The Riverhounds announced through a media advisory Monday evening that they will be hosting a press conference to announce ‘a major personnel change’ at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, at Highmark Stadium.
Club personnel could not be reached for any further comment on Monday evening.
Team owner Tuffy Shallenberger was originally scheduled to do an interview with MonGoals podcast last week, but the session was tabled by both sides in order to wait for a ‘big announcement’ that was going to be made.
Left only to ponder what the Hounds will be announcing on Tuesday afternoon, here are the three most likely scenarios:
1. New president/GM (most likely)
This is a void that the Hounds organization has desperately needed to fill. The club could finally announce the appointment of a new team president and/or general manager who would be responsible for all personnel decisions and oversee the pro team’s technical staff, including head coach Dave Brandt.
Along with his coaching staff, and assistance from the organization’s Sporting Director, Jason Kutney, Brandt, a long-time college coach, has been responsible for scouting and player acquisition.
Since the departure of Richard Nightingale at the conclusion of the 2015 season, Shallenberger, owner of a successful construction company that does the developmental work necessary for energy companies to tap natural gas mostly in areas south of Pittsburgh, has also served as the Hounds Interim President.
With a hire of an astute soccer professional, this would be the best possible scenario for the Hounds, and for Pittsburgh soccer fans. The United Soccer League’s unprecedented growth and its likely ascension as the sole second division league in the U.S. Soccer pyramid has forced the Hounds to expand Highmark Stadium to 5,000 seats prior to next season to meet U.S. Soccer’s second division requirements. Among other standards, all second division clubs are required to have a fully-staffed front office. It makes the most sense to hire someone who will exclusively lead the direction of the pro soccer club. With this potential hire, the Hounds will have the opportunity to turn to someone who has experience, who knows the intricacies of professional soccer and can steer the club’s long-term vision for its pro team.
2. Players not returning (less likely in this format)
There’s been some speculation that some prominent players will not be brought back. This is generally something USL teams will do via a media release, as some teams, most notably FC Cincinnati and Orlando City B, have already done.
Although this could be seen as ‘major personnel change,’ this should never merit a press conference.
Since the Hounds season ended in October, missing the playoffs for the second straight season, and the third time in four years, the club has not made any additional announcements regarding player personnel moves.
The Hounds have not yet announced any returning or new player signings for 2018, and currently only one player, Chevy Walsh, is signed through the completion of the 2018 season. In a postseason feature with DKPittsburghSports.com, Brandt shared that exit interviews with all of his players from 2017 were completed and he was not ready to make any announcements with regards to player signings, but did acknowledge that his roster size will be smaller in 2018.
3. Coaching change? (can’t rule out)
All signs immediately after the season clearly pointed to Brandt returning to the club. We’ll leave this here because you can never rule this out. The long-time college coach has expressed his frustrations and challenges in working with pro players in this first season and a half on the job. Still, in talking with Brandt two weeks ago, he was fully committed to turning the page toward 2018, and Shallenberger voiced his support of the coach recently after the season.
“The only thing we’re lacking right now is winning. Once we start winning, this place will keep filling up,” Shallenberger said in a postseason interview. “I am happy with the direction, but I’m also very disappointed (to miss the playoffs). I’m a very impatient person, but I think the philosophy is here to be successful.”
Brandt has already been hard at work for the past month in preparations for next season, and was back at work shortly after major hip surgery.
Any change in direction of the head coaching position, would likely mean that the first scenario — the Hounds having a new president/general manager — could signal a complete make-over of the direction of the club and the current coaching staff would be cut in favor of someone whom the new president/general manager would want to bring to the club.
But, of course, all of this is highly speculative. The news will come soon enough, on Tuesday, and I’ll provide coverage on DKPittsburghSports.com / Pittsburgh Soccer Report of the press conference.