Ever since the hiring of Bob Lilley as head coach of the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, the club has signed some familiar faces.
However, it’s not necessarily been familiar faces in the stance of players from last season. A couple of them have signed on for another season — including captain Kevin Kerr, Tobi Adewole, Kay Banjo, Romeo Parkes and Chevaughn Walsh — while others — like Corey Hertzog and Taylor Washington — departed.
Filling in roles left by talented players like Hertzog and Washington, and possibly a few more to come, are players that Lilley is familiar with.
Lilley featured as the head coach of the Rochester Rhinos from 2009-11 and 2014-17.
Now, as the head coach of the Riverhounds, Lilley has brought some former Rhinos to Pittsburgh, including midfielders Kenardo Forbes and Christiano François, defenders Jordan Dover and Raymond Lee, and goalkeeper Dan Lynd.
The Riverhounds roster isn’t anywhere near complete, with only 10 players signed currently. More player announcements are expected to come in the next few weeks, with preseason looming.
Back on Nov. 30, the Rhinos announced they would go on hiatus so they could comply with the USL’s new Division II status rules.
All of those players that featured for the club last year are going to need a new home. Pittsburgh is the perfect spot, and those players could turn around a club that desperately needs a winning season.
Ever since Lilley was in charge, the Rhinos had a winning season. The team hoisted the USL Cup trophy in 2015 and had back-to-back fourth place finished in the Eastern Conference in 2016 and 2017.
Lilley knows how to win, and clearly his players do too.
After two back-to-back losing seasons — finishing in 13th place in the Eastern Conference — the Riverhounds, and their fans, are ready for some change.
Bringing in a fresh new crop of experienced winners is one of the best moves owner Tuffy Shallenberger made in the last five years.
Also, hiring Mark Pulisic isn’t a bad step either. If he was his son’s first coach — United States Men’s National Team and Borussia Dortmund star Christian Pulisic — then maybe some magic can rub off on the Hounds.
When it comes to the hiring of Lilley, it’s no knock to former head coach Dave Brandt and the 2017 roster; the Riverhounds had a much better season in 2017 than 2016, despite what numbers on paper say.
Fans were actually excited to come back to Highmark Stadium, and the team was winning games instead of settling for draws.
Winning the Keystone Derby Cup against the Harrisburg City Islanders — who are now Penn FC — was a plus.
The Riverhounds have another great chance to win the Keystone Derby with veteran players who know how to win. Not having the Rochester Rhinos in the league due to division rules hurts, but if it gives the Riverhounds players who know how to win, who are we to complain?
Lilley is about to change soccer in Pittsburgh — for the better.
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