When first seeing this soccer team name — Pittsburgh City United FC — pop up on various social media platforms in early June, the prevailing thought was that it was some random soccer fan trying to come up with a catchy name for a future pro soccer team from Pittsburgh.
Instead, a few clicks later, arriving upon a bold looking web site with a video panel with a PCUfc TV moniker, suddenly, before our eyes appeared a new soccer club being represented in the Fourth Division’s United Premier Soccer League where they compete in the North Beltway Division.
What came next was a burst of information was part inspiring, part exciting, part bewildering and part confusing.
There was a lot to digest.
Visuals usually jump out first, and in this case, this new club’s website and press conference backdrop was draped with familiar black and gold colors including a striking crest with a gold bridge along with a caveat — inclusion of a purple as a third color — and use of a ribbon synonymous with raising awareness of numerous medical conditions, including Alzhiemers.
City United (this is what I am calling them — hope that’s okay with everyone) would be playing with the backing and to benefit a very worthy cause: the Alzheimers Association.
In promoting head safety, the club would be at the forefront of promoting safety measures to prevent head traumas in soccer. In fact, they will also require all players to wear protective head gear for their games, which one manufacter, Full90, has agreed to provide in an effort to spread awareness.
On the website for Pittsburgh City United FC, a video feed with an introductory press conference, Michael Monsour was the MC of the proceedings as he brought in Clayton Jacobs, President Pennsylvania Chapter for the Alzheimer’s Association.
The team would begin play in the Fall UPSL season and initially had immediate intentions to qualify for the U.S. Open Cup.
When talking with many people in and around Pittsburgh’s soccer circles after the club was revealed, it was received with a good share of curiousity with many questions being asked.
This Pitt City Utd team came out of nowhere. Curious as to what their level will be like 🤔
— Rami Bensasi (@HolaRamito) August 9, 2021
It turns out, the club’s owner, Monsour, has been a motivated, driving force behind the formation and rollout of City United.
Monsour has spent a good part of the past two-and-a-half months scrambling to build a new soccer club from the ground up, serving as a de facto team president, general manager — and even after announcing the hiring of former Scottish player and manager Barry Smith — has managed the team in its preseason training and in its first game last week at FC Inter Atlantic.
Also, Monsour has made an attempt to invite fans to become owners of the club.
This has brought on some skeptics.
This is getting more bizarre by the day.
— chris (@PfoChris) August 10, 2021
Thanks Dennis! I hope @pittcityunited can find a way to make that happen.
— Soccer Rabbi (@soccer_rabbi) August 11, 2021
Monsour has recruited a roster of players from far and wide (with only one or two players with local ties) with the help of a scouting director from Italy, Nicola Martini.
In the team’s first-ever match, played in Maryland last Saturday evening, City United raced out to an impressive 3-0 lead, then, while running on fumes with a short bench, held on for a 3-2 win.
“It was an inspiring effort against a fully loaded team with seven substitutions,” Monsour said after Saturday’s win. “For the last 40 minutes, we had no subs left and three players who were cramping up, but they put in a great effort.”
Scoring goals for City United were Emmanuel Ndaysenga (19′), Christian Kapanda (28′) and Jean Geffrard (35′).
Now, they’re poised to host their first-ever home match on Sunday night at Highmark Stadium, when they face another UPSL divisional foe, Germantown.
Earlier this week, the club announced that they will reduce stadium capacity for the team’s home opener at Highmark Stadium to 60% (3000 max). The team will reduce ticket prices to $15 offering free admission for Children under 12 in an effort promote a safer environment for the Pittsburgh fans.
The club has said they’re looking to introduce an interactive virtual experience for fans to be a part of the team’s future games as the team considers playing without physical fan attendance for the remainder of the home schedule.
“This Sunday may be our only home game with fans physically in attendance for the remainder of the season, outside of the US Open Qualifying Rounds,” Monsour said.
“Although a decision like this can prove costly for an organization from the economical perspective, that has never been our driving force as an organization. We are a team for the healthcare workers that keep us safe, this is our driving principle and in order to adhere to that principle we must put the safety of our fans and players first. We hope this effort is embraced by our supporters as we look to introduce an exciting interactive experience for our future home games this season.”
Germantown, who recently won 2-1 against Western Ville, sits third in the opening standings behind City United based on goal differentiation. The game will mark the debut of two of the club’s USVI National team stars, attacker Ramesses McGuiness and defensive midfielder Jett Blaschka.
There aren’t many familiar names on the roster to many in Pittsburgh soccer circles, but that’s probably par for the course as City United haven’t been doing anything conventional.
Here’s the team’s roster:
Pittsburgh City United Roster (numerical)
1 Sam Sharpless (also currently the goalkeepers coach at Penn St. Beaver where he played for four years)
2 Jean Emmanuel Geffrard (From Haiti — started three games during the U17 World Cup at the age of 15 notching an assist against Honduras)
3 Pat Miller (former Upper St. Clair standout, played at Ohio Wesleyan)
4 Chide Bright Ike (Nigerian veteran center back)
5 Dor Alon (From Israel)
6 Jett Blaschka (Played at Marquette University; also played with Virgin Islands National Team)
7 Christian Kapanda (Just 18 years of age; Attended and played at Putnam Science Academy in Northeast Connecticut)
8 Marquis Flowers (played at Plum — was senior in 2014; brother of DD Flowers
9 Dante Nicholas (former La Roche College standout; also played with US Virgin Islands National Team)
10 Ramesses McGuiness (21 y/o forward from St. Croix, Virgin Islands, who also has starred with USVI National Team)
11 Giraldo Santiago (From Columbia)
12 Judler Delva (Goalkeeper who played with Haitian Youth National Team)
13 Perez Youmbi (Played at Central Cambria High School)
14 Frank Kada (Played at Carlow University and previously for Brashear High School)
15 Ndayisanga Emmanuel (Passi) (Played at Point Park University; from Tanzania)
17 Greg Paluku (Played at Carlow University and previously for Brashear High School)
18 Jake Woodward
19 Mutibi Simushi (From Zambia)
20 Ikechukwu Agbaeze (From Nigeria)
23 Osmon Jouejati (Played at Middlesex College; recent Pitt student)
In addition to Sunday evening’s match, City United also received some good news this past week, when they were accepted into the field for the United States Soccer’s 2022 Open Cup qualifying field.
As a result, they’ll be hosting a first round qualifying match on Saturday, September 18, against IASC Boom (a club from Rochester).
— John Krysinsky (@JohnKrysinsky) August 27, 2021
Despite’s Monsour’s efforts to secure Highmark Stadium and Ambrose Urbanic Field for home games, it looks like they’ll be playing most of the remainder of their games in Monroeville, including the first-round US Open Cup qualifier.
“We are excited and can’t wait to host our first home game. ” Monsour said. “We still have our obstacles, this is the reality of exceeding our highest expectations before we ever kicked a soccer ball.
Pittsburgh Soccer Now will be on hand providing coverage of Pittsburgh’s new club in their first home match on Sunday.
Look for extensive coverage including photos from Ed Thompson and reporting from yours truly as we get our first look at City United.