The Nightingale: Toronto

The Nightingale: Toronto

By Richard Nightingale

“I always wanted more – more of everything “ – George Best

Let’s start with the positive. Credit to Brandt for getting Howell into the game as he showed a sense of purpose and provided a badly needed spark in the second half. Parkes opened his account with a late equalizer and had his best game since returning. Pittsburgh could have left with nothing but posted an ‘away’ point.

Outside of that, this was a salvage operation for Pittsburgh from about the tenth minute on.

Toronto employed a bold 3-5- 2 formation and controlled the midfield. Thankfully they were devoid of any quality and ability to capitalize on this possession for majority of the game when it came to the last third. But for a brilliant finish from the ‘MLS loanee’ Endoh they could still be playing and not have scored.

I’ve rode on the team bus back from Toronto and you have many hours to re-live and discuss the game.

Sitting up front, Brandt was probably experiencing a roller coaster of emotions from frustration bordering on anger to relief. If I were in conversation with him this would be my counsel.

  • Thirteen games in and you should know which players you can count on and which players you would divest of. Unfortunately the way the USL is structured it is nearly impossible to cancel a player’s contract. If there is any room on the roster and especially ‘International’ slots (each team gets seven) then find two experienced pro’s from the UK (center midfield, center forward) and sign them for remainder of season. There are many such players with Championship level teams that clubs are looking to get experience and playing time during their ‘off season’. Need some leadership and real quality in these positions that will compliment Kerr and Hertzog.
  • You may feel that players don’t evoke your sense of urgency and commitment but be careful as starting to be reflected in the frantic and frenzied way team are playing. Forcing passes and air of desperation. The analyst for Toronto noted that they should have had a camera on Brandt to show his constant animated state. The barking of instructions to players may translate in the college game but at pro level is a distraction. No coincidence the best and proven coaches ‘let the players play’ when it comes to match day. Very little outside of a few tactical adjustments you can make during a game, your work is done on the practice field during build up and some at halftime. Try sitting on the bench and players might see that as a sign of faith, relax and focus on job at hand.
  • The players look ‘burned out’ with two thirds of the season still ahead. Number of injuries is an indication that need to re-examine approach to training. Had a long pre-season and as I know first hand playing day in – day out on the field turf at Highmark Stadium takes its toll.
  • Lastly, Brandt has surrounded himself with his ‘own guys, own coaching staff’ who have no or little experience at this level and may not have the personality to challenge his decision making. Need a personality like a Paul Child or Danny Earles, a fresh pair of eyes, someone who has played / coached at this level for many years. Don’t see them as a threat but ‘added value’ during what is still a learning curve.

It would be easy for me watching from the ‘cheap seats’ not to take the time to write these opinion pieces and show interest in how Pittsburgh fairs. I care.

Because I make my living n the business of ‘Soccer’ I continue to interact with coaches and executives at many levels, including a league such as the USL.

When I think of Pittsburgh I think of Harrisburg and Richmond. I want to think of Pittsburgh in the same breath as Orlando, Cincinnati, Tampa and Phoenix. These are all organizations that were not content with mediocrity and were not afraid to evolve and pivot to reach the next level. It does depend on who and what you aspire to be, what your ‘end game’ is. MLS Franchise or a USL Championship, at the core is ‘the organization’. Investors with deep pockets, experienced sports executives in the front office: that includes a full time President and GM with a focus on the playing side. New benchmarks are being set across the USL every month and it’s time a great sports city like Pittsburgh embraced and realized its Soccer potential. Learn from others Pittsburgh; don’t be so ‘insular’, seek help.

The schedule for Pittsburgh doesn’t get any easier and there is no reason that Pittsburgh cannot make the playoffs. The players hung in there Saturday night, missed a number of easy chances, didn’t play very well but left with an ‘away point’. Well Done!

Parkes might be showing proof of life and I still maintain he is best running at opposition with game in front of him (earned the free kick). The opposition know about Kerr and Hertzog’s strengths and puts more of a premium on players such as Howell, Banjo, Hollingsworth, Washington, Okai and Souto to influence games.

Just like Gerge Best we all want more.

I hope that Pittsburgh ‘the club’ chooses to address deficiencies, choose to evolve and choose to break free from the chains of mediocrity.


Richard Nightingale was the Riverhounds President for the 2015 season.  For more from him you can follow his twitter account, @richnightoregon.

Mike Sparks

In addition to watching, coaching, and occasionally playing soccer, Mike also enjoys talking all things soccer over at the Mon Goals podcast. Go give the show a listen and let him know what you think