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Pittsburgh Soccer’s 2021 Year in Review: Memorable quotes and images

Pitt's Jackson Waltri celebrates a goal in NCAA tournament - Photo courtesy Ed Thompson

In these continued unprecedented times, during another year when we have faced a global pandemic which has dragged on, we remain committed to covering soccer in Western Pennsylvania.

In 2021, we were right there every step of the way to bring the latest news, cover the action and provide in-depth analysis from many angles.

Based on Pittsburgh Soccer Now‘s metrics of our site’s clicks and views, we are proud to boast have increased our audience expontentially with more and more folks turning to our site for soccer news and features.

It certainly helped this year that some of the area’s most prominent soccer teams reached new heights, with the most prominent headlines coming from Pitt men’s soccer team’s first-ever trip to the NCAA Division I College Cup.

They weren’t alone.

Pitt women’s program continues to become more competitive in the Atlantic Coast Conference, providing a very popular, high-level female soccer team who many fans in our region can get behind, along with the other Division I and other college programs which have their own, core support.

The Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC got back to business in playing a full regular season in 2021, starting later than usual (in May instead of March).  There were many ups and downs for Pittsburgh’s professional soccer club, as a retooled roster played a more exciting brand of football, but ultimately proved to be a season left unfufilled as the season came to a screeching and gut-wrenching halt, due to COVID-19 .

There were also some fun stories and exciting moments, from Duquesne men’s soccer’s first trip to the Atlantic 10 Championship game since the mid-2000’s to seeing the WPIAL High School soccer finals return to Highmark Stadium, with teams in every boys and girls classification represented at the PIAA (State) high school soccer finals in Hershey in November.

Soccer has also widened its reaches in the past 12 months in Pittsburgh in what could be the most important areas — at the grassroots levels.

Multiple clubs in the area fostered opportunities for young adult players looking for a higher ceiling.

Both the Pittsburgh Hotspurs (Men and Women) and Century United (Women) completed seasons in the NPSL and WPSL respectively, while a new breed franchise popped up, Pittsburgh City United FC.

When asked about the sudden emergence of Pittsburgh City United FC, PSN contributor Mark Goodman may have summed it best:

“More soccer can only be a good thing.”  

While we can taut progress, we would not be doing our job, and not telling the complete story with only roses and butterflies here in this forum.

We’ve always been dedicated to covering all sides of every story.

Despite positive and incremental growth, there were also challenges and adversity standing in the way for area teams, organizations and people in the soccer community at large — and we didn’t shy from taking on the most difficult topics head on and asking the questions that needed to be asked.

The excitement of seeing a new, state-of-the-art facility being built by a consortum that includes Allegheny Health Network, Friends of Pittsburgh Soccer and the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC at Montour Junction was put on hold — but now is moving quickly to be completed in 2022.  The Riverhounds SC saw a drop in attendence (from its last full season in 2019), while they fell short once again to make a splash in the USL Championship playoff tournament.

Pitt women’s soccer, despite putting a more competitive team on the field and producing consecutive overall winning seasons, still has yet to break through into the ACC top six nor earn a NCAA tournament berth.  Duquesne and Robert Morris women’s programs are hopeful for better days ahead, but each struggled and failed to make its conference playoffs in 2021, while RMU men are seeing that despite some progress in Jason O’Keefe’s early tenure, they’re still in for a challenge in its new conference, the Horizon League.

The start-up efforts of Pittsburgh City United FC along with the Hotspurs and Century United weren’t also without their share of setbacks.

Additionally, a feature story on our site: Mark Goodman’s Two Part Series, ‘The Owner Who Strangled His Own Club’ examined Riverhounds SC’s long-time nemesis, Charlotte Independence, investigating owner Dan DiMarcco’s antagonistic and racist behavior.

The coming year will bring new challenges for all the people and organizations connected to the soccer scene in Western Pennsylvania and beyond.  Add to that — it will be a World Cup year too!

There will be a lot to look forward to in 2022, that’s for sure.

Thanks so much for your continued support and interest in our coverage of Pittsburgh soccer.

I would also like to take this opportunity to applaud the effort and contributions to our team of talented writers, photographers and soccer enthusiasts who contributed to our coverage in 2022, particularly:  Justin Berl, Mark Goodman, Ed Rosensteel, Matt Popchock, Jordan Smith, Ed Thompson and Zac Weiss.   We were sad to see Rachael Kriger and Matt Gajtka move from the Pittsburgh region in the past year, but so grateful for their contributions over the years and hopefully some more to come from time to time.

Before we turn the page, it’s time to take a look back at some of the most memorable quotes and images that we shared with our expanding audience in the year that was 2021.

 


January

Sarah Schupansky with PSN’s Mark Goodman

“I’ve known since freshman year that, going to Pitt, I was going to play against the amazing players in the ACC. To be honest, when I’m dreading a workout, or I don’t feel like getting up at 5 am, then I just remember ‘there’s other players out there working hard, then I have to go out there and work harder.”

