The Pittsburgh Riverhounds ended their 2016 season the same way they started it: with a loss.
The Riverhounds finished their season with a 6-17-7 record. Five out of their six wins came under head coach Dave Brandt, who took the reins after nine games. The team started the season with Mark Steffens as head coach, but he was fired when the Riverhounds lost to the Lansdowne Bhoys in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
Meanwhile, Brandt led the team to five wins, four more draws and plenty of losses. But that’s not to say the Riverhounds didn’t have a talented roster.
And, as the matches went on, players matured.
The defensive back four showed that, especially toward the end of the season. Sergio Campbell, Willie Hunt, Marshall Hollingsworth and Michael Green were all praised by Brandt in their final match of the season, and he called their season “progressive.”
But now a big question remains for Brandt, and his coaching staff: Who will stay, and who will return? Pittsburgh has only two players on its entire roster who are under contract for next season (Kevin Kerr and Chevaughn Walsh).
If the Riverhounds are lucky, they’ll get Corey Hertzog to return. Hertzog scored the most goals for the Riverhounds this season (13), and he was even nominated for the USL’s Golden Boot Award. Hertzog was everywhere in the Riverhounds’ final match of the season against FC Cincinnati (which Pittsburgh lost, 1-0), as he desperately tried to score the equalizer. Brandt noted Hertzog has shown that determination the whole season.
“He always does that,” Brandt said. “That is just Corey 24/7. Heart of a lion, and the lungs of one, too, because he just goes, and goes and goes. Corey has had a great season, without a doubt. It is too bad he couldn’t steal one at the end. He had a great season.”
The Riverhounds will also be crossing their fingers that both centerbacks, Campbell and Hunt, will return. Hunt was in his second season with the Riverhounds, while Campbell was in his first season in Pittsburgh. Campbell, with his tall stature, was more of a wall than his counterpart, but Hunt showed his versatility by scoring a goal and improving the Riverhounds’ attacking game.
Pittsburgh will also look to regain some of its valuable Columbus Crew SC players who were given to the team on loan. That’s all up to Columbus, however. Marshall Hollingsworth proved good enough to be considered part of the Crew’s MLS team, but the Riverhounds would love to have him back. Hollingsworth can play many different positions, ranging from left back to left midfielder.
The Riverhounds also need to settle at another key position: goalkeeper. The team started off the season with Hunter Gilstrap as the starter. Then, Costa Rican goalkeeper Mauricio Vargas took over. Toward the end of the season, Vargas suffered a back injury, which led to the Riverhounds bringing in Columbus Crew goalkeeper Zack Steffen.
Now, Steffen is back with the Crew, and only time will tell whether he stays with the Crew long enough for them to loan him back to the Riverhounds for next season. Gilstrap announced his retirement during the FC Cincinnati match, meanwhile, Vargas left the team in September to return home to Costa Rica. As of now, Pittsburgh is clueless about who its goalkeeper will be for 2017.
The Riverhounds have plenty of offseason moves to make, and Brandt has already started, saying he and his staff have already reached out to some players and will soon start talking to the players currently on the team’s roster.
“I think it will be a busy week for us right away,” Brandt said. “Evaluating and meeting with players. Discussing what our moves are with everybody and everything. We do need an offseason for us to regroup at this point. And that starts right away.”
A long offseason might be just what the Riverhounds need.
Image credit: Richmond Kickers