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Hounds cut office staff after dropping divisions

By JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Friday, September 12, 2003

Not only are the Riverhounds dropping a division, they also dropped a third of their front office.

Nearly a third of the office staff was cut Thursday from the media relations director to director of merchandising after the team officially announced it is moving to the Pro Select League from the A-League where it has been since 1999. The PSL is the third division in United Soccer Leagues.

Riverhounds spokesman Cliff Gorski said yesterday's moves were difficult for president and owner Paul Heasley who had to reorganize because of financial problems.

"Most PSL teams operate with a smaller staff," Gorski said. "While the reductions are unfortunate, they put us right in line with PSL teams."

Just who will play next season has not been determined, since Heasley terminated all player contracts last week. Many of them don't want to play at that level, which differs from the A-League with fewer games and less travel costs. Some PSL players are paid on a per-game basis.

Peters Township graduate and midfielder Justin Evans plans to sign with the A-League Charleston Battery.

"I am way out of here," said Evans, who will play for the Cleveland Force of the Major Indoor Soccer League this fall. "I have sort of lost faith. I was told one thing and another thing happened. I came to play in Pittsburgh because I wanted security. I know they are still going to be around, but (Division III) is not the level I want to play at."

Defender Jaman Tripoli is investigating other options. Tripoli said the fact director of media relations Sharon Talarico was let go was not good because Talarico was one of the hardest workers in the place.

"You get what you pay for," Tripoli said. "And when you pay nothing in terms of cutting office staff, you will get nothing in terms of fan interest because there are no office people left to create it."

Players aren't necessarily upset the team is dropping a level, but they are not happy they weren't told until recently, Tripoli said. Heasley had a meeting with them in August but did not say he was considering going to Division III. Heasley did not return phone calls yesterday.

Gorski said fans will still see quality soccer at an affordable price and was confident about a soccer complex being built despite the recent moves.

"I know it will happen," Gorski said. "A soccer complex has always been in the forefront of Paul Heasley's mind. I don't understand why people would say it is not going to happen."

  • Notes: Riverhounds forward Thiago Martins and midfielder Ricardo Villar were named to the A-League First Team. Martins, who led the A-League in scoring, signed with D.C. United of Major League Soccer. Villar finished tied for total assists with 12. The Riverhounds retained head coach Ricardo Iribarren, who took over the team July 11. Midfielder Matthew Chulis was named director of youth development, and Mary Wilkie is general manager/director of operations.

    JoAnne Klimovich Harrop can be reached at jharrop@tribweb.com or (412) 320-7889.


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    Riverhounds likely to drop to lower division in USL

    Thursday, August 28, 2003

    By Ray Fittipaldo, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

    It's not official yet, but the Pittsburgh Riverhounds are dropping out of the A-League and moving to a lower professional league.

    Team owner Paul Heasley met with his players yesterday afternoon and notified them of his decision to drop to Division III in the United Soccer Leagues. The name of the league the Riverhounds will be playing in is the Pro Select League.

    "I can tell you that most of the players are a little shocked," said Jaman Tripoli, a member of the team for the five seasons it competed in the A-League and a year-round employee of the club. "We all wanted to stay in the A-League to improve upon what we started. We're still waiting to hear all the details of what's going to happen."

    Riverhounds officials confirmed the team met yesterday but denied to speak about the nature of the meeting. Sharon Talarico, director of media relations, said the team will make an official announcement Tuesday, the day after it must notify the USL of their plans.

    Tim Holt, director of A-League operations, said he has not been officially notified by Heasley but expects to hear from him within days. He said the proper protocol is to notify players first and then the league.

    "Any decision made by the Riverhounds that keeps them in United Soccer Leagues is a decision we will be happy with," Holt said. "We still feel strongly that Pittsburgh is an A-League market, and the Riverhounds can be successful in the proper venue."

    Heasley has been unable to buy land where he can build a soccer stadium and complex that is more centrally located or accessible than the team's current home, Bethel Park Stadium in the South Hills. If he can build his complex, the Riverhounds would be strong candidates to return to the A-League, Holt said.

    "When I left the offices, I made sure I stopped by Paul Heasley's office and thanked him," Tripoli said. "He told me he was going to keep professional soccer in the area. This team will be back. He feels confident he can stabilize his finances, go to Division III and then return to the A-League in a couple of seasons."

    Many players will scramble for other soccer jobs around the country. Professional indoor soccer begins in a few weeks and some players might attempt to hook on with some of those teams. Others will attempt to join teams from Major League Soccer. Some of the younger players might be asked to play for the Riverhounds of the PSL.

    But for many on the team, especially the five-year players who have bought homes and raised families here, the news was sobering.

    "I think people are still waiting for the news to settle in a little bit," Tripoli said. "We have our banquet Friday, so I'm sure it could get emotional there. No matter what happens, the friends and buddies I have on the team now, I'll stay in touch with the rest of my life."


    Ray Fittipaldo can be reached at rfittipaldo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1230.

    Hounds to drop a classification

    TRIBUNE-REVIEW
    Thursday, August 28, 2003


    The Riverhounds will drop a classification next season.

    The soccer team, which had played in the Division II A-League the past five years, will move down a level to the D3 Pro Select League. The formal announcement is expected to be made early next week.

    Riverhounds president and CEO Paul Heasley met with the players Wednesday to inform them of the move, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review learned yesterday.

    It is not a shock to the soccer community the team is having financial problems. The Riverhounds also missed the playoffs for the second consecutive season.

    "They have tried many things, but since they don't understand the business, they will continue to lose money," said former Riverhounds head coach John Kowalski who currently coaches the Robert Morris University women's soccer team. "A little bit of knowledge is very dangerous. They will continue to spin their wheels and continue to lose money. In a short time they have managed to destroy a professional soccer organization."

    A-League director of operations Tim Holt said until his office receives official notification he could not comment on the move. He did say he wants the Riverhounds to remain with United Soccer Leagues at the level they feel is best for them.

    "The entire time the Riverhounds have been with us they have been committed to soccer," Holt said. "They have been one of the top organizations in the USL."

    So has Rochester, which is one of the premier teams in the A-League. The Raging Rhinos draw an average of 10,000 fans per game and are expected to break ground for a new soccer-only stadium in the next week. The Riverhounds have been exploring stadium issues but have not been able to solidify anything. They play at Bethel Park Stadium, a high school venue, where they have struggled to get crowds in excess of 2,000.

    "I think the venue the Riverhounds play at make it difficult to be in a premier league," said Rochester Raging Rhinos coach Pat Ercoli. "It is difficult to play at a high school field."

    Teams in the D3 Pro Select League have lower budgets than the A-League. Most games are close in proximity to save on travel expenses. They also play less games per season. Players are paid on a game-by-game basis while some are amateur-status only.

    "I heard some rumblings about this a month ago," Ercoli said. "I had thought maybe it was a motivational thing for the players (to play better). It seemed to work because the Riverhounds played well (at the end of the season)."

    JoAnne Klimovich Harrop can be reached at jharrop@tribweb.com or (412) 320-7889.