Sarah Schupansky, the 2020 Moe Rosensteel Award winner as the best girls soccer player in WPIAL, after concluding her high school soccer career and talking to PSN’s Mark Goodman about commiting to the University of Pittsburgh.

 

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“We’ve worked very hard, the past 10-15 years to develop ourselves as a club. We’ve moved up the ranks. Have developed some outstanding players, kids.  We’ve got all these kids out there playing, asking what can they do in the summer,”

David Gray, Century United’s Director of Coaching and General Manager for his organization’s new OVPL and WPSL teams which were announced to begin play in Spring 2021.


February

Photo courtesy RMU Athletics

“It’s talented, treacherous, there’s a lot of good teams. 

“We’ll get a taste of it right away. There are programs that have won NCAA tournament games and have played top competition. That’s what we want to be in. We want to be in a conference that is highly competitive.”

Robert Morris University’s new men’s coach, Jason O’Keefe said prior to the 2021 Spring season opener at Oakland as the Colonials embarked on a new season in a new conference playing its first-ever ‘official’ game in the month of February.

 

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“It was good to get a game against an opponent where we can look back and see comparative results from the past.” 

“In the Horizon League, everyone is new and we don’t really have a frame of reference for those games. I thought the team played well, especially in the second half where we stepped it up after a bit of a shaky start.”

First-year head coach Chris Shaw, after his first victory as coach of the Robert Morris women’s soccer program, a 3-0 defeat of Saint Francis (PA).

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“It worries me, for all of us football fans. Sports franchise owners have ungodly sums of money, and to earn that money almost invariably means being out of touch with the rest of us – and perhaps, with reality. All of us fall in love with our club – that’s what makes us supporters. And if the owner of Charlotte Independence can torch that love with a series of far-right rants at an inopportune moment, then any owner can do it,” 

PSN’s Mark Goodman in the second of his two-part feature, ‘The Owner Who Strangled his Own Club’

 

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Photo courtesy Duquesne University Athletics

“We are excited to be on the precipice of finally playing a game. In the Fall, we were never really, fully together as a team. It’s been tough for us. We rely heavily on building a strong, family-oriented culture. There were a lot of small-sided games. Not much contact. We did a lot of technical work, but it wasn’t until about three weeks ago, did we really come together as a team.”

Duquesne Men’s coach Chase Brooks, prior to the start of the 2021 Spring season and facing Pitt in the first-ever official collegiate match in February.

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“I’m really excited with the result. It was important that we were able to find our way into the game as well as the result. We have a lot of work to do, but we kept a clean sheet which is the first of the season, so that was good progress. We found a way to win with some good moments but we have a lot to work on now as we look ahead to ACC play,”

Pitt men’s head coach Jay Vidovich, after his team shook off some rust with a 1-0 spring season opening win vs Duquesne at Ambrose Urbanic Field.


March

Photo courtesy MLS/Orlando SC


“It’s something we try to always do — what’s in the best interests of the club.  We are also sensitive to the players’ needs as well. It’s important to build trust with your players.  A lot of them would like to be playing for the biggest clubs in Europe or their national team. All those things matter to players.”

“We have some work to do, but I like where our roster is at. Compared to past years, we’re way ahead of schedule and we’ll have a good core group to work with from the beginning of camp, We’ll be more focused, specific about what we can do with this group. At this point, we’re at 18 players, but we could very well be at 19 or 20 (signed) going into camp.”

Riverhounds SC Head Coach Bob Lilley said, in wake of the news and backlash after the club released Alex DeJohn from his contract in order to pursue a contract with Major League Soccer’s Atlanta United and his additional thoughts on where the roster stood ahead of the season opener in May.

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“When we went over in the spring a couple times, and they came to us twice, we had them in a regular season game a couple years ago. We usually have great fan turn out. I think because of the path we’re trying to take the program, and what Al is doing, we haven’t been able to do it as regular.”

“We want to fit it in every year.”

Pitt women’s head coach Randy Waldrum, ahead of playing Duquesne in the City Game in March.  The Panthers would win in convincing fashion, 3-0, as Landy Mertz made her program debut, scoring twice.

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Pitt Panthers women's soccer

Photo: University of Pittsburgh/Matt Hawley.

“We grew a lot this year, We’ve grown, and we’re disciplined. And talent-wise, year-over-year, we’re just getting better and better,”

Waldrum said after Pitt’s 4-1 win vs Northern Kentucky, finishing the 2020-21 campaign with an 11-5 record, best in program history.

 


April

 

Photo courtesy Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC

“I’m honored to have the chance to return to Pittsburgh and lead one of the founding teams in USL. The Riverhounds have a special place in both USL history and in Pittsburgh sports, and I look forward to helping the team continue its growth at Highmark Stadium.”

