Wow — what a week ahead.
Kind of reminds me of a couple of years ago when the Riverhounds pulled off a big US Open Cup win against the Tampa Bay Rowdies, then had a ‘Miracle on the Mon’ win against its Keystone Derby Cup rivals all in the same week.
The Hounds hope they’ll have the same results — as they’ll be busy with a third round Open Cup game on Wednesday and following that up with a home match vs Penn FC on Saturday.
Of course we’ll have all of that coverage here on Pittsburgh Soccer Now, but there’s also much more happening around the soccer scene here in the ‘Burgh, so lets get to it…
FORT PITT OPEN SEASON WITH WIN AT BUFFALO
Pittsburgh’s National Premier Soccer League club — the Fort Pitt Regiment opened its 2018 Season with a 2-0 victory over Eastern Conference rival Buffalo.
Lucas Godinho and Marc Alexander each scored a second half goal to pace the win. Scott Rissler notched his first clean sheet.
Godinho opened the scoring with a goal in the 56th minute. He converted an Anthony Virgara set-up, knocking the ball past the FC Buffalo keeper. The scoring play was set up when Lamine Balde drove a ball into the box to find to former Riverhounds midfielder Virgara.
Alexander capped the evening’s scoring in the 81st minute. Godinho played him through the Buffalo defense and he dribbled around the goalkeeper at the edge of the area to slot the ball into an open goal.
“It’s a good start. The backline was solid and we found the attack in the second half,” John Kowalski, Fort Pitt’s coach said.
Early in the first half, the Regiment controlled possession but Buffalo created better chances with Bayley Winkle always lurking and putting a pair of shots on frame and just missing with another.
FPR’s best first chance saw Balde pop a shot straight into the air in front of a wide-open goal in the 38th minute. Virgara played a ball from the right wing through the area to the FPR forward at the back post. The attempt popped straight into the air, making it easy for the Buffalo keeper to recover from the near post and grab the ball to snuff out the chance.
Early in the second half FC Buffalo’s Isaiah Wilson’s quick shot required a quick reaction from goalkeeper Rissler to prevent FCB from scoring the game’s first goal in the 48th minute.
Buffalo introduced Akean Shackleford in the 64th minute. The Red Coat killer proved to be dangerous with several hard-charging forays into the FPR area.
The most dangerous in the 90thminute when he blocked Rissler’s clearance of a back pass toward the FPR goal. Rissler was able to block the subsequent shot.
“I was a bit slow playing the ball and he closed very quickly,” Rissler said.
The Regiment will next travel to Binghampton on June 1 for a 6:00 pm kickoff. The Regiment will open up its home schedule on June 3 at 1 p.m. in a return match against Binghampton at Highmark Stadium.
RDA BRINGS ON OKAI AS FULL-TIME COACH
You can now add Stephen Okai to former players that are now part of the full-time coaching staff with the Riverhounds Development Academy for the 2018-19 season.
Okai, a central midfielder for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC professional team for three seasons from 2015-17, has been an instrumental member of the RDA staff since arriving in Pittsburgh, working as an assistant coach and lead technical trainer within the RDA and other programming.
The commitment of Okai to the RDA marks another significant step forward in the Academy’s efforts to develop professional players into youth coaches.
“It is exciting to welcome another Riverhounds SC professional player into our coaching ranks,” Sporting Director Jason Kutney said. “Stephen has been absolutely incredible in our community programming and will immediately integrate into three important RDA teams.”
A charismatic and energetic coach with the ability to teach high-level technical competence and in-game effectiveness, Okai will take on the head coaching positions of both the 2008 Boys and 2007 Girls teams, representing a major commitment to these younger players in the RDA.
Additionally, he will work directly with Kutney and Director of Coaching Scott Gibson in managing players in the Under-15 and Under-16 ECNL platforms, taking on the head coaching role for the 03/04 RDA II side.
“Bringing Rob Vincent and now Stephen into the RDA is massive for us,” Gibson said. “Assigning Stephen to our younger boys and girls teams, ones in critical years that strike the balance between technical ability and tactical awareness, should represent how serious we are at those ages.”
A native of Ghana, Okai played five years of professional soccer in the United States with time in Charlotte, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh. Since 2015, Okai has been a constant in Riverhounds SC youth training, developing within the Academy structure while bringing his own flavor into all sessions.
