Saturday’s match between Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC and Penn FC was the first match of this year’s Keystone Derby, one of the oldest rivalries in the USL. Two NPSL alums, Salvatore Barone and Neco Brett, would feature prominently in a back-and-forth match that ended in a 0-0 draw.
Barone played a full 90 minutes and could be found everywhere on the pitch for Penn FC, making a strong contribution on defense and in the attack.
“I thought it was overall a good game, we’ll take the point definitely coming on the road,” Barone commented. “It was a very physical game. The ball was in the air a lot of the time. That is how we have to play this type of situation. We know them. They like to go long and very direct so we stayed close together.”
Barone arrived at Penn FC this season after playing for the New York Cosmos and Brooklyn Italians. He was also part of the NPSL Player Showcase in 2017.
This was his first Keystone Derby match.
“The fans were great,” Barone added. “It’s really exciting for me.”
Barone credits the Cosmos for helping him learn how to be a professional player.
“It definitely gave me a lot of experience, which is very important. I got to see a lot of older guys that had experience playing, I could look up to them and see how they move on and off the field.”
Richard Menjivar, Harri Hawkins, and Lucky Mkosana are all former Cosmos players that joined Barone in Harrisburg. Like Barone, Hawkins is a former NPSL player.
“The NPSL was great,” Barone continued. “I started young. It definitely got me the experience and playing time I needed. Going into college it really helped.”
Brett was a second-half substitute for Riverhounds SC, playing over 15 minutes at the end of the game. His pace and energy revitalized the Pittsburgh offense as they looked for the game-winner that proved to be just out of reach.
Brett looks back at his time in the NPSL with great fondness. He played for the Fort Pitt Regiment under the expert tutelage of legendary coach John Kowalski.
“It was a good experience. He was a very experienced coach who knew what I needed to get to the next level. He was working on that for me. I really appreciated that.”
The former Robert Morris University standout was also impressed with the NPSL’s level of competition.
“It was really good. It was a level up from college, that’s always good moving up one level. You get to play against some guys that were pro. You get that experience, which is always good.”
Brett was most excited about making an appearance in Saturday’s home opener in Pittsburgh, his “home away from home.”
“It was really good. It was pretty exciting. I feel really good. It was a tough one, but at least we got a point.”
Both Barone and Brett made an impact in this match and it’s likely that the teams will also count on two other NPSL alums moving forward. Hawkins has already made a start for Penn FC, playing 90 minutes in a 1-0 loss to Charleston Battery on March 24th. Bakie Goodman, who last played for Detroit City FC, is poised to make an impact for the Riverhounds after a strong preseason.