VIc Gregovits, who was raised in West Homestead, Pa., and is a graduate of Bishop Boyle High School and Robert Morris University, was named the Riverhounds SC Team President. No stranger to soccer in Pittsburgh, Gregovits began his career as an intern for the Pittsburgh Spirit indoor soccer team during the 1985-86 season.

 

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Photo: University of Pittsburgh

“What this team has done to get into this position, with consistency and the resiliency of COVID and all those factors and to stand ground here at Pitt, undefeated at home and road warriors as well to see the team play like this means the team is getting stronger and stronger,”

Pitt’s Head Coach Jay Vidovich said after defeating Virginia, 5-0, to clinich the ACC Coastal Division title in April.

 

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Photo: University of Pittsburgh

“This is why I came to Pitt,” Greensburg’s Luke Mort said in PSN Feature ‘The Two Lukes” in April.

“The competition the ACC entails along with the privilege of playing under coach Vidovich and the rest of the staff all while receiving a great education at a university with diverse academic programs.”

“Throughout our facility, we have reminders of this. Jay stresses the Kaizen Way to Self-Improvement, that you get better at everything you do. It goes beyond the playing field. We’re focused on getting one-percent better each day,” Mort further explained.

 


May

 

“Don’t give anything away”

“Dictate the game”

“Be Dynamic”

“We can try to do things differently. Change things up, but these have to be consistent. When you look at the Louisville game (playoff loss, 2-0 in October 2020) we had more of the ball. We were playing with a lot of confidence, but we were just not good enough in the final third. This was one reason why we made some of the changes we made this off season.”

“We’re making progress in the three areas, but we’re ready to play the games.”

Riv erhounds SC Head Coach Bob Lilley heading into his 21st season as a pro soccer coach, explains the three things he wants every team he coaches to do, which we referred in that week’s edition the Hounds Notebook as the Three Cornerstones of Lilleyball.

 

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“It’s good and bad.”

“More than two weeks between matches, and coming off a loss (to Clemson in the ACC NCAA tournament play-in game). We had a lot of extra time to train. Get ready.  But, it’s been too long and we’re ready for the game. Good news is that some of our players had their last final exams today. They’re totally done with school.  Finals and all that stuff is done.”

Jay Vidovich said to Pittsburgh Soccer Now, while waiting in line as part of NCAA’s COVID-19 testing protocol prior to Pitt’s first round NCAA match vs Monmouth. The veteran coach balanced the positives along with challenges of dealing with a long delay between matches and with the unique NCAA 2020-21 tournament set-up being played in the Spring and in a central location, in and around Cary, North Carolina.

 

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“There were definitely nerves there. Guys were nervous, there was some tension early in the match, but they worked through it. We’re still very young, as a program in experiencing these moments. There’s pressure. Expectations.  We haven’t played in two weeks, we were on a different type of surface. But as it went along, we played our way into the game.”

Vidovich said after Pitt’s 6-1 NCAA tournament opening round win vs Monmouth.

 

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Courtesy Pitt Athletics

“We believe in our collective defending and pressing by our front-runners, We knew they like to build out and play like we do. We felt like we could press them, and certainly our attacking guys bought into it. We might have tweaked one little thing, but we were very effective finishing in the final third.”

Vidovich said after the Panthers punished Sweet 16 round opponent Central Florida, 4-0, scoring three goals on its first three shots.

 

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“Tremendous effort by the guys today. We fought when we had to fight and we found the back of the net and a way to get a result. I am very proud of them and I think we did a great job of taking our opportunities controlling the match and managing it and with exceptional goals. We’re looking forward to the opportunity to compete in the semifinal.”

Vidovich said following Pitt’s 3-0 Elite 8 win vs Washington, which featured a pair of late ‘wonder-long-range’ goals from Bertin Jacquesson and Veljko Petkovic.  The victory advanced the Panthers to its first College Cup (Final Four) appearance in program history.

 

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“The further you go, the pressure is greater. The pain is greater. The margin for mistakes is greater.”

“And the rewards are greater.”

Vidovich also said after the Washington win, as his team prepared for the College Cup match against Indiana.

 

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“Tremendous battle today. Hats off to Indiana.” 

“They’re a team that’s very solid defensively. They kept numbers in front of them, and they counter-attacked.”

I am proud of our guys. That’s how game goes sometimes. Sure felt like we dominated game. Sometimes team that dominates doesn’t always win. That’s a lesson for our guys.” 

Jay Vidovich’s remarks after Pitt’s hard-fought, 1-0 loss to Indiana in the National Semifinal.

 

 

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Photo Courtesy Ed Thompson

“We showed that we’re not just here for a short stint at the top,” 

“We’re here to stay.”

Graduate student midfielder and Pitt’s team captain, Jackson Walti. said following the loss to Indiana.

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Photo courtesy Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC

“He’s very good at remembering moments. At halftime I would come in the locker room and I would ask him about a decision and he would remember it and say ‘Just be confident. Just do what you see.’ He tells you things in training and you change it, and then in the game you don’t realize it’s happening – it makes you feel more comfortable.” 

