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Winless Riverhounds part ways with Evans after five years as coach

| Monday, May 19, 2014, 5:18 p.m.
James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
In this file photo, Pittsburgh Riverhounds coach Justin Evans (left) works the team out Friday, April 12, 2013, at the team's home, Highmark Stadium. The winless team fired Evans on May 19, 2014.

The Riverhounds began the USL Pro season with high expectations. Two months later and as the league's only winless club, the team decided to make a change.

Coach Justin Evans was fired Monday, two days after a 1-0 loss to Rochester dropped the team to 0-4-3 and left it in last place in USL Pro.

Evans, a former MLS player and Peters Township graduate who began his pro playing career with the Riverhounds in 1999, was in his fifth season as coach.

“It was incredibly hard to do,” said Riverhounds CEO Jason Kutney, who was a teammate of Evans during their pro careers. “Justin is a consummate professional and a guy who has been a big part of the Riverhounds for a long time, but a change had to be made.”

Evans was 28-46-28 in league matches, including playoffs, as the Riverhounds' coach. He remains tied for eighth on the club's all-time goal scoring list with 14 and is sixth in appearances for the club as a player with 101.

Evans declined to comment Monday.

Niko Katic, the Riverhounds' longest-tenured player and a coach in the team's youth academy, will take over interim head coach. Director of academy operations Scott Gibson will serve as an assistant coach.

“I have mixed feelings because I respect Justin,” Katic said. “But I'm a soldier for the team, and I will take this task on and try to make things right

“Hopefully, it will be exciting times to come, but right now, we need the support from the Steel Army and the rest of our fans.”

No other staff changes were announced, but Kutney said the team has begun contacting people for the head coaching position. Katic is not considered to be an option as Evans' permanent replacement, but he will be in charge for the team's two-game road trip this weekend to Wilmington and Charleston.

“Niko can bring us what we're missing the most right now, and that is for the team to play with passion, starting this weekend,” Kutney said.

The Riverhounds spent this offseason re-signing the core of their 2013 team, including USL Pro MVP Jose Angulo and league assists leader Matt Dallman. The team also made big offseason acquisitions, such as former Fulham striker Collins John, 2013 USL Pro MVP finalist Joseph Ngwenya and USL Pro veterans Anthony Obodai and Danny Earls.

Kutney said Evans was involved in some of the player personnel decisions, while others, such as the signing of Obodai, were his call in his role as CEO.

Staff writer Dejan Kovacevic contributed to this report. 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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