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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.”

Where is Hunter Gilstrap Now?

Gilstrap finds a home with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds of USL-2.

Gilstrap finds a home with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds of USL-2.

We last saw Hunter Gilstrap in goal for the Cleveland City Stars at Middlefield Cheese Stadium in Bedford, Ohio.  Little did we know that this would be the last time we would see the City Stars on the field and in operation.  The franchise folded in December of 2009 after failing to find a buyer.  It wasn’t due to a lack of effort as Dr. Aaron Tredway did his best to sell the team, peddling the team to investors from around the world. 

Hunter played well last season, earning USL-1 Player of the Week honors for Week 5 and finding himself on the USL-1 Team of the Week three times. Gilstrap would rank fifth in the league in saves (89), minutes (1980), and games played (22).  He would finish with an impressive six shutouts. 

Gilstrap would find himself on a whirlwind tour during the offseason.  He would go on trial with Toronto FC for three weeks before finding out they would not need a third goalkeeper.  “It was a great experience, nothing but positive,” Hunter suggested.  He would gain valuable experience in the preseason, playing in two games and allowing just one goal (on a penalty kick).

Without a contract offer from Toronto, Gilstrap headed home for a week before heading to Charleston. He received an offer to train with the Battery, who were without a goalkeeper. Hunter would receive a contract offer from fellow USL-2 club Pittsburgh Riverhounds while training in Charleston.  He decided to take advantage of a good opportunity and a sure thing.

Gisltrap now finds himself as the projected starter at goalkeeper for the Riverhounds, a squad that has gone through a lot of changes.  Former midfielder Justin Evans takes the helm as head coach with only a handful of players returning from last year’s squad.

The City Stars limped through last season, but it proved to be a valuable learning opportunity for the young keeper.  Hunter spent much of the season as the captain of the squad, an impressive feat considering that veteran players (Troy Roberts, Gordon Kljestan, Pato Aguilera) also called Cleveland home.  The Riverhounds will likely call upon his leadership, talent, and experience early and often as the season nears.  Gilstrap figures to once again be an asset in the community; this time he will be doing the good work in a new place.  Hunter was named City Stars Community Service Award Winner in 2009. He will also be getting back into the field of coaching, calling it “something I love doing.”

“USL-2 is a quality league with six quality clubs, ” Gilstrap continued. “But we have an opportunity to compete for a league title.”    Pittsburgh will have that chance thanks to a proven commodity in goal.