On Monday afternoon, the Pittsburgh Riverhounds announced the club has fired head coach Justin Evans.
Through the Riverhounds first seven games, the team has just three points and an 0-4-3 record, which is worst in USL-PRO.
Last week, the team picked up their first and only victory of the year when they defeated the New York Reb Bulls U-23 team in U.S. Open Cup play. That win was followed by another loss in league play, prompting the change.
Riverhounds CEO Jason Kutney said this about Evans in a press release announcing the decision: “Justin has been a critical part of this organization for many years, but we felt that we needed to do this at this time to try and turn things around.”
Evans was in his fifth season as head coach of the Riverhounds and had a history of slow starts. Last year Pittsburgh had the same record through seven games, but fought back to finish seventh and make the playoffs.
Pittsburgh will be lead by Nikola Katic – a Riverhounds defender – on an interim basis and assisted by Director of Academy Operations, Scott Gibson.
Pittsburgh goes on the road for their next match against the Wilmington Hammerheads Friday, May 23.
Affiliation Adds Challenges
The affiliation between Pittsburgh and the Houston Dynamo hasn’t provided much positives to talk about in the first year.
Dominic Kinnear has battled a host of injuries and was forced to recall players on loan in Pittsburgh on several occasions. With Boniek Garcia a lock for the World Cup and Brad Davis fighting for a roster spot with the US, that’ll continue as Brian Ownby and Jason Johnson will likely stick around in Houston for a while.
The back and forth of Ownby, Johnson, and Anthony Arena surely puts a strain on Pittsburgh and likely has been a distraction as the team tries to put a consistent lineup on the field.
The partnership just hasn’t seemed to benefit Pittsburgh aside from Dynamo goalkeeper Michael Lisch’s role with the club. Lisch wasn’t in Houston’s initial plans of the loan agreement, but was sent north when starting goalkeeper Hunter Gilstrap went down with and injury. Lisch has become a regular starter for the Riverhounds.
Dynamo Players on Loan
Here is a rundown of the Dynamo players on loan and how they’ve performed for Pittsburgh this season.
Arena began the season in the starting lineup and has done well in his time with Pittsburgh. Part of the Riverhounds struggles have been in the defense, but Arena has been solid for them. He was recalled by the Dynamo and has missed two games, but is back in Pittsburgh (at the moment).
Stats: 5 games played, 450 minutes
JJ, like Arena, began as a starter for Pittsburgh, but has been called back to Houston for midfield depth more than once. With Boniek Garcia slated to miss time in the World Cup and Brad Davis working towards the same goal, Johnson will like hang around in Houston longer.
Stats: 5 games played, 354 minutes, 0 goals, 0 assists
Salazar had high hopes after impressing in the Dynamo Academy and signing a Homegrown contract before he even graduated high school. But he showed up to his first preseason as a professional soccer player looking a big out of shape. He managed to get on the field just once with Pittsburgh as a late sub – and didn’t appear to interested in the game. Salazar is now back in Houston and only time will tell if he’ll go back out on loan. It’s too early to close the book on such a young player, but it is an extremely disappointing start to his career with the Dynamo.
Stats: 1 game played, 5 minutes, 0 goals, 0 assists
Lisch was a late addition to the squad as Kinnear sent him out when Pittsburgh was in need of another keeper due to injury. He’s found his way into a starting role and picked up his first win of the season in a shutout against New York in the U.S. Open Cup last week. He also has one shutout in league play (vs Charleston).
Stats: 4 games played, 360 minutes, 1.00 GAA
Ownby was another late addition to the Riverhounds, but with injury and absence concerns, has found his way back to Houston quickly. He scored for the Riverhounds against the USL club he spent most of 2013 with, the Richmond Kickers.
Stats: 3 games played, 213 minutes, 1 goal, 0 assists
What are you impressions of the Dynamo & Riverhounds partnership? Has either side benefited from the deal? And are these USL-PRO partnerships really working? Let us know what you think in the comment section below.