Kowalski Aims for Scrap with Pittsburgh’s Big Dogs

Written by Ian Thomson

PITTSBURGH (May 12, 2015) – Five training sessions. That is all the time that Fort Pitt Regiment head coach John Kowalski has had to prepare his side for its first ever Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup game Wednesday evening.

“And not complete training sessions,” Kowalski told The Soccer Observer after Tuesday’s practice at the Robert Morris University Island Sports Complex.

“We had 16 players yesterday and 19 today, so we’ve not even had a full scrimmage in preparation for our first game.”

Tactical nuances might be lacking when the Regiment travels to Charleston’s Schoenbaum Stadium to face the West Virginia Chaos in this week’s first round meeting. Attitude, competitive spirit and improvisation will be key to Fort Pitt’s chances of setting up a Steel City derby against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds next week.

Kowalski has a small core of players returning from the side that clinched the National Premier Soccer League’s Great Lakes Conference title in its inaugural 2014 season. Former University of Pittsburgh captain Michael Tuohy will be an important component to Fort Pitt’s midfield alongside Sean Riley while Hunter Barcomb and Nate McCann remain on the back line.

“Tomorrow is going to be a little bit of a mystery,” Kowalski said. “Real Madrid or Manchester United are nowhere near polished when they’re starting their seasons.

“We’re in the same situation, and West Virginia are in the same situation.”

There will be some familiarity between the members of Kowalski’s roster. Many of his players have competed with or against each other for Pitt, Robert Morris and Duquesne University. The carrot of a crosstown match-up at Highmark Stadium serves as additional motivation for tomorrow’s contest.

“It would be nice to get a real high pressure, high atmosphere game and to play the first Steel City derby,” Tuohy said. “That could be a great occasion that helps to elevate soccer in Pittsburgh.”

It would also present Kowalski with the opportunity to face the Riverhounds team that he coached during the club’s first two seasons in 1999 and 2000.

“The U.S. Open Cup gives all the little dogs the chance to go against the big dogs and cause an upset,” Kowalski said. “But we have to play West Virginia first and see what happens.

“We’ll know by Thursday if we’ll be playing the Hounds, the big dogs in town, or if we’ll be buying tickets to watch them in the next round.”