He came in with little public fanfare, save a few dozen die-hard Riverhounds supporters who were happy to see local Pittsburgh native Justin Evans replace Gene Klein as manager. He promised us a winning attitude and accountability on the field, a tough task for a club that missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons. Many were skeptical, and as most of Pittsburgh forgot about soccer for the winter, Evans began to assemble the backbone of the 2010 squad.
In were Chad Severs (F), Travis MacKenzie (M) and Shintaro Harada (CB). Three players with pedigree and experience. Three players who were slated to make an immediate impact. As the season drew closer more pieces were added. Alex Weekes (M/F) was signed and Hunter Gilstrap (GK) joined the squad. Evans was instrumental in recruiting both players to bolster the club. Gilstrap added stability on the goal line while Weekes provided youthful talent. Rookie Jeremy Deighton (F) made the squad after impressing during the pre-season, leading the team in goals. After the season got underway, Justin further adjusted the roster by bringing in Lee Kouadio-Tobey (F) and Matt Tuttle (M). Both players have an attacking flare. Lee brought pace and the ability to run at defenders while Matt provides shiftiness and creativity on the wing. Free-agent additions Sterling Flunder (D) and Lou Rolko (D) were able to wrestle starting spots from fan-favorites Eddie Hayden and Nathan Salsi. Rookie midfielders Adam Gazda and Matt Baker have both provided depth and skill off the bench. In fact, only two members of the 2009 starting XI still hold their spots on the pitch.
The personnel moves and team selection may not have always been popular with fans and supporters, but the results cannot be questioned. The Hounds sit in 3rd place with four games remaining. With three of those at home the Riverhounds control their own post-season fate.
I've heard Evans described as arrogant, abrasive and overly confident. Perhaps that's just what we needed: an arrogant SOB with a blue-collar attitude to come in and not only overhaul the roster, but change the team mentality. The Hounds play with confidence and the belief that they're the better team. It's made the difference between losing a tough road game and salvaging a point. Getting a big home win instead of settling for a draw. Those positive results are pushing the club in the standings and demanding respect off the field.
Just this past week, the Post Gazette ran a decent story on the Hounds and updates from the Charlotte game were aired on local sports radio 93.7 The Fan. When the Riverhounds win, the media cannot ignore the club. Above all else, we love a winning team here in Pittsburgh. Look no further than manager Justin Evans as the primary reason for the Riverhounds recent success.
UNLEASH THE HOUNDS!