Local product Anthony Virgara has agreed to terms with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds for the 2015 United Soccer Leagues season.
He is one of 10 midfielders on the squad, which also includes two forwards, four defenders and two goalkeepers.
“Signing with the Riverhounds is a very exciting time in my life,” said the 23-year-old Virgara. “I expect to learn a lot from the experience within this club.”
Virgara attended Seton-La Salle and Keystone Oaks high schools before turning in a stellar career at Marshall University. Virgara made 63 appearances for The Herd during his collegiate career.
He signed his first professional contract with his hometown team last August after making 11 appearances for the Riverhounds’ Premier Development League team in the summer.
Virgara made his pro team debut as a substitute in last year’s penultimate league game at the Charleston Battery.
The local athlete played at Seton-La Salle from 2005-07 before transfering to Keystone Oaks in 2008.
“I coached Anthony (at Seton-La Salle) as an assistant to Aaron Panczyk in 2007, but I have known him on a personal level since,” said Ryan Kelly, head coach of the Seton-La Salle boys’ soccer team. “Anthony was a special player while he was at Seton-La Salle, and you could tell that even early on. I think he scored a goal in the PIAA finals as a freshman, which says a lot about his ability in itself.
“The individual skill Anthony possessed (in high school) was something that this area had not since guys like Rich Costanzo were playing. He probably spent more time on a ball on his own than the time spent at training and games. His world revolved around soccer. It was hard to see him transfer to KO, but he’s done very well for himself ever since.”
Virgara was a member of Seton-La Salle’s PIAA and WPIAL championship team in 2006.
“In high school, I remember there being so many good rivalries at both of the schools I attended,” said Virgara, who added that being part of a state championship squad was a career highlight.
“In college, I remember growing a lot as a person as well as a player with the great teammates I had.”
Several people have had a major impacts on Virgara’s distinguished soccer career.
“It’s hard to pinpoint who has had the biggest influence on my career,” Virgara said. “Every coach, and all the teammates I have had, have influenced me a great deal. Each coach, with a different style and dynamics to their coaching, brought different aspects of the game to the table.
“My parents have been a huge influence as well, providing me with so much support to work, and continue to work, toward my goals.”
Kelly believes Virgara will make a name for himself in the United Soccer Leagues.
“He should have an impact with the Riverhounds,” Kelly said. “It’s nice to see local guys like Anthony and Nick Kolarac (West Allegheny) join the group as the Hounds continue to grow as a franchise.
“It will really be a testament to their training when a good number of local guys end up on that roster over the next few years. Compound that with the fact guys like Anthony, Nick and other current and former Riverhounds will be involved with training local players, which will continue to raise the bar for Pittsburgh soccer.”
Pittsburgh kicks off its USL season March 28 when the Harrisburg City Islanders visit Highmark Stadium.
The Riverhounds began play in 1999 as a member of the United Soccer Leagues.
The team has competed in USL PRO since its inception in 2011.
Ray Fisher is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5820 or [email protected].