RDA 2001 BOYS WIN ECNL MIDWEST DIVISION CHAMPIONSHIP
Here are your @BoysECNL Midwest Division Champs! @HoundsAcademy 2001 Boys with a 5-0 win today. They move on to the ECNL Championships in San Diego. @WestABoysSoccer with big day today as @natedragisich and Fletcher Amos each with 2 goals. @GabeHaines with clean sheet on D. pic.twitter.com/ZZjbnGC5xU
— West A Boys Soccer (@WestABoysSoccer) May 20, 2018
STEEL CITY FC KICKS OFF SATURDAY
Steel City FC — our area’s women’s team of current and recent college players that compete in the WPSL, US Soccer’s second division, kicks off its season on Saturday — with a home match against FC Pride at Ellis School in Shadyside. The match is slated to start at 3:30 p.m.
In its first warm-up exhibition match over the weekend, the Steel City FC ladies traveled to Northeast Ohio — and were defeated by the Cleveland Ambassadors.
SCFC have a new coach this season — Tom Overden.
NOBLE RETURNS TO WVU
West Virginia University men’s soccer All-American goalkeeper Nick Noble will return to WVU as an assistant coach, head coach Marlon LeBlanc announced Monday afternoon.
Noble, a First Team All-American in 2006 who set numerous school records as a Mountaineer, joins the WVU coaching staff following an 11-year professional career. As a four-year starter in goal at WVU from 2003-06, Noble set a total of 17 career or single-season program records.
“I am very excited that we’ve been able to bring Nick home to WVU,” LeBlanc said. “Having a coach of Nick’s quality and experience is exactly what our young goalkeepers need, and I’m confident he’s going to have an immediate impact on their development both on and off the field.”
“It is a great pleasure to come back to a program, school and town that I hold close to my heart,” Noble said. “Thank you to WVU for giving me this opportunity. I am excited to get started and work towards winning a national championship in 2018.”
A Damascus, Maryland, native, Noble’s professional career began in Major League Soccer as a first-round pick in the supplemental draft by the Chicago Fire in 2007. He spent the 2009 season with the Austin Aztex of the United Soccer League before playing in 59 matches from 2010-11 for Swedish Superettan team Ljungskile SK.
In 2012, Noble signed with the MLS’ Los Angeles Galaxy and the Harrisburg City Islanders of the USL. He played in 122 career matches with the Islanders from 2012-17 and was named the 2012 USL Goalkeeper of the Year as well as an All-League Second Team honoree in 2013.
In an illustrious Mountaineer career, Noble was named a First Team National Soccer Coaches Association All-American and a Second Team All-American by College Soccer News as a senior in 2006 and added Big East Goalkeeper of the Year accolades. In his career, he also was a two-time All-Big East honoree and earned six weekly Big East accolades.
Noble easily holds the Mountaineer record for career wins, with 45, while his 15 victories in 2006 also is No. 1. Noble’s 12 wins in 2004 tied a program record at the time, while his 13 victories in 2005 gave him sole possession of the record before he broke it again the following season.
Noble set a then-WVU record with a 0.79 goals-against average as a sophomore in 2004, a mark he eclipsed as a senior with a 0.63 in 2006. His 1.02 goals-against average in 2005 was fourth-best at the time and still ranks in the top 10 in the WVU record books. Noble’s career goals-against average of 0.88 set a program record.
His 302 career saves rank No. 3 all-time. The total was highlighted by 91 saves in 2005, which ranks No. 10 in a single season in team history. Noble’s save percentage of .864 in 2006 ranked No. 4 all-time, while his .812 career save percentage also was fourth-best in WVU history.
Noble concluded his career ranked No. 1 all-time with 34 shutouts, highlighted by a then-school-record 12 in 2005 and another 11 in 2006.
Noble still ranks No. 1 in team history in matches played, starts and minutes played in 2005, with 23 starts and 2,120 minutes, while he concluded his career ranked No. 1 with 79 matches played, 77 starts and 7,135 minutes in his career.
GREATER PITTSBURGH SOCCER LEAGUE UPDATES
The Greater Pittsburgh Soccer League is the highest level of amateur competition in our region — and is sponsored by PA West Soccer. GPSL is made up of three divisions: premier, championship, and miners.
