In an interesting bit of news, the Pittsburgh Riverhounds announced today a new affiliate partner. Already aligned with Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer, the Hounds now have agreed to a developmental partnership with the Ocean City Nor’easters of the fourth-division USL Premier Developmental League (PDL) through the 2018 season.
The Hounds disbanded its U-23, PDL team after three season in 2016, primarily because they have limited resources to field a developmental program on their own.
Locally, the only other team competing at a similar level is National Premier Soccer League’s (NPSL) Fort Pitt Regiment, who field a team of players that include current college players and recent pros and is sponsored by PA West Soccer Association.
The deal between the Hounds-Nor’easters, while geographically challenged, stays within the parameters of the USL-PDL setup.
“I am personally really excited to do this partnership deal with Ocean City,” Hounds head coach Dave Brandt said. “It’s a club I’ve been aware of and familiar with for quite awhile, and they have a fantastic record and reputation both as a winning organization, and an organization who are serious about developing and working with top players and advancing their careers. Clearly one of the top PDL organizations in the country, and we are delighted to align with them.”
In the short term, we may be seeing Nor’easters players coming to the Hounds on trial at various points during the current season.
Originally founded as a Division 3 pro club in 1996, the Nor’easters joined the PDL in 2003 and since then have the sixth-best record among the 72 teams in the league. Ocean City has qualified for the playoffs seven times and has made two PDL final four appearances since 2013, and has won multiple honors, including Organization of the Year in 2008.
The amateur club’s success has translated against professional opponents as well, notching five upsets in Open Cup play since 2003 and recording four wins against MLS Under-23 squads this past summer – D.C. United, New England Revolution, New York Red Bulls and Reading United.
As part of the developmental side of the USL, the Nor’easters have paved the way for several players to professional soccer, seeing 22 members drafted into MLS, including 10 in the last three years, and more than 60 of them have moved on to sign pro contracts since 2003.
Six of them have played with the Hounds, including three current players: Keasel Broome, John Manga and Chevaughn Walsh – the latter most notably signed last year after notching PDL MVP and Golden Boot honors.
Both clubs expect the affiliation to provide key improvements in player identification, establishing an expanded player-scouting network between the clubs, in addition to staff development initiatives within the USL-PDL framework.
Initiatives are expected to include collaboration between the staffs of both clubs in training, film work, as well as the potential for Ocean City prospects to trial with the Hounds throughout the summer.
“We are thrilled and equally excited to have the opportunity to work closely with the Hounds. We felt this partnership was the right time, the right place and most importantly, the right organization,” said Tim Oswald, Ocean City Sporting Director.
“We have been very impressed with Coach Brandt’s philosophies and vision for the club and his aspirations to push the envelope in his short time with Pittsburgh. I have no doubt that he will grow the club and its brand to new heights.
“This partnership exemplifies the Path-to-Pro model of the PDL and we are proud to provide our players and staff with an expanded umbrella for development.”
In an interesting side note, the Hounds lost to the Nor’Easters in the 2013 U.S. Open Cup, prompting the Hounds supporters group who still remember the loss, to mockingly endorse the move.