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Post Match Reaction: Lilley, Hogan pleased with Riverhounds’ progression in back-to-back wins

As the final whistle blew at Highmark Stadium on a beautiful Saturday night, the Riverhounds faithful in a record crowd of 6,099 were left in rapture having viewed the first home win of the 2024 season. While more muted along the sidelines and post-game, head coach Bob Lilley also noted his pleasure at the teams performance in recent weeks.

“This game was good, about the same as Tampa,” Lilley said afterwards. “I thought we were really good against Tampa. I thought we created just as much, many chances at goal that game, we just didn’t convert them. But after the Tampa game, that was our best game.”

Lilley’s harkening back to the Tampa game (a hard-fought, scoreless draw) is not without temperance. Despite two consecutive wins and eight points from their last four contests, the head ball coach knows the momentum you create is only as good as the length at which you can maintain it – and he wants more consistency than he’s seen thus far.

“After three losses, and I thought we were poor in a lot of ways against Rhode Island, so that was frustrating,” Lilley said. “But then you go to Phoenix and we weren’t great, but we were better than Rhode Island. You know, we gave up too many chances. We scored three goals because they were wide open defensively. There were some positives, we got three goals, we were playing through them. So it felt like after Tampa we hit a high point after three losses, then kind of fell back [against Rhode Island], and then saw a progression in Phoenix. It’s nice to see progression again the following week. Hopefully next week we can be a little more clinical with the good moments we’re creating.”

While the Hounds did draw against both Tampa and Rhode Island in consecutive weeks, there was a significant difference in performance. The home game against the Rowdies felt like a dominant performance, just missing the goal to secure three points, while the Rhode Island road trip felt more like holding on to secure any points. But after the last two weeks performance, there’s room for more optimism.

“Look, I’m proud of the fact that they’ve been digging in,” Lilley said of his players. “Bottom line is though, we have two wins out of seven. So next week we need to try and make it three, level our wins with our losses, and try to build on from there. But today was important.”

And arguably the most important portion of today’s game was the first goal in a Riverhounds jersey for defender Pat Hogan, who put away a fantastic header after a recycled free kick to open the scoring. Hogan, the tallest outfield player on the roster, has been a notable presence in the Hounds set piece chances after working his way into the Starting XI. His presence has also helped solidify a defense that was leaky earlier in the season, but now features three shutouts on its improving record.

“Bob and I had a discussion a couple of weeks ago and it was like, hey, I just need you to be more brave and go attack things,” Hogan said of his attacking success on the night. “You’re one of the tallest guys, so you’re always going to be targeted on set pieces, but you need to find a way to get free and attack the space and if the ball lands there, get your head on it and hopefully score. It was nice today because I went back post, ball went back post and I recycled my run and Robbie was able to pick me out and I was able to head it in.”

Likely more important than his goal-scoring prowess though is Hogan’s impressive chemistry with his defensive partners. Hogan, Illal Osumanu, and Luke Biasi have been extremely effective in the past few matches, allowing just one goal in the past four matches combined. A chemistry that has its roots in college ball.

“All three of us get along really well. I actually played against Illal [Osumanu] in college, hated playing against him,” Hogan said. “We were always rivals, we’d always find each other in the conference tournament finals, so I have a lot of respect for him. And so as soon as we became teammates, we were boys right away. And then Biasi is someone that even from last year, you know, I cook dinner with Biasi every week, so we’re very close. So the three of us back there have really good chemistry, and we cover for each other, and we’re not afraid to tell each other how it is sometimes, which is what you need on the field.”

Lilley will hope that chemistry continues to lead to improving results, and the Hounds will have a chance to follow-up on their first home win of the season with another home match next weekend against Miami FC. Now back in playoff position early, they’ll have a chance to continue climbing the table if they can repeat and improve on the past two weeks of performance.

Glory on the Grass

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Riverhounds MF Kenardo Forbes

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