Riverhounds New Coach Dave Brandt Brings Different Approach

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New Riverhounds Head Coach Dave Brandt with Team Owner Tuffy Shallenberger (Photo Courtesy Pittsburgh Riverhounds) 

The Pittsburgh Riverhounds made the bold move in the past week to replace a proven USL Hall of Fame coach Mark Steffens, with a successful college coach with no pro experience, Dave Brandt, after the team’s early season struggles.

At Highmark Stadium on Monday, Brandt joined Riverhounds owner Tuffy Shallenberger to meet with members of the media.

Here’s a full video of the press conference…

Brandt comes to Pittsburgh with a terrific resume — at the college level — where he won six National Championships at Messiah College — a school that became a big part of his life since he moved to Mechanicsburg when he was in 9th grade, as his father became the Academic Dean.  He later moved on to United States Naval Academy — where he has had continued success — moving past 200 and 300 wins at an impressive rate.

So, with all of these accomplishments, the first question I asked him was about his thoughts about the transition from coaching at the college level to the pros.

 

“I’d say a couple a things. My default mode is, and I don’t think it’s a stretch to say this – the game is the game, people are people, groups are teams, our groups are teams. With that being said, are there some differences? Yes, absolutely,” said Brandt.

So, I feel very comfortable. I follow the pro game very closely; I know a number of people in the pro game. I’ve not been separated from it. Just in the sense of having access and that sort of thing. But yeah, I’ve been a college coach for a number of years and so; you have to have a quick learning curve in some ways. The other thing I’d say about that is the structure of help, support, other people in the organization to help me with that is very good and that’s going to be very important just because of where I’m coming from.”

Brandt’s success at the college level — and his boundless energy were enough to impress Shallenberger to make the move to bring him to Pittsburgh.

 

“I’m not going to wait around till the end of the year and lose another season,” stated Shallenberger.
“Like I said, the fans deserve more and we’re going to create a winner here. This is the guy who is going to do it for us. He’s high energy. I told him this morning here that maybe we’ll probably get the power shut off because there’s so much energy flying around this place, we don’t need the lights.”
As the Hounds (1-4-3 in USL) finally won a game, and generated some scoring at home over Toronto FC II on Saturday in Steffens’ last hurrah, Brandt said that he’s taking a whole new approach — and will be working on getting the current players to buy-in to his system.
“A significant change. Maybe a notch down from huge – I don’t know where that ranks on the scale. But, I think it’s a change. For each coach has his or her way of playing in his or her sport, in his or her distinctive, so I do think that’s one thing about me. I told the guys last night, and there are a lot of buzzwords in athletics and coaching, I suppose. And look, talk is always cheap, it just is, it’s doing that matters, but I’m one of those coaches, very definitively, I have a vision. And I told them what that means is that I know what I want it to look like,” said Brandt.
“That’s important and I know in athletics there’s talent grabbing, putting them out and saying, see what happens. And then for me, I’m always to trying to make the whole greater than the sum of the parts. So, for me, it’s a little bit about – maybe a lot more – than just grabbing talent and grabbing players. Talent matters, it is important. At the same time, the structure of what we’re doing, the team agreements – this vision I have, both on and off the field – is what I’m most passionate about and that’s what we begun starting to work on this morning.”
He also wasn’t specific regarding tactics — but again emphasized a bit difference in how aggressive he would like to be.
“In soccer, especially these days, it may be a little bit of a catchphrase to say there are teams that wait for you, and those are teams that sit back and counter, and there’s teams that look for you. We’re a team that’s going to look for you. We’re going to press high. We’re going to play very tight to each other, in terms of space. It’s going to be fast. High tempo. High skill. On the ground, working together, but it’s going to be energetic and, I used this phrase with the players several times this morning, it’s going to be vertical. There’s horizontal, side-to-side, and there’s vertical, which means going forward and we’re going to go forward.”
Looking at the long-term picture, the Hounds currently still operating without a general manager — and Brandt said that right now there will be a team-oriented approach in terms of personnel decisions.
“Already there has been numerous conversations involving, to be honest, at least four people. I see that as a pretty collaborative effort and I work comfortably that way.
For now, Brandt’s focus seems to be on getting the team ready for their next big challenge.
With 22 games to go, the Riverhounds, despite having gone through the first seven games without a win, still have an opportunity to make up ground and make a move in the standings to get above the playoff line.
“The reality is we play on Saturday and there’s 22 games left – I think, if I counted right – and 66 points still on table. There’s just an awful lot of season left, but we don’t have time to waste,” said Brandt.
“So, training this morning was important and it’s one of a number – five probably – training sessions, chances we have before Saturday and it was important to hit the ground running. You had this situation where I’m new to them, they’re new to me. We need to figure each other out and that sort of thing. And yet, time – it’s happening and it’s important and we have to make things happen here.”
The first match will be a good test for the Brandt-led Hounds — against a team that has their number of late.  The young, laden-with-MLS-talent New York Red Bulls II handled them pretty easily, 3-1, at Highmark Stadium on May 7, breaking open the game in the second half, prior to the Romeo Parkes‘ infamous kicking incident.   NYRBII also beat the Hounds in their playoff meeting last season, 4-2, in a game that went to overtime.
After that, the Hounds will host Charleston (6/4), then travel to Richmond (6/11) before hosting USL Eastern Conference cellar dwellers, FC Montreal (6/18).
I’ll have more on that game and updates later in the week with BREAKING DOWN THE HOUNDS.
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