Riverhounds SC midfielder/winger Dani Rovira on the team’s vernerable assistant coach Dan Visser in Mark Goodman’s feature, ‘The Many Faces of Dan Visser’.

 

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Photo by Matt May/Tampa Bay Rowdies

“I thought Tampa played well, and we weren’t very sharp. We were hoping to play through the lines, but they did a good job of defending, and we settled for too many long balls.  We need to tighten up the lines.  That goes for both ways, both in the attack and defensively.  We gave away a lot of possession.  We have to be able to pass the ball around. We spent way too much time chasing. We weren’t moving through the lines well enough.  We’ve addressed this already in practice this week. I feel like we had a good preseason.  It was a tough task. We played, we were right in it for 75 minutes. Still, have to acknowledge that we were outplayed.  It’s clear, we have a lot of work to do.”

Bob Lilley, after Riverhounds SC season opening 3-0 loss at defending Eastern Conference champion Tampa Bay Rowdies.

 

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Ed Thompson Photo Gallery:

Riverhounds SC 2021 Home Opener (1-0 loss to Charlotte)

“It was exciting. It’s too bad we couldn’t deliver, but it was great to see the fans come out and support our guys tonight.” 

Bob Lilley said, as Pittsburgh’s soccer fans returned to Highmark Stadium for the first time since COVID-19 as attendance at Highmark Stadium was a sellout total of 2,076, which was the maximum number of fans allowed under current Pennsylvania physical distancing guidelines set at the time.

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Photo courtesy David Hague

“It does feel more like we’re starting all over again. But this is the biggest roster we’ve ever had. It’s never been as big as it is now, but it’s a nice blend.”

“The biggest thing with this group, will be keeping them engaged. We’ve been training together for a few weeks, but there are still some who haven’t been able to make every practice,” Overden said. “We’re still working through things. It’s been interesting.  Getting players used to how we play is one of the biggest challenges.”

Tom Ovenden, Head Coach, Pittsburgh Hotspurs women’s first team, which played its inaugural match with a draw vs Cleveland Ambassadors on May 23.

 


June

 

Photo by Justin Berl

“Urgency doesn’t mean play reckless or anything, but to move the ball quicker. Be more dynamic. Be a little more in those final moments.  We were lackluster tonight. We were disappointed in ourselves.  We’re not going to stop working. We’re going to keep trying to get better. Try to fight more,”

Russell Cicerone, Riverhounds SC forward said after the Hounds fell, 2-0, to Austin Bold, extending its season-opening winless streak at home to three games.

 

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Photo courtesy Ed Thompson

“The boys gave it their all,”

Hotspurs midfielder and captain Nicky Kolarac said after the match.

“It was a tough one because it didn’t go our way. The last time we played them, they beat us 6-1, but tonight, we showed that we could play with them. Tonight, it was for the top of the table.  We came up short, but we have three games left to battle for a playoff spot.”

Tom Campbell, Hotspurs Head Coach after hard-fought, 2-1 loss, to Cleveland SC, in a battle for first place in the NWSL’s Rust Belt Division at Founders Field.

 


 

July 

 

Photo courtesy Pitt Athletics

“Under the leadership of Jay Vidovich, our men’s soccer program has undergone an extraordinary transformation. The team’s run to this year’s College Cup was truly remarkable, especially considering where the program was upon his arrival just five years prior. The University of Pittsburgh is thrilled to have Coach Vidovich leading our program well into the coming decade. Given his incredible track record, we know more historic successes are on the way.”

Pitt Athletic Director, Heather Lyke, after announcing that the University and Coach Jay Vidovich agreed to a contract extension through 2025.

 

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Image

From Steel Army Twitter (@SteelArmy)

Riverhounds Supporter Group, Steel Army‘s response to Riverhounds SC’s planned promotion with North Hills Chik-Fil-A.

 

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The club responded to this by cancelling the promotion, and issuing the following statement:

“After considering feedback, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC will discontinue its planned promotion and sale of Chick-fil-A sandwiches at home games this season.”

“Riverhounds SC wishes to thank the local and independently operated McKnight Road Chick-fil-A for their collaboration, and the club will be selling Chick-fil-A sandwiches at the match Saturday against Loudoun United FC to honor our initial agreement. But after consulting with our supporters’ groups and gauging feedback from our fans, the decision was made not to continue the promotion beyond this week’s match.” 

“The Hounds and Highmark Stadium strongly believe in making all of our fans feel welcome, and we look forward to doing so once again at tomorrow’s match. As an organization, we will continue to look for ways to partner with local and national brands to improve the game day experience for everyone.” 

Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC Team Statement 

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Photo courtesy Pittsburgh City United FC

“We are not scientists, or doctors, nurses, or caregivers. We know what we do is a game and who we are, is a team that’s competitive function is to play that game to the best of our abilities. This does not mean we can not strive to be more than that. It begins with a purpose that goes beyond the pitch, a purpose truly worth fighting for because winning a game is just not enough. Our story of commitment and purpose our quest to spread awareness for the importance of what we are doing and how we are doing this have been well documented around the world. We have signed one of the best European head coaches (Barry Smith) to ever coach a lower division soccer club in the United States. A Hall of Fame player at Dundee FC who has managed in the highest levels of Scottish football. Our team consists of skilled players from around the world and even one from our own area,” 

Pittsburgh City United FC owner Michael Monsour Jr.  said following the unveiling of Pittsburgh’s newest soccer club which would compete in the UPSL in the Fall 2021.

 


August

“I felt like we really had to rebuild our program. You’ve got to get your recruits in. It’s been quite a process, but we’re really pleased with where we’ve come in four years and how we’ve improved.  We’ve been fortunate to have quality players who want to be part of building something here. Realistically, it’s happened probably  quicker than we expected here.” 

Pitt’s Randy Waldrum, in a one-on-one interview with PSN’s John Krysinsky, prior to starting his fourth season as Head Coach of Pitt women’s soccer program.

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Courtesy Robert Morris University Athletics

“To win games these days is extremely hard because of the parity out there. College soccer is an unforgiving landscape, and all it takes is a couple missteps to drop a game. We’re not there now, but I think we’re all embracing where we’re at. We’re humble, but also hungry to get more. We know we’re challenging ourselves. Whether our goals are achieved, I don’t know, but we’re going to work hard every day to get better than we were the day before, then climb the ladder of some of those other goals.”

Robert Morris’ Men’s coach Jason O’Keefe ahead of his team’s season opener vs West Virginia.

 

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“To take this program from where it was, to where it is now. To be part of that, has been amazing,” 

Pitt’s all-time leading scorer Amanda West, prior to the start of the 2021 Fall season in an ‘Up-Close with PSN’ interview on Pittsburgh Sports Now, with John Krysinsky.

 

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“So much fun playing with talented guys like Val, Veljko, It makes things a little bit easier. You like to have fun when playing — and it is with those guys out there.”

“We’re ready to go for it again. This time, bring it home.” 

Pitt senior forward Alexander Dexter ahead of the season opener, as the Panthers began the Fall 2021 campaign ranked third in the United Soccer Coaches poll.

 

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Photo courtesy Zac Weiss

“Anybody who’s an athlete at this level or has been around the game long enough, results like this are unacceptable  You saw a lot of guys who were a little bit shell-shocked by this experience.” 

Duquesne coach Chase Brooks said following his team’s 7-0 loss to Pitt in the Fall 2021 season opener for both sides.

 

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Photo courtesy Ed Thompson

“I’m definitely happy to be in my hometown. Glad to see family and friends. And some former teammates. It’s an exciting weekend. I am excited to see how things are going to go.”

“It’s very interesting preparing to play against Bob (Lilley)’s team. Bob’s such an unique coach in the way that he approaches each game so differently,” Mertz said, and added that he wasn’t sure he could offer much prior to the match, but moreso once the match gets started.

“I think its more of a complement to him because he gets his teams to play in a variety of multiple systems and variety of different tactics. I think that’s what enables his teams to get better each year as the season goes on because they bring something different to each team that they play.”

Former Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC midfielder and Upper St. Clair native, Robbie Mertz said, upon his return to Pittsburgh with Atlanta United 2. The Hounds would defeat ATLUTD2, 4-1 at Highmark Stadium.

 

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Photo courtesy WVU Athletics

“We never questioned if this group had enough quality and depth – it’s about doing it when it really counts on a big night like tonight. This was one of the most exciting crowds that I’ve been a part of. I remember playing in this type of atmosphere, and it makes a huge difference. You saw some of that passion and energy come out in our players, as well.”

West Virginia Head Coach Dan Stratford, following his team’s early season 2-1 win against 3rd Ranked Pitt at Morgantown before a packed crowd.  The Mountaineers would also remain in the Top 20 of the United Soccer Coaches poll for the rest of the season and made a run to the Elite 8 — eventually losing to Georgetown in overtime.

 

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Photo by Ed Thompson

“It was a hectic game. The intensity was going up. Everyone was fighting for that one goal difference. Scoring it, lifted up my spirits and the team’s spirits,”

“I’ve been doing them since I was eight years old,”

Pittsburgh City United FC’s Christian Kapanda boasted following his club’s home opening win at Highmark Stadium against Germantown FC, 2-0 as he did a few flips after scoring the game winning goal.

 


September  

 

Landy Mertz winds up and fires. Credit: Mark Goodman

“We know we didn’t play our best soccer. But we know we can play with anyone in the country, and today proved that.”

Pitt’s Landy Mertz following a 2-1 loss to Nationally Ranked TCU at Ambrose Urbanic Field for the Panthers’ first loss of the season.

