USLSoccer.com Staff Report
Monday, February 15, 2016
PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Riverhounds opened preseason camp on Monday as Mark Steffens and his staff welcomed the returning and new players who’ll make up the majority of the team’s squad this season.
After a positive first season in charge at Highmark Stadium that saw the Riverhounds reach the 2015 USL Playoffs, Steffens said he was looking forward to seeing how the new group would mesh over the next couple of weeks ahead of the club’s preseason opener against Penn State on February 28.
“Every preseason we want to make sure our players get to know each other, our coaching staff gets to know the players, see what their personalities are, their defensive personalities, their attacking personalities,” Steffens told Riverhounds.com. “We’ll play a lot of possession and have some fun games to goal, small-sided games to goal this week, and then next week we’ll start with a bigger field. We’ll go to full-field games a couple of times before we play a match.”
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Among the key returnees to the squad this season is 2015 All-League midfielder Kevin Kerr, who has been working hard this offseason at the club’s new Allegheny Health Network Sports Complex. Kerr had 10 goals and nine assists for the Hounds last season, and was able to meet up with teammates and the club’s training staff over the offseason to stay in good condition ahead of the official start of preseason.
“Obviously it’s a long time, you’re out on your own, but we were fortunate enough to be in here and scrimmage with the boys that did stay in the area and a lot of trialists that came in, so the standard was pretty high,” Kerr said. “We were in two or three times a week, and then [Fitness Coach] Mike Whiteman gave us all training plans that we all stuck to, so we feel pretty good.”
- RELATED: Riverhounds Unveil New Training Facility
Kerr will likely be one of the players in Steffens’ starting 11 when the Riverhounds host the defending USL champion Rochester Rhinos in their season opener at Highmark Stadium on April 2. With some interesting offseason moves, though, the battle for playing time promises to be a competitive one over the next seven weeks.
“Eleven starting spots are open right now, and I don’t see a player that won’t push for one of those, so I think our depth is pretty strong this year,” Steffens said. “I’m excited about that, and obviously there are guys penciled into those starting spots, but they have to earn them. It’s going to be a battle. I was telling that to the guys this morning. It’s going to be a battle for the starting jobs and for playing time this year. That’s a good problem for a coaching staff.”