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Erie Admirals Alum Plays Second String to None In Serving Community

In Western Pennsylvania, soccer is growing exponentially.

To aid that growth, there is one individual that is helping his hometown community embrace the beautiful game and has put together an intriguing playing resume. With a hometown near Pittsburgh, Greg Blum has been active in the state playing his way through the ranks.

Photo Credit: Joe Foughty/

In 2009, Blum played a big role in the Erie Admirals’ improbable run to the NPSL National Championship, as the inaugural team ran a 9-0-1 record in the regular season and after defeating Rocket City United, lost only in extra time of the Championship match.

“Playing in Erie was a great experience,” Blum said of his time in the NPSL. “They have some great facilities up there and made it easy to get an advantage on other clubs. In addition, I was playing with some of the best players in the region and that really helped my game at that time.”

What made that club special was the collection of collegiate players from Western Pennsylvania coming together to become one of the best clubs in the country.

“Success in Erie was from the all the players coming from the same region and knowing the strengths of each other. We had the top players in the area and that chemistry helped tremendously. We lived together and bonded well.”

Greg made a splash on the Erie club and his coach took notice.

“Greg was a great asset to the club,” Erie Admirals Head Coach John Melody stated. “He was a very good goalkeeper, one with great size, strength, and presence.  His distribution was fantastic.”

Not only did Greg help guide the Admirals to that championship run, but it prepared him to win the conference championship when he returned to Slippery Rock in the fall.

“I think we went beyond expectations and we got to see how hard you have to work to make it in this business. You learn about the work you have to put on the field and how you have to take care of your body on and off the field.”

Blum notes that winning the championship at Slippery Rock clearly came from the time and effort he and his teammates put in at Erie that previous summer.

“It was something looking back now that if I don’t know where I would be if I did not play in the NPSL.”

Greg also enjoys the expansion of the league and Western PA gaining a club.

“The league is getting even more competitive where I think that it can compete with other leagues in the country. It would be a good step for the players and the league if they start in the NPSL and eventually play professionally.”

One of the greatest achievements that Blum has reached is graduating from the NPSL and signing with the Pittsburgh Riverounds of USL PRO. Melody confidently said of his player, “No wonder the Riverhounds wanted to sign him.”

Once again he would share time in net, this time with Hunter Gilstrap, but the two have teamed up to create a special bond with the youth of the city.

“You always want to play in your hometown. I can remember going to Riverhounds games when I was younger and it’s nice to have professional coaches and players giving advice to kids in the area, just like we were given when we were younger. Hopefully they can see the example we give them of working hard and possibly they can make it big, too.”

The academy that the Riverhounds run has been so popular that it has grown considerably where over sixty youth players are now in the program.

“I think that it all starts with Hunter Gilstrap, my part of it is to help him and give my advice when it’s needed, but he deserves most of the credit. In the offseason I coach high school girls and I work in the academy, so coaching is all I know. I feel that I have a good knowledge of the game being a goalkeeper and want to help others gain the knowledge needed to be a better goalie.”

Blum adds that the reason that the academy is successful is that the Riverhounds teach good fundamentals first and tone their technique before branching out to the tougher aspects of playing in net. Other academies or coaches may just look at a kid and decide due to their physical features where they fit on the field and do not get the learning they need.

“We start very basic and throughout the weeks, build the techniques of the players so that they can flourish and become better athletes. We spend a lot of time on technical abilities and once they get those down they excel as a goalkeeper. We understand at a higher level that these basic skills make us better players.”

The youth of Western Pennsylvania have certainly gotten a great lesson from one of their own and it seems that they will for many years to come. Blum has enjoyed excelling at playing and teaching the sport he grew up watching and through the NPSL, he has been able to capitalize on success in the Keystone State.

Pittsburgh Riverhounds Announce Partnership with Houston Dynamo

The Pittsburgh Riverhounds of USL PRO have formed an affiliate partnership with the Houston Dynamo of Major League Soccer, it was announced today by Riverhounds CEO Jason Kutney.