 

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Photo courtesy USL / Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC

“He’s (Bob Lilley) receptive to things. It depends.  We have conversations throughout the week leading up to games. Does a good job keeping us on our toes. He puts a lot of time.  Lot of determination into what we’re going to do against each opponent. Sometimes he’ll even come in the day of the game, and add something. He never rests. I like it.  I’m always learning something new.”

Riverhounds SC veteran winger Alex Dixon, who, along with Kenardo Forbes, Russell Cicerone, Tommy Williamson — revitalized the club’s dynamic attack in 2021.  Dixon would lead the team in assists and was second in goals in 2021.

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Photo courtesy Ed Thompson

 

“This whole game was all for him. I wish he could have played this one.” 

“We just have to keep pushing each other to be the best players we can. Hopefully, we can just keep scoring.”

Plum Senior Lucas Pittman said following a resounding 4-1 win at Plum Stadium which he contributed a brace, plus a key assist, vs rival Franklin Regional in WPIAL Boys Class 3A showdown as PSN’s Featured Match, while his twin brother watched on the sidelines nursing a broken femur, suffered in the first game played between the same teams.

 

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Photo courtesy Zac Weiss

“I’ve always said that it’s the mark of a good team when you can win without playing your best. It was a poor first half for us by our standards, but I thought the second half was markedly better. We created a lot more chances and played with much more sense of urgency, which was good to see. We still have not brought a complete 90-minute game together. We’ve got two more non-conference games to figure it out and hopefully we will.”

Duquesne women’s coach Al Alvine said following his team’s 2-1 victory vs Youngstown State.

 

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“I am staying on top of it, treatments every day.  Cold tubs everyday.  Doing what I have to do to take care of my body,” 

“I am grateful for my time here in Pittsburgh.  This has always been a team that guys around the league respect, and have been on top in recent years. Coach Lilley has set high standards. I’ve just been excited to be in this environment the past couple of years. We have a high standard. It’s been awesome for me. It’s been a great experience.” 

Riverhounds SC midfielder Danny Griffin who played in every one of the club’s 32 regular season matches in 2021, only being subbed off once, missing the 13 minutes of one match.

 


October 

 

Photo courtesy Ed Thompson

“We’ve had some great battles over the years with Tartan Devils. It feels good to come out on the winning side. It’s a testament to their quality how they’ve been able to set and maintain the standard for the league for so long.” 

La Comarca Arsenal’s Rami Bensasi said following the Greater Pittsburgh Soccer League (GPSL) Men’s Premier Division final played in a torrential downpour at Highmark Stadium.  Arsenal triumphed in a penalty kick shootout, ending the Tartan Devils six-year reign over the GPSL.

 

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“On a personal level, it’s been hard, especially knowing that he was on the field, coaching the team the year before, But it was especially harder for the players when they came back.  Some of them were with him since they were kids as the (North Hills) club level. The fact that they got through that (Kabbert’s passing), the way they started the season, that’s what making the playoffs is so special. It’s the first time that any of the players on the team have made the playoffs. But, it shows how good coach Rick was, as he built the foundation of this organization that I could come in.  It was a lot easier, as there was no turmoil.  It came as a family. It’s coach Rick’s team. I’ve said this all year.”

North Hills High School girls soccer coach Sam Bailey-Hockin said ahead of his team’s first WPIAL playoff match in five years, in a season that followed the passing of Rick Kabbert.

 

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“(The officials) said it was the first pass, but it wasn’t, clearly,” Lilley said. “We’ve seen it, (Miami coach) Paul Dalglish has seen it, and even he said it was a goal. It was a perfectly good goal.”

Bob Lilley, following the Hounds’ playing to a scoreless draw at Miami FC, in a match mired by a controversial ruling that disallowed a Riverhounds goal emanating from a Miami defensive miscue.  The call sparked outrage from Riverhounds SC fans and even Team Owner Tuffy Shallenberger on social media.

 

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Photo courtesy USL/The Miami FC

“Upon review of the Oct. 16 match, the Professional Referees Organization (PRO) determined that an officiating error and misapplication of the FIFA Laws of the Game occurred in the 66th minute. A goal was initially and correctly awarded to Pittsburgh because a Miami player played the ball into his own net during the run of play. After conferring on the field, the match officials erroneously disallowed the goal and awarded a corner kick to Pittsburgh.

“Independent investigations by PRO and the USL found no evidence of match fixing or impropriety.” 

“In this instance, the match officials applied a law that unequivocally did not match the events on the field, and the ruling on the field exceeded the reasonable degree of human error that is inherently part of the game,” said USL President Jake Edwards. “This extraordinarily rare circumstance necessitated the decision to ask two of our Clubs to replay the remainder of a match with the score at 1-0. In consultation with PRO and IFAB, we have taken this action to protect the integrity of the League, our competition, and the sport of soccer. We thank The Miami FC and Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC for their understanding and commitment to the integrity of our competition.” 

