On the defensive side of the ball, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC has a mix of returning and new talent. With the team’s third preseason match scheduled against Penn State University at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Highmark Stadium, dig into the team’s defensive group heading into 2020.
Outside backs: Xhelil Asani, Jordan Dover, Ryan James
Jordan Dover and Ryan James will once again hold down the outside back positions for the Hounds in 2020. Both players provide the squad with an excellent ability to defend as well as go forward on the attack. Dover and James combined for nine points in the 2019 season.
Joining this duo is Xhelil Asani, who comes over to the USL Championship from Europe. Asani gives the Hounds a strong left-sided presence, who could also find himself playing up in the midfield throughout the season.
Center backs: Mark Lindstrom, Thomas Vancaeyezeele, Tony Walls
Up the middle, the Hounds add two new faces for 2020. Mark Lindstrom comes from the college ranks, where he anchored the backline for UNCW for four seasons. On the other hand, Tony Walls brings veteran experience to the organization. Walls captained Bob Lilley’s 2015 title-winning Rochester Rhinos squad and finds himself reunited with the coach for the upcoming campaign.
Meanwhile, Thomas Vancaeyezeele returns for his third straight season with Pittsburgh. The Caen, France native has been a regular feature of the team’s starting 11 and brings back his versatility to the mix, being able to play inside, outside and up in the midfield.
Catch up with Hounds goalkeeping coach Ross Cain
Photos from training
New energy made an impact for Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC during its first preseason match.
Striker Lukas Fernandes, who will enter his rookie campaign in 2020, scored the club’s first goal of the preseason this past Friday against Duquesne University. Later in the match, Anthony Velarde added a tally to help propel the team to a 2-0 win.
“I think we’re trying to do multiple things at the same time,” assistant coach Dan Visser said. “We’re trying to evaluate players, which is a big piece of what we’re doing right now. But we’re also trying to get better as a group.”
Currently, this group sits at 15 players under contract while the rest of the roster makeup consists of players on trial. Of these 15 athletes, nine return from last season. The other six, which includes Fernandes, are finding their footing after the first week of preseason camp.
“I think we were a little bit better today than Friday,” head coach Bob Lilley said after the club’s 2-0 win against Villanova University on Sunday. “Not yet sharp enough on the ball, still giving a lot of balls away.”
This coming week, the club will have its next opportunity in a game atmosphere to put its progression to the test, hosting Penn State University at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Highmark Stadium.
“We hope to get better in positioning defensively, positioning when we have the ball,” Visser said. “Some things in the mentality of when to keep the ball and when to attack.”