Hot River­hounds em­pha­size de­fense

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - Sports - Omari Sankofa II: os­ankofa@post-gazette.com and Twit­ter @omarisankofa.

per­for­mance un­der him has re­flected that. Af­ter post­ing its fifth con­sec­u­tive clean sheet in a 1-0 vic­tory Sun­day against Ot­tawa, the River­hounds have not al­lowed a goal in its past 487 min­utes of game play.

But play­ers such as Brett, for­ward Romeo Parkes, mid­fielder Chris­tiano Fran­cois and mid­fielder Kevin Kerr, who have com­bined to score 15 of the River­hounds’ 20 goals this sea­son, will be even more im­por­tant as the team moves into the sec­ond half of its sea­son.

As Lil­ley said at prac­tice Thurs­day, the River­hounds aren’t try­ing to win 1-0. They’re try­ing to win 4-0.

“We’ve got to get bet­ter at the of­fen­sive end as a group, not just the for­wards, but ser­vice has gotta get bet­ter, our pass­ing out of the mid­field can be bet­ter,” Lil­ley said. “We have to im­prove in that area.”

Gen­er­at­ing mo­men­tum in the fi­nal third will be a point of em­pha­sis as the River­hounds, a point be­hind first-place FC Cincin­nati (10-3-5) in the East­ern Con­fer­ence with a game in hand, plot a course to con­tention. And Lil­ley sees value in a player with Pitts­burgh roots such as Brett lead­ing that charge.

“His in­stincts are good,” Lil­ley said. “He’s got a good strike with both feet. His move­ment, he’ll work hard. He’ll drag cen­ter back to find those gaps. He’s a poacher. He sniffs out op­por­tu­ni­ties and he’s hun­gry every game. He’ll do the dirty work, he’ll fol­low in for re­bounds. He’ll fight for the team to maybe pick up a loose ball.

“You do that all the time, you get re­warded. And that’s why Neko’s hav­ing a great sea­son.”

Peter Diana/Post-Gazette

River­hounds goal­keeper Dan Lynd dives to make a save dur­ing prac­tice Thurs­day at High­mark Sta­dium.

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