PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The Riverhounds got their first win of the season Saturday night at Highmark Stadium, defeating Toronto FC II by a 2-1 score.
That was not the big news of the night though, as it was learned afterward that head coach Mark Steffens was informed yesterday that Saturday night’s game would be his last. Steffens was relieved of his duties shortly in to his second season as Riverhounds coach as the team has had a disastrous start to the 2016 season. Before tonight’s first win, the Hounds were 0-4-3 in the USL and had been defeated mid-week in the second round of the US Open Cup, a separate competition. The loss was to a lower league opponent, this combined with the bad start appeared to be the tipping point in the organizations decision to let Steffens go.
Steffens did not plan on telling the players before the game, but word got out throughout the organization, so he had no choice but to address in the locker room. He was emotional then and he was emotional after the game.
“I want to thank Tuffy, the organization and the coaching staff,” a teary eyed Steffens said afterwards. “I am not going to blame anyone but myself, that’s professional sports.”
As for the game itself, the news of the coach leaving seem to galvanize a Hounds squad that needed no other motivation, being winless in 2016 heading in to tonight’s game. The Hounds held the majority of the possession in the game but could not find the back of the net until midway through the second half.
The Hounds took a short corner kick as Kevin Kerr played the ball to midfielder Lebo Moloto who took a touch an then curled the ball beautifully in to the top corner of the net, breaking the deadlock. It was after scoring that Moloto ran towards Steffens to give him a big hug and the rest of the team followed.
Pittsburgh doubled their lead just minutes later off a throw in in the Toronto half. Isiah Schafer threw it long in to the penalty area, Connor Branson and Drew Russel flicked it on to the far post where Corey Herzog smashed in to the back of the net to make it 2-0 Hounds. The team again celebrated with their departing coach, feeling relief on their way to the team’s first win. Toronto would get goal late and the Hounds did have to hang on in the end, but they did get their first win of the USL Season, 2-1.
The team was relieved to get the first win, but felt they should have done more this season to not put their coach in this position, “the performances haven’t been good enough and that hurts,” captain Kevin Kerr said after the game.
Steffens was hired before the start of the 2015 season after many years in Charlotte; the Hounds were knocked out the first round of the 2015 USL Playoffs in his one full season.
The Riverhounds are now 1-4-3 and travel to New York next weekend to face the Red Bulls II on May 28th.
Story written by Jon Kimble