PITTSBURGH — At the midway point of the football season, the Pittsburgh Riverhounds find themselves sitting just below mid-table but looking to extend their 11 game point streak on July 4 in the USLPro.
This isn’t the typical football that “Yinz” might read about coming from the “Burgh” at this time of year with Steelers training camp just a few weeks away.
This beautiful game is played on a 100 by 70 yard artificial pitch located in Station Square next to the Monongahela River in what is the latest sports complex in Pittsburgh. Highmark Stadium, the $10.2 million dollar, FIFA 2-star regulated, 3,500 seat soccer specific stadium developed by ThenDesign Architecture is in its inaugural season.
While the stadium might be new, the origins of the Riverhounds date back to 1999 when the Hounds first took to the pitch at Bethel Park Stadium in a three to two USL A-League loss against the Cincinnati Riverhawks.
Since that game, the Riverhounds have yet to find a real place to call home as they have bounced around from various High School fields to a Frontier League independent baseball stadium in Washington Pa.
The beginnings of this franchise are humble as ownership groups have been just as frequent as locations the Riverhounds have called their home.
This year is different though. With a new stadium and club under stable ownership along with its recent move to the newly formed USL Pro league in 2011, a divisional III professional league behind the MLS and North American Soccer League in the United States Soccer Federation, The Riverhounds are slowly gaining energy on and off the pitch.
On the east end of the pitch sits the 502 seat supporters section. This terrace, better recognized as The Steel Army is the heartbeat of the Riverhounds.
What started out as a handful of diehards meeting for a couple of pints at the local pub before a fixture has turned into a revered chorus of voices equipped with tifo’s, flags, and streamers that antagonize and taunt the opposition singing songs and cheering for 90 plus minutes.
As the fan base grows with each game, the Riverhounds know they need to put on a successful show to keep fan interest with soccer taking a backseat to the Steelers, Penguins and Pirates in Pittsburgh.
Newly acquired players like Jose Angulo, formerly of the NY Red Bulls FC (MLS), and Harrisburg City Islanders (USLPro) are part of the teams recent success on the field as he ranks second respectively in points and in goals only behind Dominic Dwyer of the first placed Orlando City Soccer Club.
To stir up more awareness and promotion to the Riverhounds and their beautiful Highmark Stadium, the Hounds will probably play their biggest game ever against the current FA Cup Champions and current English Championship League side, Wigan Athletic FC in front of what is expected to be a sold out rowdy crowd.
While this football, may not be what most natives are accustomed too in terms of hard hits and dramatic field goals, the Hounds and their unique brand of soccer aim to make the Steel City into a soccer-mad town soon enough.