Thursday, June 26, 2014

An Afternoon with the Riverhounds

On Sunday afternoon, a small person and I attended the Pittsburgh Riverhounds match versus the Richmond Kickers.  It was my first time at Highmark Stadium, adjacent to Station Square, and I was impressed by its physical cleanliness and its cleanliness in terms of design.  The good news is that I don't have UPMC insurance, so I'll be able to come to Highmark Stadium next year after the two entities split....

We got two tickets in the Supporters' section, which is the kind term for "cheap seats behind the goal".  They were $12.50.  I was a little taken aback by the price for regular seats in the grandstand -- tickets in the center section were $27/ticket and tickets in the end sections were $21/ticket.  The Riverhounds are in the lowest classification of U.S. Professional Soccer!  I understand that the stadium cost $10M to build, but c'mon now.

And after seeing the quality of the Riverhounds in person, I can attest that the 1-7-4 was achieved through honest means.  We were barely settled in after getting a hot dog when Richmond scored the first of their 2 goals in the first 10 minutes.  The Riverhounds' full backs were atrocious and completely hung the goalkeeper out to dry.  The Riverhounds lack a cohesive style of play, especially on offense.  It felt like I was watching a basketball team play soccer at times -- the Hounds would isolate a winger who would make some moves, then pass into the center of the field where the Kickers would then collapse down on that player.  Said player wouldn't be able to do much of anything to get off a shot.  The Riverhounds lost 3-1.

What I was impressed by was the unofficial/official cheering squad of the Riverhounds, known as the Steel Army.  They were sitting just to our left and entertained both myself and the 7 year old.  Led by a hefty guy beating on a drum, the 40 person group had a wide variety of chants to amuse themselves, energize the crowd, and attempt to distract the Richmond players when they were on that side of the field.  I particularly liked the adaption of the Beatles' Yellow Submarine to "we all cheer for the yellow soccer team".

They were attempting to make it look like an English Premier League game, but that kind of bothered me in some way.  On an 85 degree day, they were wearing supporter scarves that are ever-present in the EPL and the chants were the kind you would expect to hear at a Liverpool v. Everton game.  Shouldn't we be trying to do our own thing?

The ownership of the Riverhounds have grand plans to get the Riverhounds entry to Major League Soccer within 10 years.  The same ownership that filed for bankruptcy before the season started, mind you.  To do that, Highmark Stadium would have to be greatly expanded.  It currently holds around 3,000-3,500 if I had to guesstimate it.  A typical MLS stadium, as per this Wiki stub, holds around 20,000 (San Jose is the smallest at 10,000).  I was having a hard time envisioning how they could retrofit this stadium to get there, as one side is virtually adjacent to the railroad tracks.  I suppose the northern side where the main building is could have a steep array of seats placed over top of it, the supporters' section could have a corresponding array of seats and the main section would be expanded upwards, but that's a big leap.

The Riverhounds kind of suck right now, but the 7 year old who dreams of playing with Steven Gerrard loved it, so that's all the really matters.

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