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Riverhounds HC Bob Lilley claims ‘evolving’ group still need to improve ‘in all areas’ ahead of home opener

Photo courtesy Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC

Pittsburgh Riverhounds head coach Bob Lilley has stressed that the whole team needs to improve after a less-than-stellar start to the USL Championship season ahead of their home opener this Saturday. 

The Pittsburgh Riverhounds got off to a rather inauspicious start to the 2024 USL Championship season on Saturday, falling on the road to New Mexico United 1-0 in a game that they never really managed to get a foothold in, with the Western Conference outfit dominating them in many aspects, but most notably possession where the Hounds were on the wrong end of a 66% – 34% split. 

Possession, or indeed lack of it, is a problem that the Riverhounds have seemingly failed to fix since last season, where despite their impressive record in terms of points and goals, they finished bottom of the league. Last year they had Albert Dikwa to bail them out and make up for the shortcomings, but with the Hounds only managing to muster five shots in the whole game and just two on target, a lot of work needs to be done before they can get back to that mindset again. 

And speaking to Pittsburgh Soccer Now after the team’s training session on Thursday afternoon, Bob Lilley outlined what led to the lack of possession for the Hounds, putting some of the blame on fitness levels in the Alberquque altitude and some of it on their own decision-making: 

“Last year, we were able to win a lot of games with our quick transitions and by defending for long periods. I don’t think that’s something we want to count on this year. Some of it was on us with careless turnovers and we just had a bad day.

“I think we got tired pretty early and stopped moving, so when we won the ball we didn’t have options, guys were trying to catch their breath. We’ve just stressed that, when we win the ball, we’ve got to do that initial work to stretch the field and connect those first few passes so that we can keep possession. We were guilty of either not showing soon enough or forcing a ball that was a low-percentage ball and turning it over right away.

“We have to be better defensively, we have to be better in the midfield in terms of our decision making keeping the ball and we’ve got to be better in attack creating chances. So to me, it’s getting better in all areas.”

Lilley was also keen to stress that it was still only one game, and that he isn’t too concerned with the sluggish start on Saturday, because he is used to having to deal with exactly this situation and that this Saturday’s home opener against Orange County SC is the perfect chance to try and put things right:

“It’s too early to define this group, this group is evolving. I think it’s going to take some games here to kind of work on things. We were caught out last weekend with a bad performance. But I think we have the ability to bounce back, and we’ve been pretty good at that during my time here, so hopefully we get a response and play better and will have a better understanding of where we are after Saturday.”

Further notes: 

Pittsburgh Riverhounds defender Mike DeShields was brought off at halftime through injury against New Mexico United, Lilley confirmed that it was a hamstring injury and that he will be out for ‘another three to four weeks minimum’. 

Glory on the Grass

Riverhounds MF Kenardo Forbes

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