are very likely that some of these players will be lured by contract offers from other teams or opportunities to further their careers elsewhere.

In 2019, after the Riverhounds finished first in the USL Championship’s Eastern Conference. numerous key players with expired contracts, including Joe Greenspan, the USL Championship’s Defender of the Year and the team’s leading scorer, Neco Brett, moved on to sign with other clubs.  In Greenspan’s case, he signed with San Diego Loyal.

Time and time again, Lilley has been able to rebuild his clubs, despite numerous departures of some of his most productive players.  For 2024, the Hounds already have this core in place, albeit even though Dikwa, Ordonez, Waite and some of the others haven’t been resigned.

The fact that there are 11 players already in place, is a very positive sign that Lilley and his coaching staff have a strong group to build next year’s team around.

Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC 2024 Projected Roster by Position 

  • Forward: Edward Kizza
  • Midfield:  Dani Rovira, Langston Blackstock, Junior Etou, DZ Harmon, Kenardo Forbes, Danny Griffin, Robbie Mertz
  • Defenders:   Mike DeShields, Pat Hogan, Illal Osumanu
  • Goalkeepers:  none

Riverhounds 2023 Rostered Players who’s contract expired and are now free agents 

  • Albert Dikwa (Forward — Reigning USL Championship MVP)
  • Arturo Ordonez (Defender –  Reigning USL Championship Defender of the Year)
  • Jahmali Waite (Goalkeeper)
  • Nate Dossantos (Defender)
  • Luke Biasi (Defender/Midfielder)
  • Marc Ybarra (Midfielder)

Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC 2023 Rostered Players who did not have contract options picked up 

  • Burke Fahling (Midfielder)
  • JC  Obregon (Forward)
  • Trevor Zwetsloot (Midfielder)
  • Tony Lopez  (Midfielder)
  • Jonathan Gomes (Goalkeeper)
  • Christian Garner (Goalkeeper)
  • Tola Showunmi  (Forward)
  • Joe Farrell (Defender)

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).

Glory on the Grass

Riverhounds MF Kenardo Forbes

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