Busy preseason puts Riverhounds in good shape
TribLIVE Sports Videos
With less than three weeks left until the USL Pro season kicks off, the Riverhounds are getting themselves ahead of the game.
The Riverhounds are preparing for their second season of calling Highmark Stadium home with the most extensive preseason in the club's 16-year history, as the team aims to improve on last year's first-round exit from the playoffs.
The USL Pro season begins the final weekend of this month — the Riverhounds open March 29 at Orlando City — and in the past, formal workouts for the team would usually begin around the start of March.
Things started up much earlier this year. The Riverhounds began practice Feb. 12 and already had a weeklong training trip to the home of their MLS affiliate in Houston under their belt before the calendar flipped to March.
“I think fitness is one of the biggest things for us,” Riverhounds coach Justin Evans said. “Last season, we didn't get Jose (Angulo, the USL Pro MVP in 2013) until the end of the preseason. For him to get a full preseason in, for Joe (Ngwenya), who's a little older, for (Anthony) Obodai, who came from overseas, getting the fitness levels up is pretty big.”
Evans mentioned two of the team's top new signings, Ngwenya and Obodai, but the Riverhounds also have plenty of returning players. In the team's first home preseason game, a 2-0 loss to 2013 NCAA semifinalist Virginia on Saturday, 10 of the 11 starters were with the team last season.
“Getting started early has been a massive bonus for us, in terms of fitness and getting to know each other and the way we play,” midfielder Kevin Kerr said. “It's been a bit stop-start here with the weather, but we had a great week in Houston where we got to train on grass twice a day. I think we're set up for a good season.”
Though the team is off to an early start with a squad of roughly 20 players, including a few trialists not yet under contract, the Riverhounds still don't have a full roster.
The Riverhounds will receive at least four players on loan from MLS' Houston Dynamo as part of the clubs' affiliation, and team officials have hinted publicly at the possible signing of at least one more veteran player with international experience for the season.
“There's another player we're looking at and then the loans from Houston, so we still have a bit of chemistry to do. That will come. We just have to get these guys playing together a little more,” Evans said.
The new arrivals will give the Riverhounds added depth and give Evans a challenge when it comes to selecting his starting 11. But with the early start to the preseason, Evans has time to evaluate a group of players who hopefully will hit opening night in midseason shape.
“Competition is going to be much tougher for places (in the lineup). Everyone has to up their game a little bit if they want to step on the field,” said Kerr, who leads the team with three goals in four preseason matches. “We managed to keep hold of the core of the team from last year and added some real quality, so we should do well. We just have to keep working hard to make sure that we get it done.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Gameday: Pirates at Cubs, April 27, 2015
- NASA head tells Pitt grads their generation will ‘walk the face of Mars’
- Man fatally stabbed in Braddock Hills
- Rossi: Penguins’ best bet is on Martin
- Fire at North Union industrial building ruled accidental
- Young defensemen make case for future with Penguins
- It’s business, but not as usual in Pittsburgh
- From injuries to front office, Penguins’ season didn’t lack drama
- Spirit Airlines lifts fortunes of Arnold Palmer Regional Airport
- Penguins president: General manager, coach won’t be fired
- Rossi: Crosby, Malkin didn’t sign on for this