Bob Lilley: Riverhounds have chance to go far in USL Championship playoffs

Head coach Bob Lilley, arguably the greatest coach in USL history, has the Pittsburgh Riverhounds back in the playoffs for the third year in a row.

The Riverhounds opened up a nine-point lead over Hartford in Group F with a 5-0 win over the Athletic on Saturday. Ryan James and Ropapa Mensah each scored twice, while Anthony Velarde added the fifth goal from the penalty spot for Pittsburgh, which leads the overall USL Championship standings.



“I’m happy we won and that we clinched a playoff spot," said Lilley. "But we aren’t done yet. Hartford is a team we’re going to see again in a few weeks, and maybe even in the playoffs. We still want to finish off the regular season strong and earn home playoff matches.”

Pittsburgh lost midfielder Kenardo Forbes, the USL Championship's all-time assist leader, for 4-8 weeks in early September with a leg injury, but the Riverhounds continue to get strong play from Velarde, a 24-year-old midfielder out of Division II Fresno Pacific University, and Robbie Mertz, another second-year pro out of the University of Michigan

“I think this year’s team has a chance to go far," added Lilley. "We’ve gotten better and better as the season has gone along and we’ve learned a lot of hard lessons along the way. I feel like we’ve improved a lot in managing games."

The Riverhounds, who are in their 22nd season, went 15-5-14 and 19-4-11 in Lilley's first two seasons and reached the Eastern Conference semifinals in 2019. They have not gone farther since their days in the USL Second Division.

USL Championship standings:
GROUP A
1 Reno 1868 FC 8-2-1, 25 points
2 Sac Republic FC 7-1-4, 25 points
3 Tacoma Defiance 2-7-1, 7 points
4 Timbers 2 1-10-0, 3 points

GROUP B
1 Phoenix Rising 8-2-2, 26 points
2 LA Galaxy II 6-5-0, 21 points
3 Orange County SC  5-3-3, 18 points
4 San Diego Loyal 4-4-4, 16 points
5 Las Vegas Lights 2-6-3, 9 points

GROUP C
1 New Mexico United 7-3-2, 23 points
2 El Paso Locomotive 6-2-3, 21 points
3 Real Monarchs 3-7-1, 10 points
4 Colorado Springs Switchbacks 1-5-5, 8 points

GROUP D
1 San Antonio FC 8-1-3, 27 points
2 FC Tulsa 3-2-7 16 points
3 Austin Bold FC 3-2-6, 15 points
4 OKC Energy FC 1-5-6, 9points
5 Rio Grande Valley FC 0-9-3, 3 points

GROUP E
1 Louisville City 7-3-2, 23 points
2 Indy Eleven 7-4-1, 22 points
3 Saint Louis FC 5-4-3, 18 points
4 Sporting KC II  4-7-1, 13 points

GROUP F
1 Pittsburgh Riverhounds 9-3-1, 28 points
2 Hartford Athletic 6-3-1, 19 points
3 NY Red Bulls II 4-7-0, 12 points
4 Loudoun United 1-7-3, 8 points
5 Philadelphia Union II 1-7-2, 5 points

GROUP G
1 Birmingham Legion 6-3-4, 22 points
2 Charlotte Independence 6-3-3, 21 points
3 North Carolina FC 4-6-1, 13 points
4 Memphis 901 FC 2-6-4, 10 points

GROUP H
1 Tampa Bay Rowdies 8-2-3, 27 points
2 Charleston Battery 7-2-3 24 points
3 Atlanta United 2 2-8-3, 9 points
4 The Miami FC 2-5-3, 9 points

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