Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC set a club regular season record with 5,202 fans on Saturday night, backing a club whose success has it among the league's title contenders again this season. | Photo courtesy Mallory Neil / Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
Since current owner Tuffy Shallenberger took over Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC in 2014, there have been some big nights – and big crowds – at Highmark Stadium.
This past Saturday, though, provided a landmark moment for the club in the city’s sporting landscape.
A regular-season club record of 5,202 fans packed into the venue to see the Hounds claim a 4-0 victory against Atlanta United 2 that continued their strong start to the season and provided an on-field show that matched the atmosphere in the crowd.
“It was a great night to have the energy in the stands,” said Hounds Head Coach Bob Lilley. “It's great to see.”
A glorious night on the banks of the Monongahela certainly helped, with sunshine illuminating the picturesque venue at kickoff. Where the difference has also come is in the investment that has been made by Shallenberger in a front office led by President Vic Gregovits that has helped the passionate sports fans across the Steel City buy into what the Hounds are selling.
“It’s a credit to our business side,” added Lilley. “The team is playing well, but I know how hard the team upstairs is working every week to reach out and get the word out to the community from a marketing standpoint. They are very important to our organization, there is no organization without a business side that can grow and prosper.”
Of course, the Hounds are more than living up to their end on the field.
A packed supporters section filled by the Steel Army led a raucous atmosphere at Highmark Stadium on Saturday as the Hounds took a 4-0 win against Atlanta United 2. | Photo courtesy Chris Cowger / Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
Saturday’s win moved them into second place in the Eastern Conference standings ahead of their visit to first-placed Louisville City FC on Saturday. New arrival Dane Kelly bagged his fifth and sixth goals of the season against Atlanta, while veteran playmaker Kenardo Forbes moved to 49 regular season assists for his career in the Championship. The Jamaican duo are now tied for first in goals and assists respectively in the league this season, the centerpieces of an attack that sits second in the league with 16 goals from seven games.
Kelly’s arrival to supplement the attacking quality already present in the squad with Russell Cicerone, Alex Dixon and Albert Dikwa has helped the Hounds find another level in the final third. The understanding that group has built is now the foundation for its success. Kelly’s move to find space near the penalty spot behind Forbes’ near-post run for Dixon to pick out as a second option in the penalty area provided a fine opening goal to get the crowd on its feet after 20 minutes and showed the chemistry the group has quickly developed.
“During preseason I tried to learn the system, and then once you learn the system, it's easy,” said Kelly. “I have confidence now. Scoring goals is what I do. Bob always talks about making runs in the back, no matter what. Kenny [Forbes] made the near-post run, and I followed it. I think that it was a good ball from [Alex] Dixon, and me making that run after Kenny was good.”
Since Lilley’s arrival before the 2018 season, the Hounds have been one of the Championship’s best teams on the field. Pittsburgh finished first in the Eastern Conference in 2019 only to be dealt a postseason upset in extra time by Louisville City FC in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, but over the past four seasons the side ranks third in regular season wins with 62 behind only Phoenix Rising FC (73) and Louisville City FC (65).
Adding a fanbase that can bring the support those clubs see on a weekly basis will only help the Hounds soar to even greater heights.
“Hopefully the community embraces us and keeps showing up,” said Lilley. “That really helps, it’s an electric atmosphere that can help carry us through the season.”
Riverhounds SC's Alex Dixon signs a fans cap after recording an assist and five key passes in the side's 4-0 win against Atlanta United 2. | Photo courtesy Mallory Neil / Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
As memorable as Saturday night proved, the club’s hunt to make history and earn silverware in the postseason is one that will be well worth following as Forbes, Kelly and company lead the way.