The deal will enable Houston to loan a minimum of four MLS-contracted players to Pittsburgh for the 2014 USL PRO season.

Kutney says the affiliation is more proof that the USL PRO team is working to reach the top level of soccer in the United States.

“In partnering with a top MLS side like Houston Dynamo, the Riverhounds are now on a path to the top, both on and off the field,” says Kutney.

“In doing our homework, we found Pittsburgh to be a very professional organization and a club that will provide the right environment for our young players to develop,” says Dynamo President Chris Canetti.  “In particular, we like their ownership structure, new downtown stadium, training center and technical philosophy.”

The partnership between USL PRO and MLS, now entering the second year of a multi-year affiliation, has had immediate impact for teams in both leagues.

“The partnership between the Dynamo and Riverhounds is a great step forward as we move into the second year of USL PRO’s partnership with Major League Soccer,” USL President Tim Holt said. “The Dynamo’s Brian Ownby was a standout for Richmond last season, and this partnership will offer more opportunity for Houston’s young players to gain valuable experience with a club that is swiftly rising in USL PRO. In the past year, the Riverhounds have become a model franchise, and we believe this will accelerate their growth in their local market, and offer their fans an outstanding product on the field.”

“It’s an exciting time to be a soccer fan in Pittsburgh,” says Riverhounds Head Coach Justin Evans. “Houston has been a top team in Major League Soccer since they joined in 2006 and I think affiliating with them definitely shows the positive ambition of our club.”

Evans also looks forward to working with Dynamo Head Coach Dominic Kinnear.

“Dom and I have known each other for many years. I’m excited to be able to work hand in hand with such a great person, coach and soccer visionary.”

“Justin has a good reputation and had a good playing career in MLS,” says Kinnear. “Our players will be fortunate to be play under an established coach.”

Added Kutney, “We are committed to top-level soccer development, resources, and experience in Pittsburgh, regardless of league or level.”

“Everybody’s a Winner Tonight”

The words from Wigan Athletic manager Owen Coyle could not have been more true.

Photo Credit: Joe Foughty/

Wigan Athletic finished their U.S.tour with a 4-1 win over USL PRO side Pittsburgh Riverhounds.   Over 4,000 passionate fans turned out to see the FA Cup Champions take on their local team.   The game had a great atmosphere: a beautiful new facility, the skyline and the rivers as a backdrop, and fireworks for the fans afterwards.

Simply put, this is a thriving soccer market.   That’s not easy, considering this area is the home of American football.  Something’s happening and that something is the Pittsburgh Riverhounds and the beautiful game.

The start of the match was delayed about 15 minutes due to severe weather passing through the area., but it was the Riverhounds who struck first when the action finally started.  Jose Angulo launched a strike from distance in the 3rd minute, catching Latics keeper Lee Nicholls by surprise.  Coyle called the score a “wonder goal,” which was certainly justified.

But the home team’s lead was extremely short-lived.

Ohio State product Roger Espinoza equalized 8 minutes later, which was just the beginning for the Wigan attack. James McArthur, whose great speed caused the Pittsburgh defense fits all night long, got credit for the assist.

Emerson Boyce made it 2-1 in favor of Wigan in the 28th with an assist from Ben Watson.  It was a beautiful sequence of events, Watson with a brilliant free kick that found the head of Boyce, who put it past the Pittsburgh keeper with ease. It was a textbook play executed to perfection.

2-1 would be the score at halftime as both sides headed for the locker room.

Wigan didn’t let up in the second half with Jean Beausejour setting up Grant Holt to further their lead to 3-1 minutes just three minutes into the second half.

The biggest moment came roared in the 81st minute when CEO Jason Kutney entered as a substitute.  It was just his third appearance of the 2013 season, which is understandable considering all of his front office responsibilities. The crowd roared for the veteran midfielder, who surely hasn’t seen the field as much as he would have liked.

“He has to be the busiest man in America,” Riverhounds goalkeeper Hunter Gilstrap stated. “Jason is the heart and soul of the franchise. He is the Pittsburgh Riverhounds.”

