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Riverhounds focused more on A-League

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
| Saturday, Sept. 21, 2002, 12:00 p.m.

If the Major Indoor Soccer League expands to Pittsburgh for the 2003-2004 season, it could be a year-round venture for the outdoor A-League Riverhounds.

The idea was approached to Riverhounds' owner Paul Heasley by officials at Mellon Arena where a new MISL team would play its games. The MISL confirmed to the Tribune-Review on Thursday that Pittsburgh was a possible site for expansion for the 2003-04 season.

Tom Rooney, president of Team Lemieux LLC for the Penguins, said he has been involved in discussions with Riverhounds owner Paul Heasley concerning his owning both the Riverhounds and a new Major Indoor Soccer League team.

Heasley was out of town Friday, but Cliff Gorski, vice president of business operations for the Riverhounds, said that Heasley is concentrating on his outdoor team and trying to find land for a soccer-only stadium.

An announcement on a site location is expected within the next two to three months.

"Mr. Heasley decided that his focus is on the Riverhounds and an outdoor brand of soccer and a soccer-only complex," Gorski said. "His vision is more broad than an indoor team."

Gorski said it wouldn't be easy for one ownership group to have an indoor and outdoor team because of the overlapping seasons. There also would be some logistic issues if the teams shared players, Gorski said.

Some teams have players who go from outdoor to indoor said MISL Cleveland Force owner Paul Garafolo. Forward David Flavius played for Cleveland last year and then came back to the Riverhounds for this season. Riverhounds midfielder Gary DePalma played for the Riverhounds this past season and plays for the Philadelphia Kixx of the MISL.

"So, that is not really a problem," said Garafolo, who was involved in the initial search to choose a city for a new MISL team. "Pittsburgh certainly is on our radar screen. Soccer has been successful there, and we would like to return there. Pittsburgh is ideal. The soccer market has grown there."

Garafolo said the plan was for 2004-05 season because there might be a new facility by that time. He said new facilities sell tickets so the timing would be perfect. Garafolo also added Columbus is a consideration, and he wants to bring an outdoor team to Cleveland. Garafolo added if Heasley did not want to purchase the entire team he could become a minority owner in it and have the owner of the indoor franchise make an investment in his outdoor team. The idea for the Riverhounds to be involved in this venture was partly founded on an interest from former coach Kai Haaskivi, who was fired in July.

If a team does come here, Rooney added this most likely would be the last time for an indoor squad in the city.

"There has been some skepticism before when it comes to indoor soccer in Pittsburgh," Rooney said. "There is one more bite left in the apple. It better work this time."

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