Riverhounds Planning Big Kick-Off To Second Season In Pittsburgh
By Stephen Flinn
The month of April marks the beginning of spring, which promises showers to bring May flowers. April also marks the beginning of the Pittsburgh Riverhounds' soccer preseason, which promises to bring another season of exciting professional soccer to town.
The Riverhounds' 2000 season gets under way April 1, when players are scheduled to arrive for physicals and the first practice of the year.
The season opener will be at home at Bethel Park Stadium April 29 against division opponent Toronto Lynx and ends at Hershey Sept. 4.
The Riverhounds earned "Organization of the Year" honors from the league after a successful inaugural season in Pittsburgh in 1999. They finished third in the league in attendance.
Head coach John Kowalski believes the team accomplished most of its first-year goals and sees promise for 2000 and a chance to improve on last years' record.
"We wanted to be over .500, make it to the playoffs, be competitive, and play an attacking style of soccer," said Kowalski. "We also beat Rochester at home and established a positive identity linked to the Riverhounds' name."
General manager David Kasper agreed with Kowalski's thoughts. Like his coach, Kaspar sees promise for the future.
"I think successfully branding the Riverhounds' name could only be done with hard work on everybody's part," Kasper said. "We really don't need to introduce any new concepts as much as we need to just keep doing what we've been doing from the beginning, and that's keep working hard and strive to put a good product on the field."
Last year's captain, 6-3, 215-pound goalie Randy Dedini, a 30-year old Californian, returns to anchor the team. The 'Hounds will carry a good portion of the players from last years' team, including 5-6, 168-pound defender Tanywa Bonseu, known as T-Bone. He is a 24-year old from Uganda.
The Riverhounds' roster was struck a blow, however, when Justin Evans of Peters Twp., one of the teams top players last season, was picked up by the San Jose Earthquakes, a Major League Soccer franchise.
Kowalski will be helped once again by assistants Paul Child, the former Pittsburgh Stingers' head coach and one time star with the Pittsburgh Spirit of the Major Indoor Soccer League. Gene Klein will serve as goalkeepers' coach. The Riverhounds are one of the only soccer teams with all three coaches certified at the highest level (A License) of soccer coaching credentials.
"Having all our coaches certified with A Licenses helps us recruit players because they know they will get a good soccer education in Pittsburgh," said Sharon Talarico, Riverhounds' director of media relations.
Kowalski's coaching style is based upon a system stressing smooth, synchronized runs on offense, while the defense is based on defending the front of the goal and complimented by pressuring the ball for recovery.
"When we signed John [Kowalski] as our head coach last November, that's when we were considered not just an expansion team, but a team to be reckoned with right from the start," Kasper said. "Now it's up to us to continue to market the product off the field, because we know John will do an excellent job with the product on the field."
Stephen Flinn is a freelance writer based in Pittsburgh.