USL Championship Statement on October 16 match between Riverhounds SC-Miami FC, which ordered to re-play the final 24 minutes, beginning in the 67th minute, with the Hounds holding a 1-0 lead, on October.  The game was re-played on October 27, with the Hounds’ hanging on for the 1-0 victory, which did push the Hounds ahead of Miami FC in the USL Championship’s Atlantic Division standings.

 

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Photo courtesy Zac Weiss

“Since we hit A-10 season, we’ve treated every game like a championship,” Duquesne coach Chase Brooks explained. “When we step on the field it’s a final and we’ve had good success with that at home. The biggest takeaway for Saturday is can we take that step forward in a tough environment against a good team.”

Duquesne men’s coach Chase Brooks, as his team finished the regular season unbeaten at home for the first time in more than 20 years, earning a 6-seed in the A-10 playoffs.

November 

“I knew it was coming to me. I just got ready and put it in. Carlo gave me a great pass. Amazing.”

“Our whole team doesn’t want to lose. They’ll do whatever it takes.”

Greensburg Central Catholic Freshman, Jackson Vacanti, who delivered the game winner from an assist from junior Carlos Denis in the Centurians’ remarkable 6-5 come-from-behind victory in the WPIAL Boys Class 1A semifinal vs Eden Christian.

 

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Photo courtesy Ed Thompson

“It was one of those games, everyone was going all out to win, There were three PK’s tonight. That’s crazy. We had to show a lot of heart tonight. We didn’t play our best game, but credit to Plum, they set us off our game a little bit.”

“I think we were outplayed a little bit, But we’ll take a stinky W any day.”

West Allegheny’s boys soccer coach Kevin Amos, following a dramatic, 2-1 win vs Plum in the WPIAL Boys Class 3A semifinal.

 

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Photo by Ed Thompson

 

“I love this field. How can you not get excited playing on this field,” Chamovitz said. “They really know how we play. They tried to shut down our half of the field.  I’m comfortable there. It’s what I’ve been doing for a long time.  Once we broke it down, we started to use the full width of the field, we started to break it down and the goals started coming.”

“I get to rub it in when I get home. That’s for sure.”

Kellen Chamovitz, who out-did his father, who scored two goals in the school’s WPIAL championship win in 1996, after scoring four goals to help lead Quaker Valley past North Catholic in winning its 9th WPIAL Boys Soccer Championship at Highmark Stadium.

 

_______

 

“I knew I had space throughout the game. I had taken so many shots, that if I took one more, it would go in. I hit it hard enough. I knew it would go in.”

Fiona Mahan scored the game-winner in the 101st minute of WPIAL Girls Class 2A Final at Highmark Stadium, sailing a shot from 30 yards past the outstretch arms of North Catholic’s goalkeeper Rilee Kumar.

 

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Photo courtesy Ed Thompson

“I just tried to get back onside, and Michael Miller played in a great ball from the left. I just took my touch down, then I got a little bit of a calf cramp there, but luckily, Jordan was able to finish it. And it’s the biggest goal in our program’s history right now.”

Winchester Thurston’s Oliver Daboo, playing with an arm in a cast, describing the game winning goal in the WPIAL Class 1A Boys final at Highmark Stadium. Daboo assisted Jordan Poller-Prince, who promptly smash a rebound to give the Bears the lead en route to 3-1 win vs nemesis Greensburg Central Catholic.

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Hounds make stunning coaching change; Lilley replaces ineligible Brandt | Pittsburgh Soccer Now

PSN File Photo

 

“I’m gutted right now for Bob Lilley, his staff and our players to have the season end like this after all their hard work,” Riverhounds owner Tuffy Shallenberger said through a team release. “I’m also disappointed for our fans, who have been behind us all season. I hate to see our season end this way, but we’re going to come back even stronger next season.”

Riverhounds SC Owner Tuffy Shallenberger, through a team release, announcing that they would have to cancel — and thus forfeit USL Championship Eastern Conference quarterfinal round match at Birmingham due to the club having too many COVID-19 positive cases.

 

________

Photo courtesy Pitt Athletics

“Talk without talking. That’s something I try to work on all the time. My reactions, how I react to things, especially on the pitch.  It’s important to be aware of everything that’s going on. You should never sleep on the field. That’s something Jay taught me.”

Pitt men’s soccer leading goal scorer Valentin Noel, who made a perfectly timed run, finding the right spot to be on the far post side to deliver the game-winner in Overtime to defeat Virginia Tech in the ACC Quarterfinal at Ambrose Urbanic Field.  Noel scored both goals in Pitt’s 2-1 victory.

 

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Photo courtesy Justin Bert / Notre Dame Athletics

“We didn’t capitalize in the first half on numerous chances. The blood was in the water, but we didn’t push for it. They got their two goals against the run of play, off mistakes. Congratulations to Notre Dame.”

