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Thomas Jefferson grad Costanzo is coming home

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Richie Costanzo knew the Pittsburgh Riverhounds were serious about soccer when they hired former Major League Soccer star Justin Evans as their coach a few years back.

Costanzo also viewed the implementation of the Riverhounds' academy youth programs as a sign of commitment to the sport, as well as the soon-to-be constructed Station Square stadium, which will hold 3,500.

Oh yeah, it didn't hurt that he grew up a few miles down the road.

Costanzo signed a two-year deal with the United Soccer League's Riverhounds that will allow him to play in front of friends and family for the first time since graduating from Thomas Jefferson nearly a decade ago.

"I like where soccer is headed in Pittsburgh," he said Wednesday. "Being from here, I wanted to be come back and be a part of it. I am happy to be a part of all the good things around here when it comes to soccer. ... It's also nice to be home."

Costanzo, the 2004 Daily News Athlete of the Year, has done his share of traveling since graduation. He was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year during his one season at Penn State before transferring to Maryland, where he helped the Terrapins win the national title in 2008 as a senior captain.

Costanzo spent one year with Minnesota of the USL and the past two with Rochester. He has played 59 professional games in the past three years.

"Richie is a rare player that gives us a great combination of natural talent, professionalism, leadership, and hunger to excel," Evans said. "We were looking to add this type of player to our squad this offseason."

Even though he scored 107 goals in high school, Costanzo hasn't played attacker since his early college days and has five goals in three USL seasons. That could change with the Riverhounds: He will play a midfield role that will give him opportunities to rediscover his scoring touch.

"It will be nice to do that again," he said. "These guys know what I can do offensively."

Costanzo has aspirations of playing in MLS or overseas and views signing with the Riverhounds as only enhancing those chances.

"I am going to keep pushing myself and, hopefully, I will one day play at the MLS level," he said. "For right now, I am going to make the best of my opportunity right now."

The Riverhounds open the season April 6 at Antigua Barracuda FC. Their first home game — held at Chartiers Valley — is April 21 against Dayton.

"I see where soccer is headed here, and this is a good opportunity," Costanzo said. "I had other opportunities, but this is where I wanted to be."

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