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Hounds deploying mix of experience, youth

By Anthony Picardi, 04/06/19, 10:00AM EDT

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Last time out in the team’s 2-2 draw against Bethlehem Steel FC, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC made two substitutions – ones more than 100 games apart in their respective professional careers.

In the 71st minute, Pittsburgh deployed Christian Volesky, who has 118 games of experience at the USL Championship level. Just seven minutes later, Anthony Velarde, who owns three career appearances, entered the match. And within one minute of stepping foot on the field, the rookie hit Volesky with a pass from across the penalty area, which led to a dangerous shot on target.

“He’s clever, he’s got a good left foot,” Volesky said. 

In addition to their chemistry on the field, the two have spent time together off the field, taking the time to get to know each other over meals. Volesky, who is now in his fifth year in the league, is just one of the veterans helping a total of seven rookies through their first year of professional soccer.

“We’ve all been there and done that, some of us have won championships,” Volesky said. “It’s important that we share our knowledge to the younger guys. There is some talent there. When I was a rookie, I looked up to guys and was fortunate to be teammates with veterans in the league on my first day. They taught me a lot, and I want to be that guy as well.”

During his rookie season with the Rochester Rhinos in 2015, Volesky said he looked up to players like Tony Walls and Grant Van De Casteele, in addition to Kenardo Forbes and Steevan Dos Santos who are both currently his teammates with the Hounds.

One of the members of the Hounds’ rookie class has yet to arrive with the club. Mark Forrest, who is finishing schoolwork at Lehigh University, is not scheduled to arrive with the team until May.

And another Hound can relate to Forrest’s situation.

“It’s a funny experience coming halfway through the year,” defender Tobi Adewole said in reference to joining the Hounds in the July of his 2017 rookie campaign. “The season has already started while you’re in school, and you’re watching your teammates and you’re like, ‘yep, that’s my teammates right there.’ And you’re watching it on TV while you’re in class.”

Adewole said he had a positive experience when he joined the Hounds midseason in 2017, and the club as a whole will be sure to welcome Forrest with open arms and treat him like family once he officially arrives with the team.

This weekend, the mix of veterans and rookies will have a seemingly daunting early season test. Louisville City FC has won the past two USL Championship titles and has historically been one of the upper-tier teams in the Eastern Conference.

Since entering the USL Championship in 2015, Louisville has never finished outside of the top four in the Eastern Conference regular season standings.

“We respect our opponent,” Adewole said. “We know they’ve had a good history. They’ve always been a strong team. We’re going to go in with respect, but we’re also going to go in fighting, leaving everything on the table.”