Riverhounds sign affiliation agreement with Columbus Crew


The Riverhounds have signed an affiliation agreement to become the primary destination for loaned players this season.

The Pittsburgh Riverhounds have signed an affiliation agreement with a premier Major League Soccer club—the Columbus Crew.

According to a press release from the Riverhounds on Wednesday,  The Hounds will become the primary destination for Columbus’ loaned players during the 2016 United Soccer League season. This move figures to help the Hounds improve from 2015’s campaign with the development of some of Columbus’ young players.

"“Our coaching staff is thrilled to be affiliated with one of the best organizations in MLS,” said Riverhounds head coach Mark Steffens. “Crew SC sporting director and head coach Gregg Berhalter’s style and philosophy are similar to ours, so I believe our partnership will be very fruitful on a number of fronts.This is a great opportunity for our entire club to learn from Columbus both on and off the field, to help to develop young loanees into well-rounded professionals and men of integrity, and to strengthen our roster for another USL playoff push in 2016.”"

Columbus advanced to the 2015 MLS Cup Finals, but fell to the Portland Timbers in a 2-1 thriller. The Crew last won the MLS cup back in 2008 which was their only MLS championship in team history.

The Riverhounds barely made the Eastern Conference playoffs last season, edging the Charlotte Independence by just one point in the standings. Pittsburgh was one of the top offensive teams in the USL, but a revolving door in net hindered the team against some of the premier opponents in the league. The Riverhounds gave up the second-most goals out of any playoff team (46) last season.

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This move will likely help develop a solid talent base in Pittsburgh that will act as a feeder to one of the MLS’ best clubs right now. Hopefully that will mean more consistency in goal for the Hounds as goalkeepers Calle Brown and Ryan Thompson split a lion’s share of the time in net.

Both Brown and Thompson are no longer on the roster, leaving unproven Ryan Hulings with the goalkeeping duties.

Neither Brown nor Thompson were able to solidify themselves as a day-t0-day starter in goal. An influx of talent from Columbus could be able to fix that. This is the second time that the Riverhounds have partnered with an MLS club, but the 2014 agreement with the Houston Dynamo resulted in many talented players getting called up due to an inury-riddled campaign for Houston.

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If Columbus manages to stay healthy, this could be the move that propels the Hounds further into the USL playoffs. The Houston partnership brought goalkeeper Michael Lisch to Pittsburgh, so perhaps a partnership with Columbus could bring in another solid keeper and solidify the defensive end.