The divisions are based on skill level and use the promotion/relegation system in the divisions. The last couple years the division winners (Tartan Devils FC) participated in the US Open Cup. The league runs from April – October and top four teams make playoffs.
Thus far this season, in abbreviated play, the Tartan Devils are still without a win, but it’s still early.
“We feel like there are a lot of soccer players around the Pittsburgh area that just stop playing after moving back from college and we are trying to get the league out to show there is a more recreational, but competitive league that travels within the metropolitan Pittsburgh area,” Chris Petticord, Montour Kickers FC’s manager/player, said.
DORTMUND’s PULISIC & BENFICA’s PARKS IN CAMP WITH USMNT
With three games over the next three weeks — two in Europe — U.S. national team coach Dave Sarachan called up a team dominated by foreign-based players for the opening match on Memorial Day — May 28 against Bolivia in Chester, PA.
Two players that will likely be playing in the international friendly at Heinz Field in July, will be on this USMNT roster: Borussia Dortmund star Christian Pulisic and Benfica’s Keaton Parks.
— Keaton Parks (@keaton_parks) May 20, 2018
This will be Pulisic’s first game since the USA were eliminated from the World Cup and will be playing in his first international in his home state.
This USMNT roster is filled with many young players — and Pulisic is one of four teenagers called in. The others are Weston McKennie, Tim Weah and Josh Sargent. Four other players are only 20.
Sargent is among seven uncapped players Sarachan has brought in for the first game. The others are Alex Bono, Erik Palmer-Brown, Matthew Olosunde, Antonee Robinson and Alejandro Guido.
“We’ve had first-time call-ups in every camp since November,” said Sarachan, “This is another extension of that. We’re going into the Bolivia game with newer faces along with a few familiar players as well. Overall, these types of games provide great chances for players to bank key minutes in international matches.”
Bono, who plays for Toronto FC (and has played against the Riverhounds a few times with TFCII in past years), and LAFC’s Walker Zimmerman are the only MLS players called.
The match doesn’t fall on an international fixture date so MLS clubs are not obligated to release players. They are in action until June 13 after which the league will take a short break for the World Cup.
Other MLS players as well as a few European-based players are expected to join the team for games against Ireland on June 2 in Dublin and France on June 9 in Decines.
Alex Bono (Toronto FC; 0/0)
Bill Hamid (FC Midtjylland/DEN; 5/0)
Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge/BEL; 2/0)
Cameron Carter-Vickers (Ipswich Town/ENG; 2/0)
Eric Lichaj (Nott. Forest/ENG; 14/1)
Matt Miazga (Vitesse/NED; 5/1)
Matthew Olosunde (Man. United/ENG; 0/0)
Erik Palmer-Brown (Man. City/ENG; 0/0)
Antonee Robinson (Bolton Wanderers/ENG; 0/0)
Jorge Villafana (Santos Laguna/MEX; 16/0)
Walker Zimmerman (LAFC; 2/0)
Joe Corona (Club America/MEX; 20/3)
Lynden Gooch (Sunderland/ENG; 3/0)
Julian Green (Greuther Fuerth/GER; 8/3)
Alejandro Guido (Tijuana/MEX; 0/0)
Weston McKennie (Schalke 04/GER; 1/1)
Keaton Parks (Benfica/POR; 0/0)
Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 20/9)
Rubio Rubin (Tijuana/MEX; 5/0)
Tim Weah (Paris SG/FRA; 1/0)
Andrija Novakovich (Telstar/NED; 1/0)
Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen/GER; 0/0)
THE WEEK AHEAD
Wednesday, May 23
7 p.m. Pittsburgh Riverhounds vs FC Cincinnati (US Open Cup, third round) – Highmark Stadium
Saturday, May 26
3:30 p.m. Steel City FC (WPSL) vs FC Pride – Ellis School
7 p.m. Pittsburgh Riverhounds vs Penn FC (USL league match) – Highmark Stadium
PSN Coverage notes:
Due to a previous work commitment, I will not be covering the Open Cup match on the 23rd, but Hounds play-by-play man Matt Gajtka will also provide a game recap, and we’ll have some photography as well provided by Ed Thompson.
I’ll be back at Highmark Stadium on May 26 for the second edition of this year’s Keystone Derby Cup.
Have a great week!