The Houston Dynamo have formed an affiliate partnership with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds of USL PRO, it was announced at a press conference today.
The partnership will enable the Dynamo to loan a minimum of four MLS-contracted players to Pittsburgh for the 2014 USL PRO season. Houston will not participate in the MLS Reserve League in 2014.
"I think it is a positive that we are moving ahead with our younger players,” said Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear. “They come back to our team as better players and we think this will be a good relationship."
“In partnering with a top MLS side like the Houston Dynamo, the Riverhounds are now on a path to the top, both on and off the field,” said Riverhounds CEO Jason Kutney.
The Riverhounds were founded in 1999 and play at Highmark Stadium, a 3,500-seat soccer-specific stadium that opened in April. Managed by former MLS player Justin Evans, the Riverhounds joined USL PRO in 2011 and finished in seventh place in the 2013 regular season.
“In doing our homework, we found Pittsburgh to be a very professional organization and a club that will provide the right environment for our young players to develop,” Dynamo president Chris Canetti said. “In particular, we like their ownership structure, new downtown stadium, training center and technical philosophy.”
The Dynamo are the fifth club in MLS to form an affiliate partnership with a USL PRO club, joining Sporting Kansas City, the New England Revolution, Philadelphia Union and D.C. United. The two leagues entered a multi-year affiliation in 2012.
“The partnership between the Dynamo and Riverhounds is a great step forward as we move into the second year of USL PRO’s partnership with Major League Soccer,” USL president Tim Holt said. “The Dynamo’s Brian Ownby was a standout for Richmond last season (7 goals and 6 assists in 19 games), and this partnership will offer more opportunity for Houston’s young players to gain valuable experience with a club that is swiftly rising in USL PRO. In the past year, the Riverhounds have become a model franchise, and we believe this will accelerate their growth in their local market, and offer their fans an outstanding product on the field.”
USL PRO is the third tier in the U.S. soccer pyramid. The league will feature 14 clubs for the 2014 season, including expansion teams in Oklahoma City and Sacramento. Four of the last five clubs to enter MLS have moved up from the USL’s top professional division. The Vancouver Whitecaps, Seattle Sounders, Portland Timbers and Montreal Impact all operated franchises in the USL’s top professional division before making the transition to MLS.
“It is an exciting time to be a soccer fan in Pittsburgh,” said Riverhounds head coach Justin Evans. “Houston has been a top team in Major League Soccer since they joined in 2006 and I think affiliating with them definitely shows the positive ambition of our club. Dom (Kinnear) and I have known each other for many years. I am excited to be able to work hand in hand with such a great person, coach and soccer visionary.”
Kinnear added: “Justin has a good reputation and had a good playing career in MLS. Our players will be fortunate to be play under an established coach.”