The Riverhounds season is over, but things are just starting to heat up in October on the Pittsburgh soccer scene.
RECAPPING HOUNDS 2017 — LOOKING AHEAD TO 2018
This week, I’ll be taking some time and attention toward recapping the 2017 Riverhounds season
First, I’ll be a guest on the Mon Goals Hounds podcast — with Mike, Kev and Josh — and that should be available for listening on Tuesday as we have some fun looking back at the season that was — and what lies ahead.
If you haven’t had a chance, please be sure to check out photographer Long Hong‘s Random Fun Thing submission – Long Shots of the soccer season – on DK Pittsburgh Sports, as he’s posted his top 12 pictures from the Hounds season. There are some real good ones.
In addition, I’ll be following up with the Hounds after player exit interviews, and writing up a piece for DK Pittsburgh Sports with a brief look back — but mostly looking ahead to 2018 season, and addressing what the Hounds will have to do to get to the next level and what things may look like when they take the field again in March.
As Hounds coach Dave Brandt indicated in his post-game presser on Saturday after the Hounds 1-1 draw with Ottawa, there’s a lot going on within the United Soccer League, and the Hounds will be busy immediately in the off season.
Brandt was eager to say he’ll need to turn the page, and acknowledged that some player signings (most of immediate ones will likely be re-signings) may happen right away, and that others may wait until later in the year — or early next year. We also found out that Brandt said he’ll be moving along more deliberately heading into his second full year, announcing that he’ll be waiting until February 1 to start with preseason, as he admitted he wanted to make an early statement in 2017 by starting January 15.
While there’s a lot to keep up with, after putting out a twitter poll this weekend, looking to get a pulse on what the audience of Pittsburgh soccer fans and followers would be interested in following — I wanted to try to narrow the focus down to a few key stories — and here were the results:
So there you have it — it’s awful close between Pitt’s resurgent men’s soccer team — and the upcoming WPIAL (and ensuing PIAA) boys and girls high school playoffs.
I’ll also be keeping tabs on the Duquesne women’s soccer team, another good story, as they look to claim their second Atlantic 10 title in three years — and how the local college teams are doing as they wrap up the regular season in the coming weeks.
RESURGENCE OF PITT’s MEN’s SOCCER TEAM
The Panthers are no longer an ACC doormat.
After meddling through the early part of the season looking very much like a team that was still going through growing pains in second year under a new coach with an impressive resume of success, they turned a lot of heads in the past three weeks.
Prior to its September 26th match against West Virginia, the Panthers were sitting at 3-5 overall, and 0-2 to start off ACC play with conference losses to two top 10 nationally ranked teams: North Carolina and Clemson. Even when watching the Panthers beat a winless Robert Morris team, 2-1, on September 19, in a non-conference match, I still hadn’t been convinced that they were close to turning the corner.
Frankly, from talking with the architect of the turnaround, head coach Jay Vidovich, that night, he even felt at that point his team still needed to learn how to win games.
Then, came a stunning 7-0 rout against Backyard Brawl rivals West Virginia in a non-conference match-up at Ambrose Urbanic Field.
Three days later, they proved the WVU win wasn’t a fluke, knocking off No. 22 Syracuse at home, 2-1, for the first-ever win in ACC play since entering the conference in 2012.
They followed up the win with another non-conference win over a ranked team on the road, Columbia, 1-0, and beating in-state rivals Penn State. A loss at Duke finally halted an impressive winning streak, but then the Panthers bounced back with a 1-0 shutout of No. 4 Notre Dame in South Bend.
Just think, only three weeks ago, Pitt was a program that was still in repair, still waiting for its first-ever ACC win and still hadn’t beat a ranked team in nearly 10 years.
And in just three weeks, they’ve beaten three ranked teams, have picked up two ACC wins — as well as beating the school’s two biggest traditional rivals West Virginia and Penn State.
This sudden rise has Pitt among as talk of the College soccer circles around the country. We knew that under Vidovich, who won a national title at Wake Forest, that it would be a matter of time. But now, they’re moving into status of being a contender.
Pitt has moved from 30th to 14th in the most recent RPI rankings, which puts them in contention for one of 24 at-large berths for the 48-team NCAA tournament if they can’t pull off another remarkable feat of winning the ACC tournament.
Pitt enters the final three games of the season facing three teams that are in the top 25 of the RPI. This provides an opportunity to boost its resume. Going 2-1 in this stretch could mark a 10 win season, and serious consideration of a berth in the NCAA tournament.
The Panthers will be on the road this week, at Virginia, but will be home the following week to take on Akron, on Tuesday, October 24, then they wrap up the home and ACC regular season schedule on Friday, October 27, against Virginia Tech.
I will be at both of the two final home matches.
Should be fun to see how they do down the stretch.
HIGH SCHOOL PLAYOFFS APPROACHING
It’s hard to believe, but this Wednesday, the WPIAL playoff pairings will be announced.
In the past two years, this site has provided in-depth coverage of the playoffs.
This year will be no exception, and I’ll be posting the playoff pairings shortly after they’re announced on Wednesday, and will be sharing results of the early rounds.
Then, things will kick into high gear, as we’ll have coverage of a number of selected WPIAL semifinal games and all of the WPIAL finals at Highmark Stadium on November 2, 3 and 4.
I am excited to share that expanded coverage will also include having additional writers and a photographer at each one of the WPIAL finals.
Here’s a look at the latest overall Tribune-Review rankings (not including Saturday’s games)
1. Peters Township 12-0-1 1
2. North Allegheny 13-2-1 2
3. Franklin Regional 15-2 5
4. Norwin 11-3-3 —
5. Central Catholic 11-3-2 3
Out: Penn-Trafford (10-3-2, 4)
1. West Allegheny 16-1-1 1
2. Chartiers Valley 13-3 5
3. Montour 11-3-1 2
4. South Fayette 12-3-2 3
5. Ringgold 10-4-2 4
1. Quaker Valley 15-1 2
2. South Park 15-2 1
3. Mt. Pleasant 13-2 3
4. Deer Lakes 11-3-2 4
5. Obama Academy 12-3-1 5
1. Freedom 17-0 1
2. CW North Catholic 15-1 2
3. Seton LaSalle 15-1-1 3
4. Winchester Thurston 13-1 4
5. Greensburg C.C. 13-3 5
1. Norwin 13-1-1 1
2. Pine-Richland 13-1 2
3. Penn-Trafford 13-2-1 4
4. Peters Township 13-3 3
5. Seneca Valley 11-4 —
Out: Fox Chapel (11-4-1, 5)
1. Moon 16-0 1
2. Mars 13-1 2
3. South Park 13-2-1 3
4. Chartiers Valley 12-4-1 —
5. Elizabeth Forward 11-4 —
Out: Montour (9-6, 4), Thomas Jefferson (13-3, 5)
1. Freedom 16-0 1
2. Freeport 13-2-1 2
3. Waynesburg 15-1 3
4. Yough 12-2 4
5. Burrell 10-3-1 5
1. Seton LaSalle 13-2 2
2. Shady Side Academy 9-3 5
3. Greensburg C.C. 10-3 1
4. CW North Catholic 13-4
5. Sewickley Academy 10-4-2
Out: Apollo-Ridge (9-4, 3), Vincentian (10-4, 4)