For this article, entertainment editor Jessica Crosson and editor-in-chief Rachael McKriger take a look at the two respective United Soccer League clubs of Pennsylvania: Penn FC and the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC.
Crosson writes about the new name, logo and rebuilding of Penn FC, formerly the Harrisburg City Islanders.
McKriger writes about a new logo, new coaches and funnel from the Rochester Rhinos to the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC.
Crosson: New Era of Soccer Begins in Harrisburg
Re-branding is bringing a new era of soccer to Harrisburg as the formerly known Harrisburg City Islanders have transformed into Penn FC.
It was announced at the end of 2017 that the City Islanders would be no more and the 2018 season would be the official kick off for Penn FC.
Not only has Penn FC claimed the title of Central Pennsylvania’s professional USL team but they have also joined forces with international soccer organization, Rush Soccer.
Rush Soccer is committed to providing an unparalleled soccer experience and has had major success in doing so through their 85 clubs located throughout the United States and abroad.
With the re-brand a lot of changes and new faces have been revealed.
A change to the front office staff included naming Tim Schulz as Penn FC’s General Manager. Schulz is the President and CEO of Rush Soccer and brings executive experience to Penn FC’s front office. Another announcement that came shortly after Schulz was that former Head Coach Bill Becher would be stepping into the Head of Technical Staff positon, serving as the Technical Advisor for this inaugural season.
As preseason began to don on the new team, Raoul Voss was named as the first head coach of Penn FC.
Voss was formerly working with the Tampa Bay Rowdies as their assistant coach. Before his time with the Rowdies, Voss also served as the assistant coach for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in the North American Soccer League.
Almost the entire team of players for Penn FC’s inaugural season will be new as only four players from the 2017 City Islanders squad will be returning.
Jake Bond, Tiago Calvano, Sean Lewis and John Grosh are the four veteran Harrisburg players that will be returning this season. So far, Penn FC has only announced five new signings; Jorge Rivera, Dan Metzger, Calvin Rezende, Jacob Lissek, Aaron Dennis, Pedro Galvano and Mauro Eustaquio are the first new player signings announced.
With one preseason match under their belt, Penn FC was able to get a little taste of what they are working with this season. Penn FC battled Long Island University Brooklyn on Feb. 16 to a 2-1 victory.
LIU was able to secure a quick first goal in the game that seemed to catch Penn FC off-guard and wake them up a little. Penn FC answered back late in the first half to tie the game at 1-1 and was able to secure the preseason victory with a goal scored in the 57‘ minute. Following the game Voss shared that overall he was happy with his new team’s performance.
Penn FC’s first game of the season will be on the road against the Charleston Battery on March 24. The team will then travel to take on both the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, March 31, and Atlanta United II, April 8, before their home opener on April 21 against the Charleston Battery.
Kriger: New coach, new logo, new motivation
The Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC have had major struggles in the last two seasons.
After making the playoffs in 2015, the Riverhounds have had a dismal past two seasons. The year of 2016, which featured head coaches Mark Steffens and Dave Brandt, resulted in a 6-17-7 record.
Last year, in Brandt’s first full-year as head coach, the Riverhounds slightly improved on their record, finishing 8-12-12.
This year, the streak of 13th-place finishes in the USL’s Eastern Conference will look to come to a close. After the USL was granted Division II status in the U.S. Soccer Federation, Brandt stepped down as head coach due to not having the adequate coaching license.
Out of nowhere, owner Tuffy Shallenberger hired Bob Lilley, the former Rochester Rhinos head coach. The Rhinos, who could not make USL Division II requirements, are not competing this season.
Lilley isn’t coming to Pittsburgh on his own, though. The former Pittsburgh Stingers indoor soccer midfielder signed former Rhinos Kyle Morton, Dan Lynd, Jordan Dover, Raymond Lee, Kenardo Forbes and Christiano François in the first of many signings.
Also making his way down to Pittsburgh is Lilley’s right hand man: Mark Pulisic.
The last name should sound familiar; Pulisic is the father of U.S. Men’s National Team and Borussia Dortmund superstar Christian Pulisic. Lilley and Pulisic have a long history of both coaching and playing professional soccer.
However, the roster isn’t completely Rhino-dominated.
Lilley did bring some returning players back, including captain Kevin Kerr. Also signing for another season in black and gold are Romeo Parkes, Kay Banjo, Tobi Adewole, Joe Greenspan and Ben Fitzpatrick.
The biggest moves that will hurt the Riverhounds are the departures of Corey Hertzog to the St. Louis FC, Taylor Washington to Nashville SC and Keasel Broome to the Bethlehem Steel FC.
The Riverhounds are also without their pipeline from the Columbus Crew SC. The MLS club was the brother-club of the Riverhounds, sending players like Marshall Hollingsworth, Zack Steffen, Lalas Abubakar, Cristian Martínez and Connor Maloney down to the Steel City.
The deal was expired — and not taken up for renewal — this past offseason.
However, with a brand new logo, new uniforms and a coach that has a playoff-winning track record, this summer will be a season to look out for at Highmark Stadium.