Last year, Anthony Velarde was given a new nickname.
Coined by former Hound Neco Brett and current captain Kenardo Forbes, “Papi” has stuck with the midfielder and is coming on strong leading into the 2020 season.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been a part of an organization where there’s three Anthonys/Tonys out there,” Velarde said. “They call me ‘Papi,’ and it just stuck.”
This season, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC will feature Velarde, in addition to Anthony Mwembia and Tony Walls. And this is just the beginning of the same-name game.
The club also sports a couple additional clusters of those sharing the same name – Dani Rovira, Danny Vitiello and Danny Griffin as well as Mark Lindstrom and Mark Forrest. Although new to the squad, Griffin has already picked up the nickname, “Digger,” to help combat possible confusion.
The Hounds have one more preseason match before they kick off their regular season. The team will complete its preseason schedule against Toronto FC II during a 2 p.m. Saturday match at Highmark Stadium.
“I think we have a good, strong core that we’ve put together,” Velarde said. “We’re putting in the work, and it’s coming together. I think you can see it on the practice field.”
Earlier this week, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC added a rookie midfielder to its roster.
Playing, and starting all 80 of his career appearances at Providence College, Danny Griffin will call Pittsburgh his home in 2020.
“This is my first time in Pittsburgh,” Griffin said. “It’s gorgeous, the backdrop around the stadium. I’ve watched the videos of the fans and the Steel Army. I’m definitely looking forward to experiencing all that.”
Griffin began trialing with the team during the second week of February. He was earlier drafted by Columbus Crew SC this year, but he did not stick with the MLS club.
Upon his arrival, he is familiar with the success the Hounds have had in recent years.
“It’s been excellent,” Griffin said. “It’s been a good experience. I’m excited to be a part of this group. Overall, I know the success this club has had and I want to contribute to it.”
On the field, Griffin provides Pittsburgh with a high-energy threat in the midfield. The Wethersfield, Connecticut native has the ability to move the ball quickly with good technical qualities.
Along the way this preseason, Griffin has received help from veteran players as he learns to apply his skills to in-game situations. From guidance for when to pressure the ball to the defensive shape, teammates have aided the rookie.
All of this help paid off on Feb. 22, as he scored his first goal with the club against the University of Akron in preseason action.
“They’re definitely showing me the ropes,” Griffin said. “Constant communication with guys like Kenardo Forbes and Robbie Mertz in the midfield. They’re just coaching me, and I’m trying to listen the best I can and take it all in.”
Earlier today, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC announced the signing of goalkeeper Tomas Gomez, giving the team three keepers heading into the 2020 season. Here’s the rundown on the men between the pipes.
Gomez will enter his fifth season at the USL Championship level. The keeper previously played for head coach Bob Lilley in 2016 and 2017, winning the league’s Golden Gloves Award for both of these seasons. For his professional career, he owns an outstanding 1.00 goals-against average.
Anthony Mwembia arrives in Pittsburgh for his rookie season. The Bowling Green State University (BGSU) product captained his collegiate team to the Mid-American Conference final in 2019. He started all four of his seasons (2016-19) with BGSU and finished his collegiate career with 26 shutouts in 66 games played.
Danny Vitiello is the middle ground between Gomez and Mwembia in terms of experience. The keeper comes from Nashville SC, which he was with during the 2019 campaign. He did not appear in a game with Nashville last season as a rookie. While playing at the University at Albany from 2014-18, Vitiello finished with a 0.98 goals-against average in 60 games played.
On the frontline, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC returned a couple strikers and added a couple more. Here’s the rundown on the squad’s scoring threats heading into the 2020 campaign.
Posting 10 goals in his first season in Black and Gold, Steevan Dos Santos returns for the upcoming season. He is joined by Mark Forrest, who will enter his second season as a professional.
Both strikers give Pittsburgh large targets, as Dos Santos comes in at 6 feet 4 inches and Forrest rises to 6 feet 3 inches.
A forward from the college ranks was the first signing Pittsburgh made this offseason. Lukas Fernandes has hit the ground running and is leading the club with three preseason goals. Whether up top or slightly behind in an attacking midfield role, the Temple University product could be on his way to a successful rookie campaign.
On the other hand, the club also signed Ropapa Mensah, who last played for Nashville SC. Mensah brings a scoring pedigree at the USL Championship level, scoring 18 goals in 77 career games played.