Know Thy Enemy: Revolution vs Pittsburgh (Raging) Riverhounds Open Cup Edition
While not technically the spiritual successor to Rochester, former Rhinos head coach Bob Lilley has been doing great things with his Riverhound squad.
Just a few days ago two American and MLS coaching legends in Bruce Arena and Bob Bradley met at BMO Field in Toronto with the New England Revolution claiming a 2-0 win in league play.
But tonight we shift back into sicko mode and the US Open Cup, where fresh off a late win against Hartford Athletic, the Revs welcome the USL Pittsburgh Riverhounds to Gillette for their Round of 32 matchup. Tonight’s game kicks off at 730 ET and can be streamed at US Soccer’s YouTube Channel.
Alas, the great food matchup of steamed cheeseburgers and pizza does not get to go up against the vaunted Primanti Brothers sandwiches because that got ruined. Thanks Boston.
Ahead of tonight’s game, I have a potential major proposition, one that seems appropriate given the recent US Soccer Hall of Fame level matchup we saw Saturday between Bob Bradley and Bruce Arena. Also, congrats to the recent USSF HoF Class of 2023 which included USMNT stars Landon Donovan and Damarcus Beasley and USWNT legends Lauren (Cheney) Holiday, Kate (Sobrero) Markgraf, and Hope Solo (who deferred her induction from 2022) and longtime USWNT head coach Jill Ellis.
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I bring this up because there is another Hall of Famer on the sidelines tonight - Pittsburgh head coach Bob Lilley who is already in the USL HoF (yes, it’s a real thing and it’s been mentioned several times over the years) and honestly he should be a candidate for the full national US Soccer Hall. Lilley has won coach of the year and titles in the various iterations of the USL over the years, with stints at the then lower league Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps before joining the Riverhounds in 2018 as the Rhinos went on hiatus and basically folded.
What Lilley has done in a league that has reformed and reinvented itself more times than I can count and with significantly less resources than the MLS level is truly an impressive feat. Second division titles with Vancouver in 2006, Rochester in 2015, and already a pretty impressive turnaround with a formerly bottom dwelling Pittsburgh squad that has gotten into five straight USL Playoffs and were regular season East champions in 2019.
Bob Lilley is a legend and should be recognized as such across the land, and he’s going to have his Riverhounds prepared to deal with what will likely be a similarly reserve-laden squad the Revs trotted out against Hartford. I would really like to see a positive and impact game from Damien Rivera today because he should be able to slot in right behind Ema Boateng on the left wing depth chart with Dylan Borrero out for the year.
The other homegrowns like Justin Rennicks, Esmir, and Jack Panayotou could also be the driving attacking force with a lot of the Revs big time strikers out and Bobby Wood having started just a few days ago. If the Revs needed some late help of the bench against a last place Hartford squad, they’ll probably need it for against a much stingier Pittsburgh sqaud.
For this special midweek edition, we are joined by our new friend John Krysinsky of Pittsburgh Soccer Now, essentially the new sister site for our old Brotherly Game friends now at Philadelphia Soccer Now. Be sure to head on over to their site to check out their side of tonight’s NE-PGH coverage.
1) Some Revs fans know head coach and noted USL legend Bob Lilley from his Rochester Rhinos (RIP) days, how key has Lilley been for PGH over the last few years for the club?
Lilley has brought a winning culture to the Riverhounds organization. As you may know he has never had a losing season. Under Lilley, the Hounds have become an opponent who are tough to score against, who will change things up tactically from match to match. While the Hounds have been more successful under Lilley’s guidance, they have not had substantial postseason success (three playoff wins in five seasons) and have yet to pull off a significant Open Cup win vs a MLS opponent.
2) Rhinos legend Kenardo Forbes is joined by a handful of former Revs II players in DeShields, Zwetsloot, and Kizza. How are the former Revs/Rhinos crowd doing individually and who are other players to watch for?
Of the three former Revs, Kizza who is also a former Pitt standout, has made the most starts this season. He’s struggled to produce in terms of goal scoring as he’s played underneath or alongside Hounds top scorer Albert Dikwa. Kizza’s biggest moment came in last years playoff win at Birmingham when he came off the bench to score the equalizer in stoppage time, then scored again in OT and had the clincher in PK shootout. Zwetsloot has been a reliable presence as holding midfielder especially in light of injury to Junior Etou, he’s played a lot more. We haven’t seen a lot of DeShields as the Hounds have some solid, experienced CBs and fullbacks but he did start in last Open Cup win.
3) The Revs left it a little late against Hartford in the last round, how does PGH's style of play translate into a potential cupset?
Lilley will have a game plan in place to slow down and limit the Revs chances, and the Hounds have shown they can be effective and dangerous on the counter in many games where they concede possession. In fact, the Hounds have played 7 of its first 9 on the road, and in the last five games on the road, they have not had more than 40% possession. They have an outstanding midfield with Kenny Forbes, Robbie Mertz and with return of Danny Griffin, a former Providence standout, they will work well together, and look to ounce on opponent mistakes.
Projected lineup is tough to figure but looking at Bob’s recent history he will mix it up with some regular starters but also run out some of the younger guys especially because it’s a midweek tilt and he acknowledged after the last OC game how important it is to get a lot of his players valuable playing minutes. Last year before he became and won the starting keeper spot, Jahmali Waite started the OC match at FC Comcy and had a great game.
My projected lineup 5-4-1 or 4-2-3-1 with a handful of reserves getting starts GK - Christian Garmer CB - Arturo Ordonez, Joe Farrell, Osumanu OBs - Luke Biasi, M DeShields MF - Robbie Mertz, Danny Griffin, Burke Fahling, Tony Lopez or DZ Harmon F - Tola Showunmi
At this point, what do we think is Rivera's ceiling? It's starting to feel like squad player rather someone who can challenge for real MLS minutes one day.