Riverhounds notebook: team ready for a busy week without injured captain Kenardo Forbes
The Riverhounds took their biggest group lead of the season on Friday, beating Hartford Athletic 3-0 on the road to earn three more points.
It was an important victory for the Riverhounds, one of their most important of the season, but it was also more than that. This meant an uptrend for black and gold as the team continued to improve with each game. They played a full team game, even after captain Kenardo Forbes injured himself in the opening 10 minutes, and they received a solid play off the bench.
Riverhounds coach Bob Lilley met with the media on Monday to discuss the Riverhounds game with Loudoun United on Tuesday, as well as the importance of this week moving forward.
View from the top
With Friday’s win, the Riverhounds took a three-point lead in Group F and they did so despite unforeseen circumstances. Forbes suffered an early injury and the Riverhounds responded almost immediately.
Ryan James, who took the captain’s armband from Forbes, scored in the 11th minute, finishing a skillful play that started on the right wing and ended on the left. Given the circumstances, Lilley was happy with the way the victory went.
“It was a very good performance. It was a long trip up there, and the guys responded well, ”said Lilley. “They handled the game well, and I felt we did a good job with our possession and pushed them to run. They were dangerous at times, but we got better as the game progressed.
Danny Griffin scored 11 minutes later, and James scored his second goal of the game in the 50th minute.
Overall, the Hounds had one of their best performances of the season, and it was in a game that mattered more than any other. They were tied with Hartford Athletic for first place in Group F and with two more games against them it was important for the Riverhounds to secure a victory.
“We had to get a result. Hartford had games in hand, and it was a game we had to have, ”said Lilley. “If we didn’t get a result there I think we would have been fighting for second place the rest of the year. By winning there, we have the opportunity to continue and win our division.
Forbes suffered an injury on the quad in the 10th minute of Friday’s game, but Lilley and his team are still trying to figure out the extent. Lilley said on Monday that he was not aware of how serious the injury was and was waiting for test results.
“We don’t expect him to return for these two games this week, but we’ll see how the MRI plays out,” Lilley said. “We are hopeful for the best, but at the moment it’s a little too early to be sure.”
Robbie Mertz, Anthony Velarde and Griffin have mobilized to fill the void left by Forbes. Lilley said the trio, along with others, have done a great job replacing the all-time assists leader at the USL Championships.
“These are three young players, a rookie and two sophomores, who in my opinion have really done a good job in midfield for us,” said Lilley. “Everyone knew we had to be strong.”
Strong wing play
Perhaps the highlight of Friday’s game was play by Pittsburgh full-backs Jordan Dover and James.
While James scored two of Pittsburgh’s goals, Dover created an opportunity for the first and assisted James’ second.
To set up the first goal, Dover ran down the right side, received a heel pass from Ropapa Mensah, then sent a cross down the middle to Velarde, who found James on the back post. On James’ second goal, Dover sent a cross to the opposite post for James, who stole the ball into the net.
“They were really good the other night,” Lilley said. “Jordan was involved in two of the three goals advancing and causing trouble for Hartford. Then Ryan James scored two goals. They are unique players. They both played as midfielders in college, and we turned them into full backs.
Dover and James have both played crucial roles throughout the season. They give the Riverhounds weapons on the outside that can both create problems offensively while also helping the defensive team.
James has three goals this season, while Dover has scored in the season opener. They have also completed at least 86% of their passes.
“They have good skills, they defend well, they understand what we are doing defensively, and they make it very difficult for teams to break into large areas,” said Lilley. “Then they also present this danger. They are always ready to step forward and create an extra man in the attack for us.
Pittsburgh has six games to play this season, three at home and three on the road, and they’re trying to reach their peak as the regular season draws to a close.
They received reinforcements around last week with the arrival of defender Patrick Bunk-Andersen and striker Albert Dikwa.
The Riverhounds are going through another busy week with three games in seven days, and Lilley believes the way they handle those games will say a lot about how they can end the season.
“We’re constantly being tested, and it’s demanding, but I think you are learning a lot about yourself,” said Lilley. “I know in our first week of three games we had, earlier in the year we won against Philly and then we lost to Indy and New York. Then we went 1-1-1 in the next one. This time we’re 1-0, but hopefully we can get results and win them all and even show improvement in the way we handle a three-game streak.