On May 1, 1999, the Riverhounds played their inaugural game before a standing-room only, sell-out crowd at Bethel Park Stadium.
— PGH Sports History (@PGH_Sports_Date) May 1, 2019
Later today, we’ll be celebrating that momentous night — and the footage from the first game will be shown on the TV screens at Piper’s Pub!
In that first game, Pittsburgh soccer fans were treated to a pretty exciting contest, one that would go to extra time — and then feature a shootout to decide a victor.
The Hounds would lose (2-2, 3-4 in shootout).
If you recall, the A-League also utilized MLS-style shootouts that included the player starting and being allowed to move with the ball forward from 40-yards out to beat the goalkeeper.
Emil Haitonic scored the first goal in team history while Justin Evans recorded the first Riverhounds assist.
That first game kicked off the 1999 A-League campaign — and a 20-year run as a franchise that’s provided many ups and downs, but the club remains a fabric and flag bearer for soccer in Western Pennsylvania. That season, the Hounds finished 16-12 overall (with the shootout rule in effect to determine a winner in every match, there were no draws).
There was a standing room only crowd of 5,639 (321 over seat capacity).
The Riverhounds were donning their white kits and the Cincinnati Riverhawks were in their blues. In the 30th minute Haitonic, of Romania, unleashed a shot from about 25 yards out and caught Cincinnati goalie Chris Wanamaker a little flat-footed for the club’s first-ever goal.
Averaging 4,178 fans per game at Bethel Park in that first season, led by Head Coach John Kowalski, assistants Gene Klein and Paul Child, the Hounds along with a trio of local players ,hat included Evans, Gary DePalma and Steve Bell, leading the way, along with numerous other talented players, became the A-League Organization of the Year.
“There was an enormous buzz immediately, especially because the (Pittsburgh) Spirit had left, and people wanted to have high level of the game,” Klein said. “That first game there was a lot of excitement. People had been waiting a long time to see this.”
Look for more from Piper’s Pub social media later today on their ‘throwback’ dinner specials — as this year also marks the Pub’s 20th Anniversary as they’ve been serving soccer fans on the South Side since 1999!
Here’s a link to a Facebook invitation.
(Photos courtesy Riverhounds SC archives / YouTube)