Pitt’s Head Coach Jay Vidovich, following Pitt’s ACC Semifinal Round overtime loss to Notre Dame at a packed Ambrose Urbanic Field.

 

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Photo courtesy Matt Ralph / The Brotherly Game

“For this group to accomplish what they did, this season was absolutely outstanding,” Duquesne coach Chase Brooks said. “We definitely took some steps forward as a program this year, and proved that we could compete with pretty much anybody that we’re going to come across. That was a lot of fun to see and definitely something to be proud of. I think for today’s game, you could see we started strong and then as the game wore on, you started to see some of our inexperience start to come out.”

Duquesne men’s coach Chase Brooks, following the Dukes’ improbable run to the A-10 Championship game, where they fell just short, losing to Saint Louis,  2-1. The Billikens would make a run to the NCAA Tournament’s Elite 8.

 

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Photo by Ed Thompson

“No, I have not been contacted. (But) my ambition is to win it here.”

I know where my heart and mind is at.  And, it’s here in Pittsburgh.”

Bob Lilley, In a season-ending press conference with the media. Lilley was asked by PSN’s Mark Goodman if any MLS teams had made attempts to interview him, and whether he planned to stay with the Riverhounds in the near future.  Lilley remains intent on winning a trophy in the near term here in Steel City.

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Photo by Ed Thompson

 

“We are very excited about the win tonight,” Pitt’s Head Coach Jay Vidovich said. “We had a tremendous opponent who tested us early in both halves. I was proud of the way we responded after their [NIU] goals and the resiliency and the ability to take the lead and hold out for the rest of the game. I thought it was a great result for us.”

Pitt’s Jay Vidovich, following Pitt’s 5-2 triumph over high scoring Northern Illinois in the 2nd round of the NCAA men’s soccer tournament match at Ambrose Urbanic Field.

 

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Photo courtesy Pitt Athletics

 

“Pitt was outstanding way they moved the ball. They really exposed our frailties today. From my point of view they were best college side we played in my 30 years of being around the college game. It’s going to take a very good effort to beat this team.”

Hofstra’s Head Coach Richard Nuttall said following Pitt’s dominant 3rd Round (Sweet 16) 4-0 win against the Pride at Ambrose Urbanic Field

 


December 

 

Photo courtesy Pitt Athletics

 

“We dominated the match for long portions. We are the better team, but can’t afford to make any mistakes. We have to be disciplined when we play Notre Dame and can’t make any mistakes or they’ll take advantage of them.”

Pitt midfielder Filip Mirkovic said ahead of the Panthers rematch with Notre Dame in the NCAA tournament Elite 8, which would be the third match between the two schools in the Fall 2021 season — and the fourth during the 2021 calendar year (if you include the Spring season).

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Photo courtesy Notre Dame Athletics

“We let ourselves down. We failed to take advantage of chances.  If we played to our capabilities, we would have reached the Final Four again.”

“A lot of these guys came in, and really elevated the status of the program,” Vidovich said. “They played an exciting brand of soccer. They accomplished a lot.  Kudos to them.

Pitt’s Jay Vidovich, looking back at the Panthers’ heartbreaking Elite 8 loss to Notre Dame — the third loss to the Irish in the Fall 2021 — in a match that was decided in a penalty kick shootout.

 

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Photo courtesy Ed Thompson

“Since Bob came to Pittsburgh, he has turned the Hounds into a winning team that can compete with anyone in the league. Keeping a coach of his caliber here is important for our team, as we’re ready to take that next step and start bringing championships back to Pittsburgh.”

Riverhounds SC owner Tuffy Shallenberger, through a team release, after announcing that the club and Head Coach Bob Lilley agreed to a contract extension.

In 21 years as a head coach at the pro level, Lilley has accumulated a 317-149-130 record with the Hershey Wildcats, Montreal Impact, Vancouver Whitecaps, Detroit Ignition (indoor), Rochester Rhinos and the Riverhounds. He is a five-time Coach of the Year winner, won USL championships with the Whitecaps (2006) and Rhinos (2015), and has qualified his team for the playoffs in all 21 seasons.

 

John Krysinsky has covered soccer and other sports for many years for various publications and media outlets. He is also author of 'Miracle on the Mon' -- a book about the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, which chronicles the club, particularly the early years of Highmark Stadium with the narrative leading up to and centered around a remarkable match that helped provide a spark for the franchise. John has covered sports for Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, DK Pittsburgh Sports, Pittsburgh Sports Report, has served as color commentator on Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC broadcasts, and worked with OPTA Stats and broadcast teams for US Open Cup and International Champions Cup matches held in the US. Krysinsky also served as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach at his alma mater, Point Park University, where he led the Pioneers to the first-ever winning seasons and playoff berths (1996-98); head coach of North Catholic boys (2007-08), associate head coach of Shady Side Academy boys (2009-2014).

Who do the Riverhounds SC Bring Back in 2022?

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