Welcome to the first edition of the Pulse of Pittsburgh Soccer for 2024.
While we don’t have much of a soccer schedule to share as we’re literally in the dead period in terms of soccer being played in our region, there is still a lot to look forward to this month with a number of things coming up on the horizon soon.
Since we don’t have a weekly schedule to post, we have included some of the things to look forward in January and early February below, plus there were a few news items of note that dropped within past week and a few more that we’ll be following.
The NWSL Draft is this week, and two members of the Pitt women’s soccer, who helped turn the program into a National contender, Amanda West and Landy Mertz, are eligible and entered into the draft. Last week, PSN’s Rachael Kriger caught up with West, Pitt’s all-time leader in goals, points and more records.
The big question among Pittsburgh soccer fans is where will last season’s USL Championship Player of the Year, Albert Dikwa land, now that he’s a free agent?
Here’s our best attempt to answer that question here in some exclusive PSN content for subscribers only (click here to become a PSN subscriber):
Waite No More… Like many goalkeepers before him, Jahmali Waite earned his stripes with the Riverhounds SC, making his pro debut playing in Bob Lilley’s successful defensive system, with tutelage from Jon Busch, but the Jamaican international is now moving on, as El Paso announced his signing on Thursday.
— Jahmali Waite (@jahmali_waite) January 4, 2024
Waite heads to El Paso after two seasons in Pittsburgh, where in the regular season and playoffs, Waite started in all 50 of his appearances, registering 17 clean sheets and 87 saves (62.59 save %) while only conceding 52 goals during his stint with the club. Waite was awarded the 2023 USL Championship Fans’ Choice Save of the Year, and during this time, Waite also emerged as part of the goalkeeper rotation for the Jamaican Men’s National Team, making his international debut in late 2022 against Cameroon and contributing to his country’s run to clinch qualification for the 2023/24 Concacaf Nations League Semifinals. In total, Waite has eight appearances with the Reggae Boyz.
“I’m super excited to continue growing and develop my skills in a new environment,” Waite said. “I’m hoping that I can bring positive energy and great qualities that will hopefully help the team win a championship.”
The fact that the Riverhounds opted not to re-sign Waite was not a huge surprise — as Head Coach Bob Lilley has been willing to create a competitive environment for young keepers to grow into their roles. In moving on from the Riverhounds, Waite joins the list of primary starting keepers for the club since 2018, who played through their initial contract, but were not re-signed. This list includes Dan Lynd (2018), Kyle Morton (2019) and Danny Vitiello (2020-21). Morton and Vitello signed contracts with Louisville City FC and Sacramento Republic, respectively, following their tenures in Pittsburgh.
Bobby Mo looking for a new women’s coach… In 2020, Chris Shaw was the first coach hired by current Robert Morris University Athletic Director Chris King. In his four seasons at RMU, Shaw led the Colonials to 26 victories, including a program record 12 wins in 2023. This past season also saw RMU earn its first-ever Horizon League Tournament victory in its 4-1 win over Wright State while improving from five points to 16 in the league standings from 2022.
PSN’s Matt Popchock reported RMU’s announcement that Shaw took the Head Coaching position at Temple University, leaving a coaching post that is now even more appealing than it was before Shaw took over.
“The women’s soccer program has tremendous potential in the Horizon League next season,” King said through a University statement.
“Our focus will be on our student-athletes as we begin a national search to find the best coaching leader to deliver a championship-level experience for our student-athletes and to continue the positive momentum of our women’s soccer program.”
What’s happening with 2024 US Open Cup? Following MLS’ initial announcement that it was pulling its first teams from playing in the 2024 US Open Cup tournament. Five days after MLS announced their decision, U.S. Soccer stated “after thoughtful consideration,” that MLS’ request for a waiver to use MLS NEXT Pro teams would be denied. This decision came at the “recommendation of U.S. Soccer staff and adopted by the Pro League Task Force.” They’re currently in a stalemate, as US Soccer and MLS have continued their discussions and negotiations, but any discussions would include MLS’ full participation with their first teams in the tournament, per sources close to the situation. We expect in January to early February for the final list of participating teams to be announced and the first two rounds to be drawn and the schedule fully released. Of course this is relevant for two Pittsburgh soccer clubs, as the Riverhounds will be joined in the field by Steel City FC, Pittsburgh’s NPSL club which qualified following an outstanding 2023 campaign. For a great read on the entire situation, be sure to give our friends with TheCup.us a follow — and check out this long-form piece.
Congrats to former Pine-Richland Coach Jodi Chmielewski — the first female coach inducted into Pennsylvania Soccer Coaches Association Hall of Fame… Chimielewski amassed over 300 wins, two WPIAL championships and a state title coaching Pine-Richland girls soccer program from 1998-2019. Now, she’ll be the first female coach inducted into the Pennsylvania Soccer Coaches Association Hall of Fame in its 25-year history.
“I’m super appreciative for the recognition and Rich Garland from our Western Pennsylvania organization that nominated me,” Chmielewski told Pittsburgh Tribune-Review‘s Jerin Steele. “It’s quite an honor, and it’s pretty neat to be the first female inducted. There are so many more young women coaching now, so I know I won’t be the last.”
One more Hall of Fame honor has been bestowed upon another Pittsburgh scholastic soccer coaching legend, Mark Perry, currently the Head Coach for Seneca Valley girls program and SCS United, is being inducted into the Western PA Sports Hall of Fame at the end of the month. In his 32 years as a head coach, Perry won five WPIAL titles including leading Seneca Valley past Peters Towship in 2018. In 1990 he took home the trophy with the Hampton boys, in 1991 and 1995, with the Fox Chapel boys and with the Central Valley girls in 2013.
Pittsburgh Soccer Schedule / Soccer News (January 2024)
- NWSL Draft — Friday, January 12 (Pitt’s Amanda West & Landy Mertz are entered)
- January 20 — USMNT vs Slovenia — 3 p.m. ET
- WPIAL expected to announce Boys & Girls Realignment for each of the eight classifications (PIAA announced enrollment for boys and girls in early December)
- United Soccer Coaches Convention — January 10-14, 2024 (Pitt’s Randy Waldrum will be a featured speaker)
- Expect to see Riverhounds player signings, preseason schedule announcement and regular season broadcast schedules plus the start of Riverhounds Training Camp (TBA — late January/early February)
- US Open Cup Tournament schedule updates
- Robert Morris University Women’s Head Coach search begins