Connect with us

Duquesne University

Campbell: Pittsburgh shows its might as a Soccer City

The Pittsburgh Riverhounds delivered one of the greatest sporting memories in Pittsburgh soccer history last Wednesday when they upset MLS side Columbus Crew in the Round of 16 in the U.S. Open Cup in front of a sold out crowd at Highmark Stadium.

The game encapsulated what has been a remarkable decade since Highmark Stadium opened on the banks on the Monongahela river in 2013. It saw an incredible support from soccer fans across western Pennsylvania, who showed up in astounding numbers to support their USL Championship side, as they attempted to do the “impossible.”

The Riverhounds put on a “white out” and the fans came prepared, dressed in whatever white t-shirt they could find. This created a collective sense of belonging for the home supporters, as they appeared a white blob, domineering the Crew dressed in black and yellow, Pittsburgh’s traditional sports teams’ colors.

The Steel Army, Pittsburgh’s official supporters’ group, stayed lively from tailgate, pre-game, then throughout the entire match and afterwards as they celebrated the victory with the players. They sung songs, such as the hilarious “Go Back to Ohio,” flew their flags, unleashed their flares and cheered on the Riverhounds to an improbable victory.

The Riverhounds themselves played an excellent game. They took the game right at the Crew, forcing them to account for attacks throughout the game. The Riverhounds also defended well, thanks to some great play from Arturo Ordoñez, Nathan DosSantos and Michael DeShields, keeping the Crew from establishing their patterns of play and reducing their chances on goal.

Much of this credit goes to manager Bob Lilley, who has made Pittsburgh one of the best sides in the USL Championship since taking over in 2018. Pittsburgh has made the playoffs in his first five seasons with the team and his plan to defeat the Crew last Wednesday is nothing less than tactical brilliance from him.

The win is the second over an MLS side in the U.S. Open Cup this season for the Riverhounds, as they defeated the New England Revolution 1-0 on the road in Foxborough, Mass. earlier in May. They will now take on former USL rival, FC Cincinnati, in the Quarterfinals next Tuesday, June 6 in Cincinnati for their third opportunity to defeat an MLS side this season.

The Riverhounds’ victory showcased what makes Pittsburgh a great soccer city. This includes a raucous fan base that constantly engages with the team and is ready to support at all times, a club that fans love to root for, a manager that understands the game and knows how to win and a culture that the club has built over these past few seasons.

This winning mentality and great soccer culture is something that other teams in the area possess and show on a consistent basis as well.

Pitt men’s head coach Jay Vidovich brought in his winning ways from Wake Forest and helped transform the program from bottom of the ACC to one of the best in the conference. They ended a 44 year streak without an NCAA Tournament appearance and have made the last four since 2019. They have also made three straight Elite Eight appearances and two College Cup appearances in the 2020-21 and 2022 seasons.

Pitt women’s head coach Randy Waldrum came in 2018 and like Vidovich, he had previous experience winning at Notre Dame, Baylor and Tulsa. He also turned Pitt from one of the worst to finally making the NCAA Tournament last season for the first time in program history.

The two coaches have brought their winning ways, but also an increasingly dedicated group of fans to cheer on both programs every game at Ambrose Urbanic Field on upper campus.

There have been incredible atmospheres for important matches that no one who witnessed them will forget. Two that stand our most recently are Midfielder Valentin Noel’s header to defeat Portland in the Elite Eight in double overtime last December for the men’s team and forward Leah Pais’ header with five minutes remaining against Buffalo to give the Pitt women their first ever NCAA Tournament victory last November.

Those are just two great games that will join the lexicon of Pitt fans to come for many years. With Vidovich and Waldrum in charge, success for both programs will continue for the foreseeable future.

Just down the road up on the Bluff, head coach Chase Brooks has helped build a winning culture for Duquesne men’s soccer, as they earned their first top 25 ranking since 2005 in 2022.

There is great talent throughout the high school level in western Pennsylvania, showing the newest and future athletes from the WPIAL and how they’ll impact not just soccer locally, but on an international scale as well. Mt. Lebanon’s Mia Bhuta played for the U.S. women’s team at the U-17 World Cup in India last October and will play for Stanford in college.

Soccer is continuing to grow in Pittsburgh and throughout western Pennsylvania. There are more beautiful nights at Highmark to behold and if you’re on the edge about going, you better get down there and support the Riverhounds.

While you’re at it, you should see the fortress that is Ambrose Urbanic Field and the terrific soccer that both Pitt programs play. A short bus ride and a difficult walk up and you’ll be at Rooney Field to watch Duquesne play some great mid-major soccer as well.

Also, any local high school in the area near you could have the next player to break through and become a star. I’d suggest watching some of the great soccer the WPIAL has to offer, especially in November at Highmark Stadium for the WPIAL Championships.

Pittsburgh has everything to show that it is a fantastic soccer city and it really feels like it’s starting to get even better from here on out. Anyone interested in watching the beautiful game has many avenues to do so. The best thing about it is, you won’t have to pay $500 million to prove that it’s great to anyone either. 

Sponsored by The Bulldog Pub

Glory on the Grass

Riverhounds MF Kenardo Forbes

Subscribe to PGH Soccer Now

Enter your email address to subscribe to PGH Soccer Now and receive notifications of new posts by email.

More in Duquesne University