The 88th minute saw the score change again to 4-1 thanks to a Jordi Gomez strike.  This would be the final score as the match ended just moments later.

The score could have been much worse, but the Riverhounds kept things reasonable.  That’s all you can really ask for.

The Pittsburgh players knew the quality they were up against, but continued to play their hearts out.  There was certainly a mutual respect between the two sides that made the match that much more enjoyable.

“We’d come back in a heartbeat,” Coyle commented. “I have no doubt about it. We certainly know there is quality in the U.S.”

The journey back to the EPL began in the U.S. as the Latics built fitness and prepared themselves for a marathon of a season, a season that could include 60+ games.

“We will use our experience and expertise to make sure we get through that,” Coyle added. “Will it be tough? Absolutely. The goal is to be back in the EPL, where everyone wants to be.”

Coyle is bringing in reinforcements to make that goal a reality, including bringing in at least 4 more new players in the very near future.  He has already signed 7 new players to add to the remnants of last year’s squad.  Espinoza, McArthur, and James McCarthy all seemed to benefit from the U.S. tour; hopefully their success in the States will translate to some playing time back in the Championship.

Match Photos

Crew Fall in Shocking 2-1 Defeat to DDL

For the second year in succession the Crew were knocked out by lower league opposition in the US Open Cup. In a game that Columbus dominated from start to finish with 18 shots on goal, wasteful finishing cost them dear. A frantic two minute period in the second half lead to all of Dayton 3 shots with 2 of them producing the decisive goals.

Columbus dominated the first half, with their best opportunity coming from Chris Birchall. His fiercely struck free kick rebounded off the underside of the crossbar setting up Eric Gehrig for a free header that he placed over from 5 yards.

The second half continued in similar fashion, with Columbus finally making the breakthrough courtesy of a 63rd minute penalty. Vargas dispatching the spot kick low to the keeper’s right. The Crew were creating chances at will, but were unable to find the goal which would have finished the game off. A poor back pass on 79 minutes let in Dayton down the Crew’s left. The ball was centered to Bartels, who applied the finish. With Columbus in shock, Dayton’s very next attack produced a second goal again coming from a low cross, this time with Bardsley applying the finish.

The game gave the opportunity to the Crew’s fringe players to impress; the busy Birchall was the pick of the Columbus players on show. He impressed with his work rate throughout and the ability to find space around the Dayton box and accurate shooting.

Dayton Dutch Lions Shock The Crew

For a team that has yet to win a match in the USL PRO League no one expected the Dayton Dutch Lions to even keep up with a hot Columbus Crew squad. And yet in spite of all the experts the Lions stunned the Columbus Crew 2-1 in the third round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. It was the first matchup between two Ohio teams in the modern era of the cup, and the second straight year that Columbus has lost their first match in the tournament.

Goalkeeper Matt Williams played a brilliant first half, saving everything the Crew could muster offensively. Chris Birchall in particular kept putting chance after chance towards to goal for Columbus but was out-dueled by the young keeper from the University of Cincinnati. The fantastic goalie play continued on into the second half as Williams made a great save off of a point blank blast by Justin Meram in the 61st minute.

The perfect defense could not last forever though. In the 63rd minute Shane Smith was called for a handball in the penalty box. Costa Rican striker Olman Vargas took advantage and calmly stepped up to give the Crew the lead 1-0. Columbus continued their onslaught on goal heading into the final 15 minutes of the match, but that’s when things got interesting.

In the 79th minute substitute Gerrit-Jan Bartels scored on a poor pass in the middle third by the Crew which led to an open run and assist for Gibson Bardsley. 2 minutes later, in the 81st, Bardsley did it himself on another poor defensive effort by the Crew putting the Lions up for good. Desperate for another goal Columbus put up a fight to the end but to no avail as Dayton’s defense held strong and kept the Crew out of the back of the net.

“We lost the match,” Crew head coach Robert Warzycha said when asked about his team’s performance.

It was the 2nd win for Dayton in this year’s U.S. Cup after beating Chicago Fire PDL last week. Next up the Lions will head north to play the Michigan Bucks who upset the Chicago Fire in extra time.