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Thomas Jefferson grad Costanzo offers thoughts on World Cup champs

| Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2015, 9:05 p.m.
Pittsburgh Riverhounds' defender Rich Costanzo signs autographs on the field at Highmark Stadium on the city's South Side after playing Antigua Barracuda FC on Sunday, June 23, 2013. Costanzo was named a team captain in just his second season with the team.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Riverhounds' defender Rich Costanzo signs autographs on the field at Highmark Stadium on the city's South Side after playing Antigua Barracuda FC on Sunday, June 23, 2013. Costanzo was named a team captain in just his second season with the team.
Women World Cup Champion Meghan Klingenberg, a Pine-Richland graduate, high-fives fans during halftime of a Pittsburgh Riverhounds game on July 18, 2015.  The Riverhounds lost 2-1 against Louisville City FC.
Nate Smallwood | Trib Total Media
Women World Cup Champion Meghan Klingenberg, a Pine-Richland graduate, high-fives fans during halftime of a Pittsburgh Riverhounds game on July 18, 2015. The Riverhounds lost 2-1 against Louisville City FC.

The U.S. women's national soccer team will play Costa Rica at 1:30 p.m. Sunday at Heinz Field.

A large crowd of area soccer fans is expected to attend.

Who better to ask about the U.S. team than local soccer aficionado Rich Costanzo, one of the top soccer products of the WPIAL and Western Pennsylvania area?

Costanzo had a five-year professional career that included stints with the Minnesota Thunder, Rochester Rhino and Pittsburgh Riverhounds in the United Soccer Leagues.

During the 2012 and 2013 seasons, Costanzo served as captain of the Riverhounds, playing in 43 games.

Prior to his professional career, Costanzo competed for one season at Penn State before transferring to Maryland.

He was named the 2004 Big Ten freshman of the year at Penn State, while also earning Freshman All-America honors by Soccer America, Top Drawer Soccer and College Soccer News.

Costanzo transferred to Maryland prior to the 2006 season before being named team captain in 2008 and leading the Terrapins to an ACC Championship and an NCAA Division I national title.

In high school, he led the TJ boys' soccer team to a state championship in 2002.

The U.S. team rolled past Japan, 5-2, in the FIFA Women's World Cup championship game earlier this summer at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, Canada.

“The women's national team did a fantastic job,” said Costanzo, an assistant men's soccer coach at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. “They played with so much heart and emotion throughout the World Cup tournament. They started out slow but progressed throughout the tournament and found a way to win.”

One of the starters for the U.S. women's team is Meghan Klingenberg, a Pine-Richland graduate.

“I believe the biggest strength of the women's team is their confidence in their abilities as individuals, as well as their confidence in the team,” Costanzo said. “As a whole, the U.S. women's team has had tremendous success over the years, and they have every reason to be confident in what they are doing as an organization and team. I think the team rightfully plays with a chip on their shoulder, and that belief in themselves goes a long way.”

Costanza, who spends a good chunk of his summer months running his Pittsburgh Soccer Academy for players ages 5 to 13 at various locations in the South Hills, believes the U.S. women's championship will have an impact locally.

“Yes, I definitely think that what the team has done will positively effect the boys and girls in the Pittsburgh area,” Costanzo said. “Especially since we had a local girl, Meghan Klingenberg, make such huge contributions to the success of the team.

“These women are great role models for the youth. It's nice for the youth to see the U.S. find success on the soccer field at the highest level. This will inspire many kids to work hard for the chance to play collegiately and potentially have a chance to play in the World Cup one day. It is great for the boys and girls to see how far hard work and dedication can take you.”

Ray Fisher is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5820 or rfisher@tribweb.com

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