On Saturday, before a packed crowd in the Highmark Stadium suites, the Riverhounds SC announced its first-ever Hall of Fame Class that include five key figures who were instrumental in helping the club establish itself as a fixture in the American soccer landscape.
These five men, Paul Heasley, Dave Kasper, John Kowalski, Justin Evans and David Flavius were trail blazers for the organization — and for Pittsburgh soccer.
Congrats to our inaugural Riverhounds SC Hall of Fame Class! #UNLEASH
2019 Class: Justin Evans, David Flavius, Paul Heasley, Dave Kasper and John Kowalski pic.twitter.com/GfkWa55bje
— Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (@RiverhoundsSC) March 9, 2019
Without the contributions from these five men, who knows, the narrative and course of professional soccer in Pittsburgh could be entirely different.
Together, they provided a core group of individuals that would help the Riverhounds franchise get off to a rousing start in 1999 — as they earned A-League Organization of the Year.
The Riverhounds franchise’s early years were forged by these five distinct individuals: an owner who made it all possible, a soccer visionary with local roots who molded a winning product on the field, an experienced coach who provided the club with instant credibility, a local player hungry to establish himself as a professional in his hometown and an international from Saint Lucia who set the standard for consistency and scoring excellence.
Founding the team on March 11, 1998, Heasley constructed and formed the foundation of Pittsburgh’s very own outdoor professional soccer team.
It was under Heasley’s and Kasper’s leadership, Belle Vernon and Bridgeville natives, respectively, the Hounds provided a memorable first season, filling up Bethel Park Stadium with more than 5,000 fans per game. That same season, they won their first-ever playoff game in team history and were awarded USL A-League Organization of the Year honors.
During this inaugural 1999 season, Kowalski served as the team’s field general and coached its high-scoring attack to 63 regular season goals, which still stands as the club single-season record today. He served as the Hounds’ head coach for two seasons (1999-00).
Evans played a total of six seasons (1999-01, 03, 08-09) with the club. Over the course of his Hounds career, the midfielder totaled 101 games played, 14 goals and 22 assists. The two-time All-League selection is one of four players in team history to have recorded at least 100 appearances and 50 points.
Evans didn’t stop his contributions to the Riverhounds organization there.
Evans took on the reigns as head coach for five seasons from 2010-14. Evans guided the Hounds in its first season at Highmark Stadium, leading the club to the USL playoffs with a team that featured the USL MVP (Jose Angulo) and league leader in assists (Matt Dallman). His 112 games coached in all competitions is the most by any Hounds coach.
As a forward, Flavius is the club-record holder in numerous statistics, including games played (183), goals (58) and assists (25). He is the only player to have recorded at least 100 points (141) in club history. Like Evans, Flavius also was a two-time All-League selection over the course of his eight-season Pittsburgh career.
Honoring these five men provide a nice way for the Hounds organization to recognize its own history — and recognize these men who are truly Pittsburgh soccer icons. It was especially nice to see Evans, who was fired by the club after a poor start in 2014, receive this honor.
None of the recipients were on hand on Saturday, but Evans and Kowalski were included in video interviews as part of the presentation.
The club is planning a formal Hall of Fame induction ceremony in June, and they’ll be recognized at a home game in July.
RIVERHOUNDS INAUGURAL HALL OF FAME CLASS
Midfielder Justin Evans
Drafted in a 1999 expansion draft, Justin Evans was selected as the first-ever player in club history. Competing in six campaigns with the club (1999-01, 03, 08-09), the midfielder is one of four players in team history to have recorded at least 100 games played and 50 points (101 career appearances and 50 career points). He was twice named All-League Second Team in his Hounds career (2008-09).
After his playing career, Evans coached the Hounds from 2010-14. His 112 all competition matches coached for the club ranks the most in its history, 46 more than the second-highest total.
Forward David Flavius
David Flavius holds a number of all-time records in club history, including career games played (183), goals (58), assists (25) and points (141).
His three playoff goals are most in team history. Playing eight straight seasons (1999-06) with the franchise, the striker was twice named All-League Second Team.
Founder/Owner Paul Heasley
Founding the franchise on March 11, 1998, Paul Heasley was the original owner of the professional soccer club. He was determined to provide positive ‘soccer’ role models for his son, who began playing the game seriously in the late 1990s.
Heasley wanted the Riverhounds to be a team that embodied Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania, and made it a point to build a team with local players.
The first three picks in the history of the franchise were Evans of Peters Township, Steve Bell (also from Peters) and Gary DePalma of Upper St. Clair.
“I remember him just talking to me and saying, ‘Hey, we made you our No. 1 draft pick for a reason. You’re a Pittsburgh kid,’ Evans shared after Heasley’s passing in 2013. “That was something that was very important to him.”
Before selling the club in 2004, the Hounds twice advanced to the quarterfinals of the USL A-League playoffs. In 2001, the club made a run into the quarterfinals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The club logged a 16-12 record in its inaugural season en route to Organization of the Year honors.
Vice President/General Manager Dave Kasper
Named vice president and general manager upon the team’s conception, Dave Kasper propelled the team to its early success. Among players he helped sign to the professional team in its inaugural season, names such as Randy Dedini, Gary DePalma, Justin Evans, David Flavius and Jaman Tripoli account for five of the 11 players in team history who have recorded at least 100 games played. With his leadership, the club earned Organization of the Year honors in 1999.
Head coach John Kowalski
As the first-ever head coach in team history, John Kowalski led the team to its first-ever playoff victory and Organization of the Year honors in 1999. Fielding high-scoring attacks, Kowalski-led teams scored an average of 1.84 goals per game – the second most of any coach in club history. He is one of three coaches in franchise history to have led the club for at least 60 games (61 games at the helm).
Other Announcements on Saturday: New Kits, Turf and Team Beer
With a packed room of season ticket holders and friends of the organization, Hounds also shared its 2019 kits.
— Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (@RiverhoundsSC) March 10, 2019
In addition to its Hall of Fame announcement, the club disclosed that a new turf-playing surface would be installed at Highmark Stadium. This installation is scheduled to be completed prior to Riverhounds SC’s home opener on April 13.
The team also unveiled its 2019 kits, featuring a brand-new white jersey and a special patch to pay homage to its 20th anniversary season.
Prior to the season ticket holder event, Riverhounds SC revealed its team beer, Session Copper Ale, which will be sold at Highmark Stadium, Full Pint Brewery in North Versailles and Full Pint Wild Side Pub in Lawrenceville.