In the wake of difficult news about the team filing for Chapter 11 protection and reorganization, the Pittsburgh Riverhounds are moving forward, and will open the 2014 USL Pro season on the road Saturday in Orlando.
The Hounds’ match with the defending league champion SC Lions at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex will get underway at 7:30 p.m.
The season opener is a rematch of a first-round matchup in the USL Pro playoffs from last August. Pittsburgh will be looking for payback as Orlando City shut out the Riverhounds 5-0 in the Florida Citrus Bowl.
After taking on the Kickers in Richmond, Va., in Week 2, it will be time to unleash the Hounds for their second season at Highmark Stadium on April 12 when they host Wilmington Hammerheads FC in their home opener.
Besides the 14 home games, head coach Justin Evans and his squad will also play 14 games on the road for a total of 28 this season. The Hounds finished in seventh place last year with a 10-8-8 record and 38 points. The top eight teams in the 14-team league will make the playoffs, a single-elimination tournament.
Pittsburgh welcomes back Jose Angulo, the 2013 USL Pro MVP. He claimed the league scoring title with 34 points last season. Hailing from Columbia, Angulo’s team-leading 15 goals tied him with Orlando City’s Dominic Dwyer for the most in the league. The duo tied for a new league record for goals in a single season.
Also back is midfielder Matt Dallman, who set a new league record with his 12 assists in 2013. He made three appearances on the USL Pro Team of the Week. Returning starting goalkeeper Hunter Gilstrap had 67 saves in 21 games for the Hounds. He and Andrew Dykstra of the Richmond Kickers shared third place in the league for most ties during the season.
Other returnees include defenders Nikola Katic and Andrew Marshall, midfielders Felix “Alfonso” Motagalvan and Kevin Kerr, and forward Jhonny Arteaga.
It will be interesting to see how much a healthy Arteaga will contribute to the Hounds offense as he was the 2011 USL Pro scoring leader. Meanwhile, Marshall was the team leader in fouls with 37, and in games played with 26.
The Hounds signed an affiliation partnership with the Houston Dynamo of Major League Soccer last November. It was announced Monday that Dynamo prospects Anthony Arena, Jason Johnson and Bryan Salazar would be joining the team prior to Saturday’s game with Orlando. Johnson and Salazar are forwards while Arena is a central defender.
The Riverhounds have recently added forward Collins John this week. The 28-year old from the Netherlands spent five years with Fulham of the English Premier League from 2004 to 2009. He scored three goals in 17 appearances with the Chicago Fire of MLS in 2010. John is the fifth addition the Riverhounds have made to the roster, joining USL Pro First Team forward Joseph Ngwenya, midfielders Anthony Obodai and Daniel Earls, and defender Brian Fekete.
Ngwenya had 23 points last season with the Richmond Kickers while Obodai played with the now dark Phoenix Wolves. Earls was with the Rochester Rhinos, and Fekete was on the roster of Orlando City.
Last, but not least, back in February, Pittsburgh re-signed forward Mike Seth, midfielders Rob Vincent and Seth C’deBaca, defenders Sterling Flunder and Mike Green, and finally, goalkeeper Greg Blum. The Hounds are hoping the melding of new and old will help them to get off to a strong start in 2014. Last season, they were winless in their first seven matches (0-4-3).
The beautiful game is ready to begin anew along the banks of the Monongahela River in downtown Pittsburgh.