Pittsburgh Riverhounds Add Four Players To Roster For 2015 Season


The Pittsburgh Riverhounds started assembling their roster for the 2015 season as the team announced on Thursday the signing of four free agent players. The quartet is led by the full-time return of defender Anthony Arena, the Hound’s 2014 Defensive Player of the Year.

The 5-foot-11, 170-pound Wake Forest product, who was on loan from the Houston Dynamo of Major League Soccer in 2014, played 1384 minutes over 16 appearances for Pittsburgh. The 24-year-old from Kenmore, Washington was with Houston for two seasons after being chosen in the 2013 MLS Supplemental Draft. His MLS debut was June 2013.

Riverhounds head coach Mark Steffens said on the team’s web site, “Anthony is a key signing for us. He brings great leadership on and off the field and his professionalism will impact our younger players in a positive way.”

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Coming back with Arena is forward/midfielder Miroslav Cabrilo. The former Robert Morris Colonial, who will turn 23 in June, played 242 minutes last season in 12 appearances. The 6-foot-1 Ontario native scored twice in 2014. In September, he contributed the opening goal of the season finale, a 2-1 loss at Highmark Stadium against Arizona United SC.

The two new Hounds coming to the South Shore are midfielder Stephen Okai and goalkeeper Ryan Thompson.

Okai, 25, put up four goals in 24 appearances for Steffens in 2013 with the USL Pro’s Charlotte Eagles. In 2014, the 5-foot-7, 178-pound footballer from Ghana had two goals in 26 appearances with the USL Pro’s Orange County Blues. The University Of Mobile product was drafted 31st overvall in the 2013 MLS Super Draft by the Philadelphia Union, but was released by the team Feb. 22, 2013.

Thompson, 30, is the first goalkeeper signed by Pittsburgh for the 2015 campaign. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound goalie from Kingston appeared in two games for his country as the Jamaican national team captured the 2014 Caribbean Cup. He also played last season for the Tampa Bay Rowdies of the North American Soccer League.

He was an All-American during his time at the University of Tampa as he played in 57 contests for the Spartans. Thompson was the first Jamaican to play in the UEFA Champions League in July 2011 when he was the goalkeeper for Ireland’s Shamrock Rovers in a 1-0 loss at FC Copenhagen.

New Conferences: The USL Pro announced on Wednesday its 2015 competition arrangement. It features a two-conference alignment to help promote regional rivalries following the organization’s off-season expansion. The league has increased to 24 teams for 2015. This summer sees both the establishment of professional soccer in new markets in addition of seven MLS owned and operated clubs.

This season, the USL Pro divides into 12-team Eastern and Western Conferences with teams facing each of their conference opponents at least twice during the 28-game regular season schedule. The additional six games that are beyond the standard home and away against the other 11 intra-conference foes, will be matchups against geographic rivals resulting in several cross-conference contests.

Joining the Hounds in the Eastern Conference include the Charleston Battery, the Charlotte Independence, FC Montreal, the Harrisburg City Islanders, Louisville City FC, the New York Red Bulls, the Richmond Kickers, the Rochester Rhinos, Saint Louis FC, Toronto FC II and the Wilmington Hammerheads FC.

The dozen members of the Western Conference are as follows: Arizona United SC, the Austin Aztex, the Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, the OKC Energy FC, the Orange County Blues FC, the Portland Timbers 2, Real Monarchs SLC, the Sacramento Republic FC, the Seattle Sounders FC 2, the Tulsa Roughnecks FC, and the Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2.

Playoff Changes: The 2015 campaign brings a refinement to the USL Pro’s single-elimination playoff format with the top six finishers in each conference moving to the four-week post season. The squads will be seeded No. 1 through No. 6 in each conference, with the top two seeds obtaining first-round byes and the No. 3 seed hosting the No. 6 seed and the No. 4 seed hosting the No. 5 seed.

The winner of the No. 3 vs. No. 6 match-up advances to take on the No. 2 seed, and the winner of the No. 4 vs. No. 5 contest faces off against the No. 1 seed. The winners take the pitch for the Eastern & Western Conference Championship games. The final two teams proceed to the 2015 USL Pro Championship, hosted by the higher seeded club.

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