Riverhounds announce partnership with Houston of the MLS

Matt Grubba
| Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013, 12:15 p.m.

The dream of joining the MLS is still years from coming true for the Riverhounds, but next year's team will have its share of MLS players.

The Riverhounds and MLS club Houston Dynamo announced Tuesday a partnership that will result in the Dynamo sending a minimum of four players on loan to the Riverhounds for the 2014 USL Pro season.

Riverhounds CEO Jason Kutney and Dynamo president Chris Canetti were at Highmark Stadium to announce the deal, which is designed to boost player development for both franchises.

“I don't think we could have picked a better partner or had a better partner to enter negotiations with than Houston,” Kutney said. “The big thing is the player loan, which will bring in four players that don't hit our payroll, so that's certainly a net gain for us.”

The Dynamo previously fielded a team in the MLS Reserve League, but Houston elected to do what four MLS teams did last season and pursue a partnership with a USL Pro franchise for 2014. MLS management recommended the Riverhounds and talks between the two clubs began, which led to the deal.

“We have some players in mind that would be suited for this, but we also have a college draft coming up. We're going to go into camp with guys fighting to make the first team, and we'll make our decision then,” Canetti said.

“Our reserve league now is only 10 games, and the games are spread out. You end up having guys who aren't prepping for a game every week. It will be good to have guys competing for jobs, going through training and playing in games, whether it's starting or coming off the bench.”

Last season was the first year MLS teams were able to partner with USL Pro clubs, and the results were immediate for some teams.

Houston was stopped from reaching a third consecutive MLS Cup final by losing the Eastern Conference championship 2-1 to Sporting Kansas City. Kansas City's goals were scored by C.J. Sapong and Dom Dwyer, two players who spent much of the season in USL Pro with Orlando before returning to MLS.

“The players that they're going to loan to us, we're definitely going to give them a good home and help them develop in their careers, and we hope they'll help us win a championship,” Riverhounds coach Justin Evans said. “This is going to further us as a professional club.”

The deal also will allow the Riverhounds to travel to Houston for its preseason and train at the Dynamo's facility at Houston Sports Park. The potential for a friendly match or matches between the teams also exists, but those plans have not been finalized.

The Riverhounds also made another announcement regarding player development. The club will have a franchise in the USL Premier Development League, a national amateur league for players predominantly younger than 23. The PDL team also will be called the Riverhounds, and the club is in the process of hiring a coach to work with the PDL team and its academy system.

“When I played college ball at Duquesne, there was no opportunity to stay (in Pittsburgh) during summer and compete at a high level. I went back to New Jersey and New York to play in the PDL there,” Kutney said. “It's the most direct route for a young player at the college level to reach the pros.”

Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at mgrubba@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Grubba_Trib.

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