Former TJ soccer star lands History Center honor
One of the most accomplished athletes in Thomas Jefferson High School history has received yet another accolade to add to his distinguised soccer resume.
Rich Costanzo, 26, who played for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds this past season, has been inducted into the sports hall of fame at the Senator John Heinz History Center.
An exhibit honoring Costanzo and his soccer accomplishments was unveiled at the ceremony held recently at the Strip District museum.
Also, prior to the unveiling, Costanzo receive a proclamation from the City of Pittsburgh that lauded his many soccer accomplishments, and it was designated as “Richard Costanzo Day” in Pittsburgh.
“I feel very honored to be inducted into the Heinz History Center sports hall of fame,” said Costanzo, a 2004 Thomas Jefferson High School graduate. “I am grateful to have my jerseys and other memorabilia displayed in the museum. It is exciting because those items will be there for years to come.”
“I was (also) very surprised and humbled to receive the proclamation.”
Growing up in Jefferson Hills, Costanzo led Thomas Jefferson to three consecutive state championship game appearances, and a state title in 2002.
Costanzo holds the school record for goals while playing three years with the Jaguars. He was a two-time NSCAA/adidas All-American, two-time regional All-American, and twice was named the WPIAL Player of the Year.
In 2003, Costanzo also was honored as the NSCAA Pennsylvania State Player of the Year, and was chosen as an EA Sports All-American.
He was named the McKeesport Daily News Athlete of the Year in 2004.
Costanzo was coached at Thomas Jefferson by Michael “Doc” Kulish, the veteran field boss of the Jaguars' varsity soccer program.
“I was extremely proud that a player of Richard's caliber was inducted into the Heinz History Center, representing the soccer program of Thomas Jefferson High School and the University of Maryland,” Kulish said. “He was an extremely gifted athlete at TJ, and still holds the record for career goals.
“His No. 6 jersey is represented in the exhibit. It was a proud day for me when I was asked to present him with a citation from Pittsburgh City Council.”
This past year, Costanzo formed the Pittsburgh Soccer Academy in an effort to assist area youth in their training and preparation.
Clinics are held on Monday and Tuesday nights at 885 Field, and on Friday nights at Pleasant Hills Middle School.
“The biggest influence in my soccer career has been my parents (Rich and Renee Costanzo). They have supported me and did whatever it took to help me excel and reach the goals,” Costanzo said.
“Their support is the reason I decided to start my own training academy. I want to give soccer players the opportunity to reach their full potential, and help them accomplish whatever goals that they are striving to reach. I am back home, and I am excited to pass on the soccer knowledge I have gained throughout my career to the soccer players here in Pittsburgh.”
Kulish has followed Costanzo's collegiate and professional careers closely. He and his former prized pupil have developed a lifetime bond over the years that has grown out of the respect each has for the other.
“I am extremely proud I had the opportunity to coach Richard and follow his career,” Kulish said. “We are the closest of friends, and he is currently coaching many soccer players in the surrounding areas.
“I know he will be successful as a mentor in his coaching career, and will be an excellent role model for today's youth. I can only wish him the best in the future.”
Costanzo was lauded as the Tribune-Review Soccer Player of the Year in 2003.
He began his college career at Penn State University, and was named Big Ten Player of the Year in 2004. He also was tabbed Big Ten Freshman of the Year.
Additionally, he was named Freshman All-America by the likes of Soccer America, Top Drawer Soccer and College Soccer News.
After sitting out his sophomore season due to an injury, Costanzo transferred to the University of Maryland.
As a senior team captain in 2008, Costanzo helped lead the Terrapins to an Atlantic Coast Conference title, and the NCAA Division I national championship.
“Richard is by far the best all-time soccer player to graduate from TJ,” Kulish said. “He was a pleasure to coach during his TJ career.
“He was and continues to be an excellent role model for today's youth.”
Costanzo, who graduated from Maryland with a degree in business, played professionally for the Minnesota Thunder (2009) and Rochester Rhinos (2010-11) in the USL Professional Soccer League, before joining the Riverhounds organization in 2012.
“I (was) thrilled to have an opportunity to return to Pittsburgh where I grew up, and be able to play for the Riverhounds,” Costanzo said.
Jason Kutney, the Riverhounds' CEO, was excited with the Costanzo signing prior to the start of the 2012 campaign.
“With the addition of Richie Costanzo, combined with head coach Justin Evans, our club arguably has the two most successful youth soccer players to come out of Pittsburgh,” Kutney said.
Costanzo manned a midfield position for the Riverhounds, who are scheduled to play in a newly built soccer venue at Station Square next season.
Costanzo has aspirations of playing in the MLS or overseas, and views his signing with the Riverhounds as only enhancing those chances.
“Next year, I am not sure where I am going to be playing my professional ball,” he said. “I am going to weigh my options and do whatever is best for my career.
“I am going to keep pushing myself and, hopefully, I will one day play at the MLS level. For right now, I am going to make the best of my opportunity.”
Ray Fisher is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5820 or firstname.lastname@example.org.