PITTSBURGH, PA. (July 31, 2018) — Tom Ovenden isn’t a one-and-done coach.
When Ovenden takes on a new task, he sticks with it. He pushes his players hard, but makes sure that a love an appreciation for the game of soccer is there.
Ovenden just finished his first season in charge of Steel City FC, Pittsburgh’s club in the Women’s Premier Soccer League. Recently, the whole season wrapped up with the Seattle Sounders women claiming its first-ever title.
Steel City FC, who compete in the Ohio Valley Conference, finished in sixth place, out of nine clubs. The club ended the season with two wins, five losses and one draw.
Ovenden admitted that the win-loss column wasn’t what he intentionally wanted. However, this was a big trial season for Steel City FC, adjusting to new players, a new coach and a whole new staff. Ovenden also had to learn about a new league and conference.
“I kind of went in blind and not knowing the level of player that we needed and what we currently have,” Ovenden said. “Considering all of that stuff, it’s been a successful season. Going into next year, we’ll know exactly who we want to retain and what we need.”
Ovenden explained that the next few months will be dedicated to scouting at college games and “finding the right players.”
Next Step: Recruitment
When it comes to recruiting, on the top of Ovenden’s list is gathering local players around Pittsburgh. However, he did say that the team is “not afraid” to bring in players from outside of Western Pennsylvania.
Ovenden also expressed a desire to build from out of the back.
“We want to play short passes,” Ovenden explained. “We really want those technical players who might not be playing on a team currently like that, but they have the attributes for that model. All the girls this year expressed a lot of gratitude and really enjoyed playing the style we play.”
“It will be nice to pick up some players like that again.”
Ovenden is stressing the importance of picking up players with a passion for the game. He enjoys coaching college athletes, helping them get ready for their upcoming seasons.
“There is an importance of getting them to enjoy the game and enjoy playing,” Ovenden explained. “If that happens, then we’ll start getting a good feeling about it. I felt that some players weren’t necessarily enjoying it last season. I learned that you can really bring the best out of you if you just have fun during the practices and games.”
“The players respond to that really well.”
Daloisio, Campbell to return to staff
Steel City FC players didn’t just respond to Ovenden; the athletes also held their attention to assistant coach Tom Campbell and player-coach Jordan Daloisio.
Ovenden said that keeping Daloisio fit will be “really important” for next season. After two matches, Daloisio’s season was cut short due to a hamstring injury.
“I never realized how good Jordan was as a player,” Ovenden said. “She’s a really, really, good player and we need to manager her a little bit better. The effort that she put in this season, considering how many roles she plays, was fantastic.”
Ovenden said that despite having an injury, Daloisio never moped around. Instead, her energy didn’t waver off the pitch and on the sideline.
Going into his second year at Steel City FC, Ovenden wants to expand his staff.
“Having this year was really good in terms of learning what we need of the staff next year,” Ovenden said. “We figured out the little bits that will really make next year better. I think we can do a better job of bringing in volunteer coaches next year.”
Coaches won’t be the only returners, though. According to Ovenden, he has already received word from plenty of the players about returns for the next season. While some WPSL clubs saw attendance and roster spots drop, Ovenden said the numbers didn’t waver for Steel City FC.
Instead, at the team’s last practice, around 25 players showed up.
“Everyone is positive and I’ve already spoken to the team,” Ovenden said. “You have to take that with a little bit of salt, though. There’s a lot that can happen between now and then. But, in general, I expect everyone to pretty much return.”
No matter what numbers he has next year, Ovenden is just excited for another opportunity at the helm. He wants his returners to learn from this past season and push for a winning season in 2019.
“It’s a really good team and the level of play — and the level of the actual league itself — really impressed me,” Ovenden said. “We have a lot of decent players.”
“I thought everyone did a really good job.”