Justin Evans, Head Coach, Pittsburgh Riverhounds (April 16, 2011):
First, can you tell us about yourself – your playing and coaching experience?
I grew up in the South Hills of Pittsburgh (Peters Township). I was the 1st player ever signed by the Riverhounds Organization in 1999. I had a 10 year Pro career. Played a couple of years in the MLS for the San Jose Earthquakes, Chicago Fire, and the Dallas Burn. Played two seasons in Poland; one season in the Polish 1st Division and one season in the Polish 2nd Division.
Also played in the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL) for four seasons. Last year was my 1st year as a Professional Head Coach, after being player/Asst. Coach for the Riverhounds in 2009.
Can you tell us a bit about the Riverhounds – the team, league and where/how fans can watch the team?
We return a solid core of last year’s team who made the Playoffs for the 1st time since 2006.
This off-season, we added some players, including four players with MLS experience, that should help us be a better team this season. Also in the off-season, we have moved into a new League (USLPRO), which is the League right below MLS. Their are 15 teams in our League across the country, which also includes a Carribean contingent.
We play our Home Games at Chartiers Valley High School and fans can find our schedule at www.riverhounds.com
For those new to the Riverhounds, what should they look for in your team and league in terms of style of play?
In terms of style of play for our team this season, we are going to look to continue to build on last years success. We had the stingiest defense in the League last year and we return the “Goalkeeper of the Year”- Hunter Gilstrap and the “Defender of the Year” – Shintaro Harada.
As I said earlier, we made brought in some key offensive acquisitions to help us score goals and be a dynamic offensive team as well this year. The League will be very competitive and all of the games will be exciting!
What is the fan experience and how does it differ from other sports?
The fan experience in the game of soccer is different than most other sports. There are rarely any stops in the game, so there is constant action for 2- 45 minute halves. It is more like hockey in terms of the continual action throughout the game.
The season has just gotten underway. How is the team looking – what are your expectations this Year?
We lost our first game on the road to Richmond (2-1). However, our team goals never change…we work to win the Championship every single year. That is the mentality of our team and our Organization.
How do you recruit players? Are most local?
Finding players keeps my coaching staff busy throughout the off-season. We host both Open and Invitational Player Combines here in Pittsburgh. We also attend other combines.
Also, we are very active in contacting college and Pro coaches about players to see who is available and what we need for our team each year. We do have a nice contingent of local players, who are important in helping to bring the Pittsburgh attitude to the team.
Who are the standout players to watch for on this team?
Besides Hunter Gilstrap and Shintaro Harada mentioned above, we return Chad Severs, our team Captain this year and leading goal scorer from last season. Jason Kutney, Louie Rolko, and Sterling Flunder return as defenders from last year’s stingy defense. We added Jason Yeisley, Boyzzz Khumalo, Kyle Veris, and Sammy Appiah who all have MLS experience on their resumes.
What non-game related activities do you offer – i.e. training, schools, etc.
The Youth aspect of our Organization is huge. The Riverhounds Academy has grown to 550 players this past Winter and we are a advanced technical training Academy for youth players aged 5-15 years old.
We also offer Riverhounds Summer Schools all over the Greater Pittsburgh area throughout the summer.
Youth players can also take part in our “Train with the Pros” program through our individual and small group training offerings year round.
How are you and the team helping to get Pittsburgh kids to play soccer?
All of the mentioned above. As well as our player appearances that occur throughout the summer.
What’s the next step up from the USL Pro League? Where do players go next and how does that process work?
The next step for the players would be Major League Soccer (MLS). The hope of the Organization is that we would be able to help every player play at the highest level that they can during their soccer career.
If players have a good season, MLS teams have scouts and they would be pulled in for a tryout. I believe that the USL PRO League has expressed interest in expanding throughout the country and I believe that they will be successful in their quest to do just that.
Any examples of players that have played for the Riverhounds and have risen to the MLS or other pro leagues?
Boyzzz Khumalo is a player that played for the Riverhounds in 2008. After a stellar season, he was picked up by DC United and played there for two seasons. He is now back to help the Hounds be successful this summer.
What would surprise fans about this team?
I think that fans are always surprised by the players accessibility.
Fans who have been to a Hounds game know that after every game, everyone is welcome onto the field to talk to the players, as well as being able to get their picture and an autograph from their favorite player(s).
Any other thoughts for readers?
We look forward to another exciting summer of soccer and we appreciate your support of our Organization!