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Sunday column: Tough call? Tough luck

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

The Sunday column eyes the future of soccer in Pittsburgh, beyond the prism of the Riverhounds and even this year.

The game story off the Hounds’ second home opener at Highmark Stadium, by beat man Matt Grubba, focuses on the bizarre, controversial ending.

Here’s a talk I had with Justin Evans on the field, on that subject and more …

Blogginess from the scene: The fuss at the end was justified. As Matt Dallman told me, still seething, ‘The call was just a joke.’ And the funny part was, he wasn’t even talking about the cross going backward and being called offside. (Impossible.) He was talking about Danny Earls, who had the service, getting pretty much run over in the box for what ‘absolutely should have been a penalty.’ … More shameful by far was watching this ref — an MLS guy, no less, from Montreal — pretty much sprinting off the field. Evans’ comment in the video about this is priceless. … Don’t let the end distract from the real issue, though: The Hounds’ back line just stinks. Don’t mean to sound mean here, but it’s truth. It wasn’t just the goals allowed to a nothing-special Wilmington opponent. It was all kinds of mishandled balls, panicky decisions, lack of creativity … you name it. This won’t be fixed by strategy. Different personnel are needed. … Calling Houston! … Jose Angulo scoring, as he did again, has gotten old, but watching newcomer Collins John complement him in every way up front is enticing. If the back line could ever get the ball up to Dallman and those two, this would be an explosive offense. … Dallman’s vision and touch is just so good. If you make it down to a game this summer, keep an extra eye on him and the decisions he makes with the ball. Lots of fun. … The paid attendance was 3,754, which is more than packing the place, including standing-room. But it’s inexcusable that fans were stuck outside the stadium in traffic as late as 20-25 minutes after kickoff. Either the Hounds or Station Square needs to figure it out before the next game, or they’ll both be losing customers. I saw several cars turning around and leaving in disgust. … Why is Joseph Ngwenya a late sub the past two games? He’s outperforming those he’s replacing. … Wonderful place. Wonderful time. Can’t recommend it enough. Should be a fun summer.

Here’s the Trib’s Riverhounds page.

>> I’ll be part of WPXI-TV’s Subway Final Word tonight at 11:35, another live edition to follow the Penguins-Senators season finale, which I’ll also be covering toward a Monday column.

Author: Dejan Kovacevic

Dejan Kovacevic, a lifelong Pittsburgher, is an award-winning sports columnist for Trib Total Media covering the Steelers, Penguins, Pirates, Pitt and, recently, his fourth Olympics in Sochi, Russia. He also appears on WPXI-TV's 'Subway Final Word’ and hosts a weekly show on TribLIVE Radio. For 2011, he was named one of the country's top four columnists by the AP Sports Editors. For 2012, he was named one of the country's top three columnists by the National Headliners. For 2013, he was named the state's top columnist by the Keystone Press Awards and top columnist in Western Pennsylvania by the Golden Quills.


  1. Anchor says:

    Good column DK, noted already.
    Are the Pens Ready? What is the projected lineup for the bottom 6?

    Top 2 lines are going to be matched, and the play of the bottom 2 lines will make/break in the playoffs. I’m cautiously optimistic, Sutter’s play has risen since the Olympic break to lead the third. Also, Bennett has shown good form with Syd to stand in for Duper and free up some space. Ready for the ride.

  2. Nate83 says:

    I don’t know how many games this year they have had Crosby, Malkin, Letang, Kunitz and Neal all in the line up together but it can’t be many. It looks like they may have that for the playoffs. I know many are upset how this team played down the stretch but they still put up 108 points with all the injuries.

    I have always liked Sutter and think he could do a great job anchoring the 3rd line. He is such an unselfish player. If they could have somebody on the line with him to do the dirty work I personally think he is skilled enough to provide some scoring opportunities. Overall the team is mediocre at best 5 on 5 but a good 3rd line will help immensely. I don’t know if we have had a chance to see the best 3rd line with all the injuries to the top two lines?

    Just my 2 cents from a very novice hockey eye. I really enjoy watching Hockey but never playing the sport it wasn’t until resent years I started fully understanding the sport through this blog and DK, Rossi, and the rest of the trib reporting which is excellent. I honestly do think they have the best playoffs and whomever wins it the Cup deserves it. It is extremely grueling and the amount of dedication from each player to their teammates is unmatched by any other sport (except for curling off course) :)

  3. Dejan Kovacevic says:

    That’s really cool, Nate. Thanks!

  4. regular says:

    Excellent column …. One minor correction – the $70 million expansion fee was for Orlando, not Atlanta. Atlanta is expected to be announced as team number 22 this Wednesday, but the details aren’t available yet.

    Beckham’s Miami team will be 23 and Minneapolis is the frontrunner for 24.

  5. Dejan Kovacevic says:

    Thanks, but $70M is also the figure I’ve seen attached to Arthur Blank’s MLS proposal for Atlanta. Those figures, for a variety of reasons, have varied with different markets. The Miami one actually is believed to have dropped dramatically.

  6. ziv34 says:

    Dejan, great piece as usual. Couple questions – A.) Being relegated as a minor league franchise to the MLS so to speak, do we have any affiliation to a MLS organization? B.) You imply that our 10 Mil Stadium has no business in the MLS 100 Mil Stadium orbit, does that mean Highmark Stadium is doomed if we make it to the MLS level, or can it be retro fitted? C.) Could you link the NYT story you referred to in the article? D.)

  7. ziv34 says:

    Dejan, great piece as usual. Couple questions – A.) Being relegated as a minor league franchise to the MLS so to speak, do we have any affiliation to a MLS organization? B.) You imply that our 10 Mil Stadium has no business in the MLS 100 Mil Stadium orbit, does that mean Highmark Stadium is doomed if we make it to the MLS level, or can it be retro fitted? C.) Could you link the NYT story you referred to in the article? D.) Just curious, but do your children participate in youth soccer, hockey, or any other sports?

