The 2018 season was one to remember for Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC. The team set a number of records en route to hosting the first-ever playoff game at Highmark Stadium. The Howler takes a trip back through a historic year and recalls 18 of the best moments of 2018.
Photo credits: Chris Cowger, Delaney Hoolahan
On Feb. 16, the Hounds unleashed a monumental moment in club history. Unveiling a new logo, new kits and the letters "SC" at the end of its team name during a special season-ticket holder event at Highmark Stadium, the franchise kicked off a new era of soccer in western Pennsylvania.
To start the season, the Hounds smothered opposing offenses. The team strung together four straight shutouts to start the campaign and did not allow a goal until 419 minutes into the season - both club records.
In a magical second half, striker Neco Brett scored a hat trick in 31 minutes to propel the Hounds to a 4-0 victory over Toronto FC II on April 7 at Highmark Stadium. This marked the club's first hat trick since Rob Vincent posted three goals against the Wilmington Hammerheads on Aug. 1, 2015.
The Hounds seemed destined for a 0-0 draw against Ottawa Fury FC on April 14 at Highmark Stadium - that is until defender Tobi Adewole scored the game-winning tally, and the first of his professional career, in the 85th minute to provide the club with three points.
The Hounds exemplified the term "unbeatable," stringing together a club-record 10-game unbeaten streak to open a season. The squad held a 4-0-6 record and posted seven clean sheets during this timeframe.
This past May, Riverhounds SC announced the addition of the Pathway Program, which allows Riverhounds Development Academy players to train with the professional team. Later in the year, it announced the Apprenticeship Platform, an extension of the program.
The Fourth of July presents one of the biggest stages of the season, and this year's addition showcased a rocket of a goal. At the end of the first half, midfielder Christiano François blasted a shot into the net, which aided the club in its 2-0 victory over North Carolina FC at Highmark Stadium.
During Pittsburgh's 1-1 draw against the Tampa Bay Rowdies on Aug. 22 at Highmark Stadium, holding midfielder Mouhamed Dabo struck home the team's lone tally. And with no question, he celebrated his first career goal in style.
What originally appeared to be a loss turned into a point for the Hounds. With less than five minutes to go and trailing 2-0, Pittsburgh scored two goals (a Louisville City FC own goal and a penalty kick tally from Kenardo Forbes) to draw the reigning champions, 2-2, on Sept. 15 at Highmark Stadium.
For the second straight season, the Hounds downed rival Penn FC to take the Keystone Derby Cup, presented by K&L Gates and the Pennsylvania Lottery. In 2018, Pittsburgh did not allow a goal to its in-state rival over the course of three matches, including its clinching 2-0 win on Sept. 26 at FNB Field.
In addition to winning the Keystone Derby Cup, Pittsburgh clinched playoff berth that night it walked away with the rivalry trophy. This marked the first time the Hounds etched their spot in the postseason since 2015.
In his sixth season with the club, Kevin Kerr added to his career totals. All-time, the midfielder now ranks fifth in goals (24), tied for second in assists (24), second in points (72) and second in games played (151) in franchise history.
In just his rookie season, Thomas Vancaeyezeele had the impact of a league veteran. Playing in the midfield and on the backline, he led the team in minutes and games started while recording two goals and one assist.
The team logged 17 shutouts in 2018, shattering its previous record of 10 clean sheets set in 2003. Helping the squad to this mark, goalkeeper Dan Lynd also set a single-season club record with 12 clean sheets.
Highmark Stadium, the home venue of Riverhounds SC, underwent multiple additions in 2018. New seating was added along the riverside (pictured) at the beginning of the season, and the East End grandstand was expanded leading up to the team's playoff match.
Heading into the postseason as the Eastern Conference's No. 3 seed, the Hounds hosted the first-ever playoff game at Highmark Stadium in the history of the venue (since 2013). A record crowd of 5,189 fans packed into the stadium on Oct. 20 to watch the soccer club take on Bethlehem Steel FC.
At the end of the 2018 campaign, defender Joe Greenspan and midfielder Kenardo Forbes were named All-League First Team and All-League Second Team, respectively. Both athletes played large parts in one of the most successful seasons in franchise history.
In light of the tragic events at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood, the Hounds hosted the fundraising event "Peace on the Pitch" to help support the community. Centered around coming together through the beautiful game, Highmark Stadium's pitch held pickup soccer games throughout the day.