South Xtra: Costanzo helps streaking Riverhounds

PRO SOCCER


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Rich Costanzo and a few of his teammates sat eating lunch at Noodles & Company in Market Square when they got the news.

A phone call from the Riverhounds front office notified Costanzo and striker Jose Angulo that they were both selected to the United Soccer League PRO Team of the Week for their play in a June 1 win against the Rochester Rhinos.

While any player would be proud of the achievement, and Costanzo, a Thomas Jefferson High School graduate, is no exception, his eyes remained fixed on the final two months of the team's season.

"It's nice to have these little accomplishments along the way," Costanzo said, "but the big picture is to win games.

The Riverhounds' Noodles & Company celebration followed in nonchalant form, as Costanzo and Angulo both received a batch of compliments from their teammates, but the cheers stayed low key.

"It was pretty calm," Costanzo said. "They congratulated us and it was nice."

The honor came June 4, after a month-long stretch of unbeaten soccer for the Riverhounds that has continued in the two games following Costanzo and Angulo's recognition. The Riverhounds have a record of 5-0-5 in their past 10 games.

This is the first time Costanzo has been selected to the USL PRO Team of the Week this season, and the third time in his career. He had been waiting, however, for this one. It always means more when it's for your hometown.

Costanzo, who grew up in Jefferson Hills, said the award carried some extra meaning because he earned it playing for his hometown team.

There was another reason, however, that the team captain could smile at Noodles & Company when he heard the news.

Costanzo's initial two placements on the USL PRO Team of the Week came when he was playing for the Rochester (N.Y.) Rhinos, his home for two seasons before joining the Riverhounds last year.

Now he was awarded for his standout play against his former team, in a 3-0 Riverhounds win against the Rhinos. The win was the team's second consecutive shutout victory.

"It was a little extra incentive or motivation," Costanzo said. "That was a great, great feeling for me to beat a former team and especially a big rival like the Rochester Rhinos."

While Costanzo was awarded for helping keep the Riverhounds' opponents out of the penalty area and net, Angulo was recognized for the opposite.

Teammate Matt Dallman just missed on a shot that smacked off the crossbar and landed in front of Angulo, who was able to sneak a shot past the Rhinos goaltender, Kriston Nicht. Angulo also had an assist in the game to help him earn the honor.

"Jose continues to be an offensive juggernaut for us this season," Riverhounds coach Justin Evans said, "and has been a massive piece of our recent run of good form."

But, much like Costanzo, Angulo deflected much of the honor.

"I'm always happy to make the USL PRO Team of the Week, but overall it's a team effort," Angulo said.

The dual recognition comes after nearly two months of strong soccer, that followed an 0-4-1 start from the team. The Riverhounds (5-4-6) stand in eighth place in the 13-team USL PRO Division.

The Riverhounds are scheduled to play again at 7 p.m. Thursday -- a Fourth of July match -- at home against Charlotte.

Costanzo credits the team's hot streak to a group of teammates who didn't know each other well when the season started, finally starting to jell together. The result: A winning team that still has a long way to go.

"We've got to stay focused on what matters most," Costanzo said. "We don't care who gets awards and praise."

sportsother

Mike Vernon: mvernon@post-gazette.com or Twitter @m_vernon. First Published July 3, 2013 4:00 AM


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