  8. Ryan Kasun says:

    DK – Great stuff here. You’re spot-on about the back line and about Dallman. I continued to remark “What are you doing?” and my friend kept yelling for them to push the ball, up to Dallman mostly. Speaking of Dallman, what a player. That guy was the most entertaining guy on the field last night. He has some mad accuracy with his crosses, it’s no wonder he had so many. assists last year.

    Thank you for the great coverage of this team. I began following them because of your coverage and am now hooked.

  9. Wayne says:

    Enjoyable and informative, Dejan. I made a valiant effort to keep up with all the games yesterday (Pens, Bucs, WVU baseball, WBS, the Masters, WVU blue/gold), but I kept nodding off. I did watch or listen to some of every one of them except the Riverhounds and I got some atmosphere through Twitter from that game. All-in-all, an enjoyable sports day. Too bad about the Bucs & Pens & Riverhounds, but winning isn’t the whole story. The next best thing to playing & winning is playing & losing.

  10. I couldn’t find footage for the controversial call, but if Earls was run over after he released the ball, the ref couldn’t call a penalty, because the game would have been stopped. Offsides are called at the exact moment the ball is released. (Last month, there was a similar situation in the final minutes of São Paulo × Santos. São Paulo defender Paulo Miranda tackled Santos attacker Leandro Damião inside the area, and the ref whistled a penalty, only to be denied by the linesman, who informed him Leandro Damião was offside. The play: Hence, the bad call is really the offsides, if Ngwenya was behind the ball.

  11. DJ says:

    Nate: I see you gave attribution to the blogsters first. Very wise.

    [smiley face]

    I agree with you on Sutter. In addition to wingers, a strong off season of conditioning would help him, in my view.

  12. Dejan Kovacevic says:

    I should know better than to argue soccer with someone from Brazil, but some kind of call — or card — always can be issued. Otherwise, you’d be able to just kill people after every offside flag that was raised.

  13. A card can (and should) be issued, if merited, but not a penalty.

  14. DJ says:

    So exactly what is this sport they call “soccer”?

  15. DJ says:

    Polanco at .500.

    But we all need to keep telling ourselves that he’s just not ready.

    More than anything, I’m looking forward to his defensive abilities. A very sorry throw to home by Tabata last night.

  16. Now, DJ, don’t forget, it’s a small sample size. Only 10 games (9 of which have been won by Indy coincidently). Like you said last night and today, keep telling yourself he isn’t ready, he hasn’t had enough time at AAA and he needs to work on things-until June.

    Besides, what do we do with Snider until then?


  17. theplanisworking says:

    They are keeping Polanco down in Indy until mid-June for financial reasons. Move the clock back a year. They can say anything else they want, but this makes sense from a financial standpoint.

    Unless he is the second coming of Willie Mays, he won’t be here til June.
    Until then, Snider for MVP! LOL !!!

  18. Karen22 says:

    Yes – that throw stunk.

  19. bpn8pitt says:

    The real question could be, does Polanco get here in time?

  20. Karen22 says:

    Snider’s actually doing OK – the crappy throw was from Tabata.

  21. Sarah says:

    Is it just me or does DK no longer focus on the Pens like he did this time last year ?

  22. DJ says:

    DK will be all over them, I’m quite sure. Some of his very best columns in the past.

    And he loves solving riddles to boot.

  23. Sarah says:

    Hope so!

    Meantime what are the predictions?

    Do the Wings have a hope of knocking off the Bs? They have a winning rec this year vs BOS (like us last year lol!)

  24. JohninOshkosh says:

    I believe three out of his last four columns have been about the Pens.

    Dude gets it on one side from the Pirates fans and from the Pens fans on the other side. lol.

  25. DJ says:

    Yes, you’re right Lucky. Small sample size . . . small sample size . . . small salary size.

    Hey, how’d that last one slip in there?

  26. Dejan Kovacevic says:

    A. Houston.

    B. No.

    C. Give it a Google. Not in a good spot at the moment.

    D. My kids love hockey.

  27. Nate83 says:

    Wil Myers who is every bit of the prospect if not even better then Polanco wasn’t brought up until the middle of June last year. He was the number one overall prospect and played for a small market. That’s just how teams like this operate. Snider has played well and I think the Pirates record would be exactly the same as it is right now with Polanco in the line up.

  28. bpn8pitt says:

    I know this is random but I hope Oscar Pistorious is convicted and locked away to sob forever.

  29. 21sthebest says:

    “The Riverhounds built Highmark Stadium for $10.1 million with no public assistance.”

    But what about the Urban Redevelopment Authority tax credits? Does it get built without those?

  30. Sisyphus says:

    Dejan, wanted to tell you that your coverage of the Hounds got me a bit interested in soccer, which led me to watch a lot of the EPL broadcasts. I still can’t claim that I have a good understanding of the game, but now I find myself wanting to go to a Hounds game. I never would have expected that just a few years ago.

    So it’s all your fault :-)

    DK: Ha! That’s pretty cool. Thanks for sharing.

  31. Sarah says:

    Sorry shoulda been more clear! seems like DK is now attending Bucs or Hounds games, not Pens. So we don’t get as much on Twitter, nor Random Bloginess from the hockey games for the masses.
    It seemed to me last year he was almost exclusively at the Pens games….

  32. Dejan, this afternoon, in the Paulista League final, another similar play: Santos’ Cícero was tackled by an Ituano defender, and the ref whistled a penalty. Replays showed that Cícero was offside, but it wasn’t called. Cícero converted the kick. Hence, an irregular goal.

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