By Richard Nightingale
Master and Apprentice
“Always two there are, no more, no less. A master and an apprentice.”
Yoda, the Grand Master of the Jedi Order could well have been referring to Lilley and Brandt.
No prizes for guessing who the master and who the apprentice are.
Rochester’s pedestrian defeat of Pittsburgh 3 – 0 on Saturday night highlighted that to be championship material in the USL as a coach you must be flexible and pragmatic in your approach. In my book, experience and however many wins at Messiah College and Navy doesn’t prepare you. The last thing Pittsburgh needed was an “apprentice” to replace Mark Steffens. I take nothing away from Brandt’s college record but take a moment and put that in perspective. The leap from College to Professional game. Two totally different worlds.
If you went on the Navy website during Brandt’s tenure, his bio talks about style of play being focused on “possession, emphasizing penetration”, “Requires positional discipline” and “style that is fast, athletic, skillful, exciting and fun to watch”.
You can’t take this Pittsburgh squad and turn them into something they are not.
This season Pittsburgh have looked like an Academy developing players rather than a Professional Soccer team focused on doing anything necessary to win games.
I’ve spilt a few beers with Bob Lilley over the years and always enjoyed his company. During my year in Pittsburgh we got robbed in the away fixture with the Rhino’s. Cheap penalty. After the game I was fuming and sought out the referee. Security were positioned in front of the officials room and wouldn’t let me through. I felt a hand on my shoulder and heard the words “this too shall pass”. It was Bob Lilley. Bob actually played for the Pittsburgh Stingers in the CISL, started his coaching career in 1997 with Hershey Wildcats, then Montreal Impact, also Vancouver Whitecaps and most recently a couple of stints with Rochester. In 2015 he guided Rochester to the USL Championship with a team that conceded 15 goals all season, quite remarkable. Bob has been to the BBQ and that was quite evident Saturday night in the way he prepared his team and orchestrated the win against Pittsburgh. Even withdrew two of his stars, Forbes and Dos Santos after just 75 minutes. He probably couldn’t believe how easily Pittsburgh were kicked to the curb.
Hertzog didn’t get a sniff all game. Pittsburgh never in a million minutes looked likely to penetrate the Rochester back four. Rochester let Pittsburgh knock the ball around sideways all night in areas that posed no danger. Rochester exploited the space behind Pittsburgh’s fullbacks who quite frankly weren’t good enough to play in a 4 – 2 – 3 – 1 system and deliver on the expectations offensively. I don’t think Lilley broke out in a cold sweat when Nick Thompson was introduced as Pittsburgh’s first substitute after 58 minutes. That was tactically the best we had to offer?
Even if Aguilar had taken his early chance or Steffen hadn’t committed a howler, the result was inevitable and pre-ordained with the way Pittsburgh approached the game. Once again Pittsburgh didn’t adapt to the opposition and it showed. Especially playing away from home. Did Brandt think that Lilley wouldn’t do his homework, show them any respect and not be prepared?
I was awed by Danny Earl’s work ethic and commitment. Only bright spot on a dismal night.
Don’t beat yourself Pittsburgh.
As Yoda said, “If no mistake have you made, yet loosing you are, a different game you should play”.