Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC began its initial offseason roster plans last week, picking up the contract options of eight returning players from the 2019 squad that finished with a No. 1 seed in the USL Championship Eastern Conference.
Just last year, the Hounds returned 10 squad members after the 2018 campaign and went on to have arguably their best season in club history in 2019. Now they are looking to repeat that success in 2020 after re-signing a number of key players.
First off, a look at the returning defenders for the Black and Gold.
Ryan James was a workhorse on the Riverhounds backline in 2019, making 34 appearances including 31 starts and logging 2,831 total minutes played on the year.
While he did not record a goal, he finished with five assists, good enough for second on the team, and provided rock solid defending all year long.
Including postseason, he finished top five on the team in both clearances (47) and blocks (9), led the team in interceptions (80) and takeaways (99), and finished second in duels won at 227. He also recorded 26 successful crosses and 35 key passes.
Dani Rovira made eight appearances for the Black and Gold in 2019, including four starts.
Including his postseason appearance, he recorded seven clearances, two blocks, and fifteen interceptions while completing over 80 percent of his passes, including over 90 percent accuracy while passing in his own half off the pitch.
The outside back came on strong late in the season, as he played in three of the team's final five regular season matches.
After setting a single-season club record in minutes played as a rookie in 2018 with 2,909, Thomas Vancaeyezeele returned to Riverhounds SC in 2019 and picked up right where he left off, logging 2,681 minutes over 31 appearances and 30 starts.
Including postseason numbers, the defender recorded three goals on the year as well as six shots on target, to go along with 172 duels won and 55 takeaways, good enough for second on the team. He also finished with 82 clearances and 67 interceptions on the season.
Vancaeyezeele was named All-League Second Team after the 2019 campaign.