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Hounds offense building synergy

By Anthony Picardi, 05/26/18, 1:45PM EDT

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By solely looking at the box score, one could determine it was a game controlled by Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC.

The Hounds played under their home lights of Highmark Stadium, outshot their opponents 12-8 and finished the match with 59.7 percent possession.

Although at the final whistle, Pittsburgh tied Penn FC (2-3-4), 0-0, in the first of three meetings of the Keystone Derby Cup, presented by K&L Gates and the Pennsylvania Lottery. Riverhounds SC (4-0-5) will have another chance to crack the rival defense and grasp three points in the second installment of the season series at 7 p.m. on Saturday at Highmark Stadium.

Since this scoreless draw, the Hounds have found their way offensively, averaging 1.71 goals per game after being shut out in the first two matches to open the season. Forward Neco Brett has taken the lead, scoring five goals and 12 points in the club’s past seven league games.

“I think it’s still growing,” Brett said about the team’s offensive synergy. “It’s always a learning process, still learning about each other. We have a good connection, so we always just try to talk to each other and work together as a team.”

Behind Brett, attacking midfielders Kevin Kerr, Christiano François and Kenardo Forbes have catalyzed scoring opportunities, ranking first, second and third on the club in chances created, respectively. In addition to the Kingston, Jamaica native’s success at the top, striker Romeo Parkes, who has battled through early-season injuries, recently added his scoring prowess to the attack, notching his first tally of the season on May 19 against the Tampa Bay Rowdies.

As the Robert Morris University product refines his craft while playing alongside the aforementioned players, there has been one other teammate – a former USL Golden Boot winner – from whom he has learned.

“I take a lot from [Dennis Chin],” Brett said. “Time to time in practice, I talk to him and he gives me great advice. Teaches me how to be a little bit smarter instead of working so hard. Teaches me how to be a little bit smarter with my moves and everything. Great guy to have on the team.”

Chin, who has been working to get healthy from an ankle injury this season, made his club debut against FC Cincinnati on Wednesday in a third round match of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The striker went on to post two shots and score the squad’s lone goal in its 3-1 loss.

“Mentally it is tough because I am usually involved everywhere I have been,” Chin said. “It has been good to get a different aspect of the game and support your team. I have to stay the path, take some time and get back where I need to be.”

As the veteran has been involved in team practices while he has recuperated from injuries, he has continued to help other members of the Pittsburgh frontline.

Brett said Chin has helped him with specific movements up top and has told him “to always stay hungry” because this would be how he would “make it to the top.”

The Hounds and their leading goalscorer will have their work cut out this weekend, as Penn FC has showcased one of the top defenses in the Eastern Conference. The team has allowed just 0.78 goals per game to date and is one of only six squads to allow less than one goal per match after Week 10 of USL action. The club from Harrisburg also has posted a clean sheet in four of its nine 2018 tilts.

Perhaps working in Pittsburgh’s favor this week is the opportunity to battle Penn FC on its home turf. The Hounds are 3-0-2 at home in league play this season and have not lost to their in-state rival at Highmark Stadium since July 17, 2016.

“Each and every game, we’re trying to win,” Brett said. “At the same time, you cannot win every game, but we go out there and have the mentality to win at all times.”