Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC midfielder Robbie Mertz is one of seven players currently slated to return to the club for the 2023 USL Championship season. | Photo courtesy Colin Cowger / Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
PITTSBURGH – Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC announced on Thursday the club’s first roster moves for the 2023 USL Championship season with seven players confirmed to return to next season’s squad.
The Hounds exercised contract options on forward Albert Dikwa, midfielder Marc Ybarra, defenders Arturo Ordóñez, Nate Dossantos and Luke Biasi, and goalkeeper Jahmali Waite, while midfielder Robbie Mertz was previously under contract for the 2023 campaign.
The group returns to the club after a season in which the team went 16-9-9 and reached the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2022 USL Championship Playoffs before falling to eventual finalist Louisville City FC after a penalty shootout. The players rejoin Head Coach Bob Lilley, currently the longest-tenured Head Coach in the league as he enters his sixth season leading the Hounds. Pittsburgh has qualified for the postseason in each of the prior five years under his leadership, the longest streak in club history.
About the returning players:
Mertz, 26, began his pro career with the Hounds in 2019-20 and rejoined the team midway through last season on a transfer from Atlanta United 2. In two-and-a-half seasons in Pittsburgh, the graduate of nearby Upper St. Clair High School has 13 goals and 13 assists, and his nine assists last season (in Atlanta and Pittsburgh combined) tied him for fourth in the USL Championship.
Dikwa, 24, will also be entering his fourth season with the Hounds and is coming off a career season with 11 goals and four assists. His breakout season made him one of the finalists for the USL Championship Comeback Player of the Year award, as the native of Cameroon also set career-high marks for games, starts and minutes played.
The other five returning players all will be entering their second professional season with the Hounds.
Ordóñez, 25, was a mainstay in the Hounds lineup with 35 starts in 38 games across all competitions, as the Spanish center back out of the University of Pittsburgh led the Hounds with 124 clearances and scored his first professional goal on June 25 against Tampa Bay.
Dossantos, 23, also became a regular in the lineup at left back until a knee injury ended his season. The rookie from Ontario by way of Marshall University started 16 USL Championship matches and recorded three assists before his first year was cut short.
Biasi, 23, a Georgia native who finished his college career at Syracuse University, appeared in 14 USL matches. He logged vital minutes playing both outside back positions, including a strong spot start in the team’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match at FC Cincinnati.
Ybarra, 23, comes back after a first year as the Hounds most heavily used reserve in the midfield. Playing primarily a holding role, Ybarra appeared in 23 USL Championship matches — 14 off the bench — after a decorated five-year career at the University of Michigan.
Waite, 23, earned the Hounds’ starting goalkeeper role last season in his first year out of the University of Connecticut. He finished with a 9-6-6 record in the regular season, allowing exactly 1.00 goals per game and logging seven shutouts. His play also earned him multiple calls into camp with the Jamaican National Team during 2022, and on Nov. 10, he made his senior international debut for Jamaica in a road match against Cameroon.