Tartan Devils Oak Devils vs Louisville City FC 17-05-2017
Tartan Devils Oak Avalon 0:9 Louisville City FC
Wednesday – 17 May 2017
US Open Cup (2nd Round)
Highmark Stadium – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania USA
Attendance- 800 (Away- 20)
After my journeys in European football, I’m taking another long road trip in the USA to take in 4 games as I go from coast to coast. My first game is a second round US Open Cup matchup in Pittsburgh between amateur side Tartan Devils Oak Avalon and Louisville City FC, a professional team from the second tier USL. My first problem was getting there, so I embarked on a short 800 road trip. After a couple days in the car, I checked in to my hotel by the airport and made my way downtown.
Tartan Devils are a local Pittsburgh club, based out of Piper’s Pub and consisting of 7 different teams. Most of these clubs are competing in over 30s and over 40s division, but their main club is the Tartan Devils Oak Avalon, and they compete in the Greater Pittsburgh Soccer League. Their stellar performance last year in their local league allowed them to enter into this year’s US Open Cup, which is the American version of the FA Cup. They went on the road to Louisville and upset Derby City Rovers of the USL Professional Development League in the first round, which earned them a home game in the second round. A sizable upset for a local pub league club to beat a semi-professional team from the third tier of US soccer, and this earned them a home game in the second round.
Seeing as how the Tartan Devils mainly play in local parks, they were fortunate to host their second round matchup against Louisville City at Highmark Stadium. Normally the home of the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, the USL team in the area, but they were on the road in Chicago for the second round so the Tartan Devils were fortunate enough to host Louisville City FC at the Highmark This is a 3,500 seat soccer ground across Monongahela River from downtown Pittsburgh. Located right on the riverside with seats only on one side and a large net on the other sideline to keep balls from floating down the river. With a 7pm kickoff, we arrived to the stadium at about 6:45 and parked about 30 feet from the gate. With the whole ground being $10 general admission, it was a good value but unfortunately, as an amateur side, they didn’t have any scarves available. A crowd of 800 wasn’t a bad turnout for the an amateur side hosting in the second round, which is when the teams from the second tier of American football join the competition.
This year the second tier of American football consists of the MLS-supported United Soccer League (USL) and the independent North American Soccer League (NASL). The USL is definitely on the ascendency with 30 teams, divided into an eastern and western conference, while the NASL only has 8 teams and there were doubts over whether it would have enough teams to have a viable competition this season. The USL has served as a springboard for teams looking to join the MLS, such as Orlando City, while also housing either MLS reserve sides, such as LA Galaxy II and Portland Timbers II, and sides that are affiliated with MLS sides, such as Reno 1868, who are affiliated with the San Jose Earthquakes. Reserve sides are restricted from entering the US Open Cup, while some affiliates can take part but are unable to play their parent side unless they reach the finals.
This was a game of men versus boys, as the local pub team struggled right from the off in front of a vocal local crowd. This seemed like the highlight of their season, but they were down 3-0 within the first 25 minutes with the first goal coming from a rather hapless own goal in the 8th minute. At the half, Louisville were up 4-0 and the Tartan Devils had presented no attacking threat. Almost the entire half was played in their end. The amateurs came out and made 3 changes, but this didn’t alter the fact that the USL team was miles better. Louisville kept pouring on more offense as the second half went on, and were up 9-0 with 4 minutes to go. Luckily, before they could score a 10th, the referee called the game with no extra added time. This slight act of mercy allowed the amateur to retire to the local pub with a bit of self-esteem intact at having held Louisville to single digits.
This was a beautiful stadium, in a great location that makes it one of the best in the second tier of American soccer. A ground built and owned by the USL team, and an example to all other lower tier clubs of how to provide a good football experience right in the heart of the city. After this, I would be driving to Philadelphia and then across the country to San Jose, California.