April 13, 2013 will always be a very special night if you are a soccer fan in Pittsburgh.
The Riverhounds finally had a home — with magnificent sight lines — and there was a new feel of excitement throughout the facility that night.
It was almost a feeling that no one really knew what to expect and what was to come. But it was a great sight for soccer fans and those who follow the game in our region to see a packed stadium in Station Square for a soccer game.
It’s hard to believe that it has been 10 years since this day! We had only 1 youth team then and now we have over 50. This stadium and that team are special to the club! The inauguration of Yellow/Black/Yellow! pic.twitter.com/2pCNn4xzRk
— John Rotz (@RotzyJ_37) April 13, 2023
Where were you, this night, 10 years ago?#UNLEASH pic.twitter.com/v2DLHvwi6z
— Steel Army (@SteelArmy) April 13, 2023
I was covering sports and writing features for Pittsburgh Sports Report back then, and wanted to make sure I was there for this monumental event.
If you want to read more about the specifics from that game, it’s pretty well documented and has been archived on Pittsburgh Soccer Now through the years, and of course — shameless plug here — in my book, Miracle on the Mon.
My original story from that game originally posted on Pittsburgh Sports Report was later posted in my book, Miracle on the Mon.
Hounds Open Highmark Stadium
FROM PITTSBURGH SPORTS REPORT (APRIL 13, 2013)
Before a lively sellout crowd, the Pittsburgh Riverhounds christened Highmark Stadium in heartbreaking fashion, losing 2-1 to the Harrisburg Islanders on a one-time volley off the left foot of Lucky Mkasono in the 90th minute.
“We had a bad clearance, couldn’t quite get it out of there,” said Justin Evans, Riverhounds head coach.
“It’s something that we’ll get corrected going forward, but it was a tough way to lose.”
For most of the match, the Riverhounds had the better of play. They had their way up and down the flanks, playing balls wide and creating chances with crosses and setting up corner kicks.
“That’s the way we want to play. Use our speed on the outside and keep putting pressure on our opponents,” Evans said.
After a scoreless first half, the Riverhounds finally capitalized after two second half substitutions who would combine on a terrific goal on a cross in the 69th minute.
Midfielder Matthew Dallman, pushed and pinned deep into the corner, who still managed to get a cross away and perfectly into the box for Jose Angulo to head it in for the first goal ever in Highmark Stadium.
“It almost didn’t happen,” Evans chuckled. “Jose was having trouble getting his shoes on, but he was able to get in the game. Thank goodness because it was a fantastic goal.”
The goal by Angulo, a Columbian-American who grew up in New Jersey, who has played previously for the New York Red Bulls of Major League Soccer (MLS), whipped the already lively crowd into a frenzy, led by the Riverhounds Steel Army loyal group of fans who have songs, chants, heckle the opposing team.
The lead would be short lived.
In the 79th minute, the Islanders evened things up as Harrisburg forward Sainey Touray broke past the Riverhounds right side of the defense and put one right through the legs of Riverhounds goalkeeper Hunter Gilstrap.
“That was a tough one. That was a counter attack and our defense wasn’t tight enough in transition,” Evans said. “We got beat on the right shoulder.”
The Riverhounds only had three minutes of extra time to try to even things up after the stunning goal in the 90th minute. They had a few good chances and one questionable call on a potential handball in the box on a Harrisburg defender that the official chose to let play go on.
Although the loss was a tough one for the Riverhounds, it was a momentous night for a soccer franchise that has been in relative obscurity since its first season in 1999. With nearly 4,000 fans in a fantastic new facility, the Riverhounds had a special ribbon cutting ceremony before the game that included numerous Western PA political and corporate leaders who helped with the private financing of the new stadium — which one of the dignitaries boasted as “The Miracle on the Monongahela.”
There was a live band, black and gold scarf give-away — and what appears to be some momentum that could carry over to help the team build a stronger fan base.
“Our ownership has really stepped up and brought in some good players, and we believe this is going to be a very positive season. The new guys are bringing a higher level of competition for spots,” said Evans. “We’ve just got to find some chemistry and I am confident we will be able to do that.”
The result didn’t dampen the spirit of Evans, his players and the front office staff which stuck around signing autographs for fans well after the post-game fireworks extravaganza.
“It was a terrific night for soccer in Pittsburgh. A great night for our organization,” said Evans. “It’s just too bad we had to lose.”
Prior to moving into Highmark, the Hounds had called high school stadiums and a minor baseball park 30 miles south of Pittsburgh home.
“It’s second to none,” Richie Costanzo, a 2004 graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School, said of Highmark Stadium on that night.
“And I’m glad it’s here in Pittsburgh. I wish this was here when I was a kid coming up.”
One of my favorite memories of that night was getting my first real introduction to, and seeing up-front and in person, the passion of Pittsburgh’s soccer supporters group — the Steel Army.
In the South end of the stadium, the Army were loud and provided Highmark Stadium exactly what it needed — songs, pounding drums, chants and ultimately a sense of soccer fan culture that had mostly been non-existent in Pittsburgh.
While they’d started up a few years prior to this, the Army really found its base — and a home on the banks of the Mon.
Through the years, I have written retrospective pieces and articles about the biggest moments in the Highmark Stadium era for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC.
Below you will find some of those.
Five seasons on the Mon: Top Riverhounds Moments at Highmark Stadium
Hounds Notebook: Wait, where has time gone? Highmark Stadium to host 10th home opener
PSN’s All-Highmark Stadium Era Riverhounds Finest 11 plus honorable mentions (2013-2022)
Sounding Off on Soccer: Riverhounds Highmark Stadium-era player draft extravaganza