By Richard Nightingale
Winston Churchill said ” We must be very careful not to assign this deliverance the attributes of victory. Wars are not won by evacuations “.
In my article prior to Saturday’s game I referenced Pittsburgh’s role in the USL this season as one of a ‘ spoiler ‘ and they proved me right. Came from behind on three occasions to deny New York the away win and three points. The ‘ Baby Bulls ‘ playing without the talented Brandon Allen up front and bringing only three substitutes never really looked in danger of loosing.
I was in Germany last week attending a 2018 World Cup Kick Off hosted by Adidas and had the opportunity to hear David Beckham speak. Talking about adversity he said ” People react to criticism in different ways, and my way is to come out fighting “. Credit to Pittsburgh who after a dismal 2016 campaign answered the call on Saturday (albeit a revamped squad) and ran their socks off. Last year being down they would have folded like a pack of cards, but instead hung in there. Probably to be expected from a Brandt squad, after all these are ‘ his ‘ players and should reflect his personality. The two experienced front players Kerr and Hertzog had fine games, creating trouble for the New York back four all afternoon and carried Pittsburgh to a point in this opening game. It was important not to loose on Saturday and that was achieved. Job #1 done.
I watch a lot of Soccer all over the world and at all levels. Work in the business of Soccer. My commitment to you, the Pittsburgh Fans as I write these posts after every game is to give you my un – sanitized and honest appraisal of the ninety minutes. I’m a Pittsburgh Fan, paid up member of The Steel Army and eager for Pittsburgh to turn the corner both on and off the field.
So what did we learn about Pittsburgh after Saturday?
We got spoiled with having Zack Steffen in goal last year. Broome is a backup keeper and the signing should have been Brandon Miller, the lad who won the 2015 title with Rochester and played with Orange County last season. He was a ‘ free agent ‘, acquired by Harrisburg.
The back four is a work in progress and they will need to find their sea legs pretty darn quick.
Playing on the artificial surface at Highmark Stadium will be an equalizer. The ball doesn’t travel with as much pace as on natural grass and will stifle the visiting top tier teams.
Stop knocking long high balls forward to opponents ‘ Twin Towers ‘. Like feeding Shamu.
No one player stood out as ‘ The Playmaker ‘ in midfield. The guy who is going to unlock the quality defenses in that last third. No one to ‘ boss ‘ the game. Okai is a good ‘ holding ‘ option in front of the back four but where will the guile and creativity come from? Who is the player in that midfield that has the engine to go from box to box and deliver ten to fifteen goals this campaign? The heir apparent to Rob Vincent.
The faith that Brandt places in Jack Thompson is misplaced. He might be one of the few naturally left footed / sided players in the squad but doesn’t have the quality on the ball or ability to produce goals. Missed two ‘ sitters ‘ on Saturday and while I acknowledge that getting into those scoring positions is key, if you can’t put them away, then meaningless.
We will need to see more ‘ quality ‘. Crosses and final balls were poor. In general New York were more composed, looked more comfortable on the ball. That leads me to the point that for Pittsburgh to have the season they need then every player on that pitch needs to want the ball at their feet, can’t hide in the shadows. You need players who want to make the difference and demand the ball. Not afraid to make mistakes and take responsibility. Be accountable.
Let’s sum this up. Not a bad opening day. Team looked organized and caliber of players we saw are better than 2016. Outside of Kerr and Hertzog didn’t see anyone who I would want to represent as an agent. Attendance was announced as in the 3,200 range and that is a decent start. Yet we all know that anything under 5,000 game in and game out in a sporting city such as Pittsburgh is poor. Winning is a cure for low attendance and it was vital that the storyline on Monday should be about a hard fought draw and not a loss.
The biggest disappointment for me was that we didn’t hear the mercurial voices of Paul Child and Gene Klein in the commentary box. Instead we got the sanitized play by play from some guy who should have been an announcer at a hole on a PGA Tour event. Calling the game from a cozy studio in Tampa never will deliver the emotion and vibe of being on – site. Ask Fox Soccer and the criticism they get. I understand direction with the inconsistency in commentary teams that USL have had around the league, but shame that two great servants and ambassadors of Pittsburgh Soccer got silenced.