Season preview: Hounds look to take a bite out of USL

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Season preview: Hounds look to take a bite out of USL

Photo credit: Sarah Gabany

Photo credit: Sarah Gabany

Photo credit: Sarah Gabany

Photo credit: Sarah Gabany

Jonathan Hanna

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PITTSBURGH — After a season in which the Pittsburgh Riverhounds finished third in the USL Eastern Conference, the team looks to build on last season. In last season’s USL playoffs, the Hounds were tied with Bethlehem Steel 2-2 in the first round but lost 9-8 on penalty kicks.

Key signings

Steevan Dos Santos (F): A 6’4”, 208 lbs forward from Mindelo, Cape Verde; Dos Santos has the ability to score, and has proven it in the past. Before he was in Pittsburgh, Dos Santos spent two seasons with the Ottawa Fury, where he scored 15 goals in 58 appearances with the club. One area Dos Santos also has an upper edge is he has knowledge of head coach Bob Lilley. In two seasons with Coach Lilley with the Rhinos in Rochester, Dos Santos scored 17 goals in 48 games played.

Christian Volesky (F/M): Another player who has knowledge of Coach Lilley from Rochester, Volesky scored 20 goals in 55 games played over two seasons with the Rhinos. In 27 appearances last year with both Oklahoma City Energy FC and Saint Louis FC; Dos Santos scored 10 goals.

Anthony Velarde (M): In his first season of professional soccer, Velarde was signed by the Hounds in January after a productive career with the Division II Fresno Pacific University Sunbirds. In his four-year career with the Sunbirds, Velarde scored 25 goals and 44 assists for 94 points in 71 matches played.

Key returning players

Neco Brett (F): Last year, Brett led the Riverhounds with 15 goals and 37 points. He looks to build upon this year, especially with the attacking help alongside him with Dos Santos and Volesky.

Kevin Kerr (M): Kerr is the longest-tenured player with the Hounds, starting his seventh season with the club. In his career, he is second in games played with 151, first in minutes played with 12,527, fifth in goals with 24, tied for second in assists with 24, second in points with 72 and second in shots with 175. Last season, Kerr scored two goals and four assists in 20 games played.

Kenardo Forbes (M): This will now be Forbes’ second season in Pittsburgh, and last year he did not disappoint. Named to the All-League Second Team, Forbes had four goals, eight assists and 16 points, all career highs.

Key loss

Romeo Parkes (M): This season, the Hounds didn’t lose many key players, and Parkes might be the biggest name on the list. In two seasons and 50 appearances with the club, the Port Maria, Jamaica native scored eight goals. The loss of Parkes will be balanced out with the additions of Velarde and Volesky.

Predictions

Based on the signings that the Hounds had this year, don’t be surprised if the Hounds fight for the top spot in the USL Eastern Conference, especially with the promotion of perennial powerhouse FC Cincinnati to the top-flight MLS.

The top scorer on the team will most likely be Neco Brett, who shined last year for the club. However, with the addition of Volesky and Dos Santos, this will be a high-scoring Hounds offense. Last year, the team scored only 49 goals, 14th in the USL.

The Hounds start their season on Saturday as they kickoff in St. Petersburg, Florida as they face the Tampa Bay Rowdies at 7:30 p.m. The Riverhounds play their first match at Highmark Stadium on Saturday, April 13, when Hartford Athletic F.C. come to town. Kickoff for that game will be at 7:00 p.m.

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