Friday’s USL roster freeze provides challenges for Hounds

In the midst of a heated playoff race, Riverhounds head coach Dave Brandt made an interesting move during Saturday evening’s 3-0 loss to Louisville City FC.

Brandt pulled goalkeeper Matt Perrella in the 86th minute, to bring in Alex Kapp, a goalkeeper on loan from MLS Minnesota United.

When asked after the game about the move, Brandt acknowledged that it was a necessary move due to the impending USL (and MLS) roster freeze coming on Friday, September 15.

“With the roster freeze on Friday, if Alex didn’t get in, there wouldn’t be a chance for him to play in the playoffs,” Brandt explained. “It was a calculated move, that we were going back-and-forth on, and in the end we decided to put him in to keep our options open.”

Kapp, who was drafted by Atlanta United FC in the MLS SuperDraft in January, was waived in August and picked up by Minnesota as their third goalkeeper. After the Hounds suffered season-ending injuries to its two primary goalkeepers Trey Mitchell and Keasel Broome, they brought Kapp to Pittsburgh on loan on August 30.

The Hounds primary roster concern in the past month has clearly been at goalkeeper, as they’ve run out the same starting ten field players in the last six games, and have a fair amount of depth, particuarly at forward and midfield.

Fortunately for the Hounds, with goalkeepers, the USL affords some additional flexibility, as they have a special exemption if a team is reduced to a single “available and healthy” goalkeeper.

This exemption has been put to the test by the Hounds this year with these injuries. Heading into the final five weeks of the season, they have one goalkeeper, Perrella, who has played three games, and another, Kapp, who has made only one brief appearance.

Down the stretch, the Hounds are left with little choice will go with this pair of keepers.

Perrella Hounds
Matt Perrella (photo Nicholas Gates, Pittsburgh Riverhounds)

And the back-up plan for this?

They’re certainly going to work within the framework of the USL goalkeeper exemption, but they could also utilize Hunter Gilstrap, the team’s current goalkeeper coach and former player, who has already served at the emergency back-up five times this season due to the recurring injuries.

With the addition of Shannon Gomez from MLS NYCFC in July, a mostly healthy roster selection to work with, it’s very unlikely that the Hounds will pick up any additional players before the roster freeze. Also of note, the Hounds started the season with three regular players from MLS affiliate partner Columbus Crew, Marshall Hollingsworth, Ben Swanson and Abuchi Obinwa — with two (Hollingsworth and Swanson) out for the season and Obinwa having stayed in Columbus for the good part of the last month despite not making any MLS game appearances.

In addition to both goalkeepers being out for the season, the Hounds also have been stretched a bit thin in the back line, but should have enough healthy players to choose from now.  The players under contract with the club that are listed as out for the season in addition to Mitchell and Broome include Rich Balchan and Shane Campbell.

Here’s the full roster of players eligible to play for Pittsburgh in the final five weeks:

GK: Matthew Perrella, Alex Kapp, Hunter Gilstrap;

D: Shane Campbell, Jack Thompson, Taylor Washington, Ryan Adleye, Nick Thompson, Jamal Jack, Tobi Adewole, Ritchie Duffie, Gale Agbossoumonde, Lalas Abubakar, Joe Greenspan, Shannon Gomez;

M: Victor Souto, Maduabuchi Obinwa, Stephen Okai, Michael Green, Kevin Kerr, Danny Earls, Kenroy Howell, Ben Fitzpatrick;

F: Chevaughn Walsh, Corey Hertzog, Kay Banjo, Romeo Parkes

Obviously some of these players (i.e. Greenspan, Obinwa) are back with MLS clubs.

The Hounds, coming off a 3-0 loss to Louisville City FC last Saturday, return to action this Saturday at home against Rochester, who’ve surged into third place in the USL’s Eastern Conference standings

For more clarification on USL’s roster rules, they are included below.

Master Roster Changes

Whenever a team makes a change to its master roster, notification must be sent in writing to the USL. Changes are not approved until the USL confirms in writing and makesthe changes on the USL website. All roster changes for Monday through Thursday games must be made by 5:00 PM EST on the day of the match. All roster changes for Friday through Sunday games must be made by 5:00 PM EST on Friday. No changes will be accepted after this time.

Master Roster Freeze

No team will be allowed to sign, receive a player on loan, change a player’s active/inactive status, and/or replace players after the Roster Freeze date. All trades, transfers and/or loans between teams must be finalized and approved by the USL prior to this time.

The USL will not allow “deals in progress” nor “extensions” to go beyond the deadline for any reason. The date of the Roster Freeze is Sept. 15, 2017, at 5 p.m. ET.

Any MLS player legitimately on the final Master Roster of a USL team at the time of the Roster Freeze date will be permitted to compete for the USL team for the rest of the season, regardless of whether or not that player is subsequently traded or transferred to another MLS team.

In this instance, it is possible that a newly executed loan agreement would be required by the USL. However, if a player is sold or released from his contract with MLS, this will terminate the player’s loan with the USL team. Any player on loan from another league must play a minimum of five games during the regular season to be eligible to play in the playoffs. One of these games must occur prior to the roster freeze date. Any player who is sold to an MLS team after the Roster Freeze deadline may rejoin the USL team on loan for the remainder of the season, as long as he assumes the spot on the roster he vacated when he was sold by the USL club. As long as the player played in a minimum of five games during the season, either prior or after being sold, he is eligible toplay in the playoffs.

Special Exemption (Goalkeepers) 

In the unlikely event that a team is reduced to a single “available and healthy” goalkeeper due to National Team call-up or medical-ly-verifiable injury, the team may petition the USL in writing to be permitted to add a backup goalkeeper to their Master Roster. This may only be done in the event that at least two eligible and healthy goalkeepers are under contract with the club, participating in regular team activities, not on loan with another team, and listed on the final Master Roster submitted at the time of the Roster Freeze date. This backup goalkeeper will be permitted to remain on the team’s roster until such time that one or more of the originally rostered goalkeepers becomes available and is able to compete. The USL will have the power to reject the addition of a goalkeeper in this situation if it feels its primary intent is to create a competitive advantage.

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