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Steel City FC shows strength, growth despite USOC result

Impressive crowd of 1,142 entertained by highly competitive showing against professional opposition

When the final whistle blew after a hard-fought 90 minutes on Thursday night at Ambrose Urbanic Field, the final score wasn’t what Steel City FC hoped for, but the strong performance nonetheless resonated with the capacity crowd in a momentous occasion for a club on the rise and continuing to grow after its first U.S. Open Cup appearance.

With the main stand full and more supporters scattered in standing room-only areas around the pitch, Steel City not only showed that it belonged on the field against professional opposition in NISA’s Michigan Stars, but that it belongs in the city of Pittsburgh sports scene and is building something special within the community. For the 1,142 fans that showed up on the chilly March evening, those on the field and around the club did their city proud and gave everything they had against their toughest challenge to date.

“Even though we came up short in the final score, we did not come up short on the night. It was a celebration of what we’re about – what the club is about, what our first team is about,” Head Coach Dan Brower told PSN after the match. “We played some good football, we were on top of the game for large stretches. We challenged a professional club today and I think we inspired some of our youngest players to see how our Steel City plays football. It was a good match and we’re proud of our boys because we trained hard for the last couple of months to get ready for such an occasion and it was really a celebration for our club and what we’re about.”

Brower’s analysis rings true for those in attendance and watching the stream from home, with Steel City dominating much of the first half in possession and enjoying the majority of opportunities, and fighting a tight, fifty-fifty second half before the visiting Stars found their breakthrough on a set piece opportunity. Despite the late concession, it was clear the hosts were unfortunate to not have walked away with a victory given the run of play – hitting the crossbar once and forcing numerous saves and defensive struggles for their opponents.

While the club’s run in the 2024 U.S. Open Cup ends in round one this year, it’s an opportunity the club aims to reach again as it strives to continue the rapid growth it has experienced since the men’s team debuted in the 2019 NPSL season. Since that inaugural year, and after a shortened COVID season in 2020, the club has featured in the NPSL playoffs in three straight years out of the Rust Belt and Great Lakes Conferences – including an unbeaten season in 2023. A record Brower is eager to extend in order to help the club return to feature in the Open Cup again, and compete in the nation’s most prestigious tournament in front of their passionate supporters.

“We’re very happy, we’re not satisfied but we certainly enjoyed the night and we’re looking for more opportunities in the future to partake and participate in the U.S. Open Cup,” Brower said. “It was a wonderful experience for everybody. I thank all of those people that showed up, all of our supporters and everybody who worked behind the scenes on a magical night for Steel City FC.”

It was indeed a magical night, with heartfelt support hanging on every touch and moment of the club’s efforts. As the club’s support has grown from dozens, to hundreds, to thousands, and as it has ingrained itself more and more into the city’s sports fabric and community it has built through its first-team talent-producing academy system, those efforts from every corner of the club helped lay the foundation for the pinnacle of the club’s reach to date. A fact that was not lost on defender Nolan Hutter, a now four-year club veteran, former Robert Morris University athlete, and McKees Rocks native.

“Obviously it was a tough night in terms of the result, but I think with the development of our guys that we saw from beginning to end we were super proud of the product that we put on the field,” said Hutter. “It was a really special night for all the guys in the locker room but especially for the entire club, all the fans, all the coaches from top-to-bottom in the club, and everyone who supported us along the way.”

“We just seek to put out a level of performance that would represent what this club is looking for out of every player at every age and we were proud of what we put out there today. Obviously the ball didn’t go our way and we didn’t get the result in the end but it was an amazing night and we were really proud seeing all of the supporters out there and representing the club as best we could. It was a very special night for all of us at Steel City.”

With nearly every crowd member geared up in Steel City attire and a healthy contingent of those players from every age group within the club in attendance, Hutter and his teammates put forth an effort that will surely inspire those youngsters to join the likes of Ben Conti, Luke Fiscus, Amir Awais, and Sean Regan – four Steel City Academy products still in high school themselves who made the game-day roster for this monumental match.

So while this run in the Cup comes to an end, Thursday’s performance assured that there is much more to come for the growth of the club and soccer in the city of Pittsburgh. With the 2024 NPSL season just over the horizon and the club aiming high, it’s clear that the future is bright, both on the field and off of it for Steel City FC.

Glory on the Grass

Riverhounds MF Kenardo Forbes

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