The reigning Eastern Conference regular season champions made their initial roster moves.
We’re through the first week of December, which means that most people are rushing around preparing for the holiday season. That is unless you’re a USL team or fan. Instead, this time of the year is usually when USL teams determine which players with contract options will be picked up or declined. Earlier this week, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC announced their initial roster moves for the upcoming season. The moves are as follows:
- Players whose options were picked up:
Steevan Dos Santos, Kenardo Forbes, Mark Forrest, Ryan James, Robbie Mertz, Dani Rovira, Thomas Vancaeyezeele, and Anthony Velarde
- Players whose options were declined:
Prosper Figbe, Sammy Kashai, Austin Pack, Caleb Smith, Uchenna Uzo, and Christian Volesky
- Players who are out of contract:
Tobi Adewole, Neco Brett, Mouhammed Dabo, Jordan Dover, Noah Franke, Joe Greenspan, Kevin Kerr, Kyle Morton, and Todd Pratzner
While most of the picked up and declined options were expected, there is a lot of great talent from last year’s team that is out of contract. I decided to go through each player out of contract and give my opinion on what will be their fate with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. I would like to underscore that outside of Mouhammed Dabo (who was signed this week by Reno 1868 FC on December 6th), the following is my opinion and educated guess on what will happen with each player.
Tobi Adewole had a solid season last year on the Riverhounds backline. Not only did he start 34 of 35 games, but he had a respectable 65.6% tackle success rate, 107 clearances, and a modest 77.4% passing rate. At 6’3″ and only 24 years old, Adewole has grown into a consistent and important part of the Riverhounds’ defense over his past three years with the club. Due to this, I would venture that there are many teams looking to add such a young and solid defensive talent to their roster. As much as the Riverhounds would love to have him back, I sense another club may sign Adewole over this offseason.
Neco Brett is most likely one of the top priorities for the Riverhounds to resign. Coming off a 2019 campaign where he was tied for 5th in all the USL for goals scored, Brett had just under 62% shot accuracy and 31 key passes. His scoring ability and offensive presence is something that would be hard for the Riverhounds to replicate and potentially find over the offseason. Due to this, I expect Neco will return to Highmark Stadium in 2020.
When the roster moves were announced earlier this week, I wrote on my personal twitter account that Tobi and Mouhammed would most likely have suitors that would offer more money than the Riverhounds. While the financials weren’t released, half of my intuition proved right as Reno 1868 FC signed Mouhammed Dabo on December 6th.
Although Jordan Dover had a quiet season in terms of goals and assists this season, he did have a tackle success rate of 72.1%. Most of the lack of production in the final third can be attributed to a prolonged absence while playing in the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup for the Guyana Nation Team. Dover has been a solid midfielder for the Riverhounds since he joined the team two years ago. I believe Dover will be back with the Riverhounds for the 2020 season.
Noah Franke was mostly used as a role player this past season, playing in only 17 games (eight of which were starts). Although there were no tangible offensive outputs by way of goals or assists, Franke was able to show his stamina and high productivity in terms of passing and tackle success rate in his limited opportunity. Should he return, there is no question his role will be the same, barring a breakout in training camp. Due to this, I would lean Franke most likely not returning in 2020.
Joe Greenspan is very much the anchor of the Riverhounds backline. His 159 clearances, 73.9% passing rate, and four goals helped Greenspan become the 2019 USL Defender of the Year. The 6’6″ former MLS defender has been a crucial part of the Riverhounds roster, both as a loanee in 2017 and since his signing with the Riverhounds in 2018. Like many others on the list, I am positive other USL clubs will attempt to lure him away, but I believe Greenspan will be back with the Riverhounds in 2020.
Kevin Kerr is the face of the Riverhounds. Since 2013, Kerr has made numerous memorable moments in Riverhounds history, including setting the franchise’s career assists record this season. Kerr is very much a fan favorite and a future Riverhounds SC Hall of Fame inductee. I highly doubt that the end of Kevin Kerr’s career as a Riverhound would happen quietly and with no fanfare. For this reason alone, I believe Kerr will be back, for at least one more season, in 2020.
Kyle Morton was the main goalkeeper last year. While doing so, he made 52 saves and his 14 clean sheets were tied for most in the entire USL. With Austin Pack having his option declined, the Pittsburgh roster currently has no goalkeepers. It’s hard to think that the Riverhounds would try to find both a starter and a back up keeper via trials and available players. I believe Morton will be back as the keeper for the 2020 season.
Todd Praztner is another player that was used sparingly, just like Noah Franke. While he did not have any goals or assists in his 15 games (11 starts), he did have almost 78% pass accuracy. While I don’t believe there will be teams necessarily looking for a role player, I also don’t believe Pratzner showed enough to return in 2020.
With the five players (Brett, Dover, Greenspan, Kerr, Morton) I believe to be returning next season added to the players under contract, that would bring the roster to 13. This gives the Riverhounds a significant number of spots to fill via offseason signings, college combines, and tryouts. There will be a lot of work to do in a rather short period of time, but one thing is for sure: the kids won’t be the only ones hoping they get everything on their lists this holiday season.