Hossam Aly is no stranger to comeback stories. His path to playing time at The Rock was anything but a free right of passage.
As an eight-year-old playing soccer in Egypt, Aly volunteered to hop in the net. He reminisced on how much fun he had just diving around in the dirt, knowing that he was falling in love with the position in that moment.
“I let in like eight goals on me, but I had fun,” Aly said.
Aly was a multi-sport standout in high school as a four-year letterman in soccer and a three-year letter winner in football where he was a punter. He also got another two years in wrestling and volleyball under his belt while he was a student at Central Dauphin East.
Early on in his college visitation process, he had several options, considering Slippery Rock, Bloomsburg, Temple and Mercyhurst, where he was committed at one point. One of the biggest draws to Slippery Rock was the idea of joining a new generation of Slippery Rock men’s soccer. Coach Kevin Wilhelm, who guided Aly through a tour, began his SRU coaching tenure in 2018. This meant that the 2019 recruiting class, Aly’s class, was also Coach Wilhelm’s first recruiting class.
“Coach was in the same position as me,” said Aly, describing how both men were looking to create a name for themselves bettering Slippery Rock’s soccer team. Their efforts showed instant progress by increasing their 2018 win total from four to eight in 2019. Aly would go on to discuss how Coach Wilhelm and himself have developed a tight-knit player-to-coach relationship, and he sees Coach Wilhelm as someone he can trust and rely on.
Aly also commented on how comfortable the team and school made him in the adjustment period from high school to college. Future matchups against Mercyhurst were an added plus, as he looked forward to proving to them that he made the right choice de-committing and playing for The Rock.
“It’s still eleven v eleven, it doesn’t really matter to me, but I think that me going up against them Is like a chance to like prove yourself, you know what I mean? And I thrive off of that type of stuff.”Aly added that his brother also chose SRU, solidifying that Aly made the right decision. “He loves it here too.”
His high school success lead him to a spot as a division two athlete, but that didn’t mean instant playing time.
“Freshman year I redshirted because I wasn’t going to play and then I was pissed. You know I want to play, but like, if I’m not playing you’ve got to do something, there’s a reason you’re not playing,” Aly said.
Aly recognized the grind ahead of him and looked to his upperclassmen and team leaders as role models.
In his first year at Slippery Rock soccer practices, Aly immediately noticed the intensity. He referenced how at other schools or levels of athletics, practice may seem like a time to relax and take things less seriously, but practice doesn’t mean taking your foot off the gas pedal at SRU. “I saw the intensity that was brought every day and they were the ones that were playing and I was the one sitting on the bench.”
Aly knew that there were players above him on the depth chart, but he wasn’t going to let anyone outwork him, so that’s exactly what he did. Through analyzing the players who were veterans at the time and never stopping his training process, he sent a message. “I wanted to prove to Coach and everyone else here that I can play.” Everything was trending up, and just then, the world shut down.
In early 2020 signs of a catastrophic pandemic were looming, and it was only a matter of time before COVID-19 began affecting everyone. Hospitals began to fill and schools halted in-person classes. On March 11, 2020, Slippery Rock University extended Spring Break as a proactive measure to limit COVID-19. On March 16, everyone was informed that classes were going online for SRU.
Just as everything was starting to fall into place for Aly, he had to start over again. That didn’t stop him. He continued with his non-stop attitude and never quit on the grind, particularly at practice, where the competition didn’t let up.
He saw and felt the improvements but knew he needed to execute and show everyone else.
“In my mind, you know I just have to transition it to output to show results on the field,” Aly said.
In his Junior year, Hossam Aly got his chance. He started fourteen games while averaging just over one and a half goals against and a .720 save percentage. His 54 saves and three shutouts were good for fifth in the PSAC. Potentially the highlight of his season was an October 20th matchup against Mercyhurst where he recorded a season-high seven saves.
There have been multiple recent all-PSAC players from Slippery Rock men’s soccer in recent years as Alejandro Fernandez and Anthony Gagliardi II captured first-team All-PSAC West honors in 2021 with Mo Kanani, Dan Schearer and Brian McCarthy being named to the second-team. This has created a strong competitive culture and iron sharpens iron mentality among the players. This mentality carries into games where, as Aly would say, “We’d go into every game knowing we have a chance like we’re going to win.”
Aly himself has accumulated two PSAC West Defensive Athlete of the Week awards. This, in tandem with his play and confidence, has placed him into a leadership role on the team similar to the players he was looking up to just a few short years ago.
Now as an upperclassman, younger players look to him for guidance.
“I tell them no one can be in a worse position than I was freshman year. What I mean by that is I want to say I was like the fourth string keeper, barely playing,” Aly said.
Aly had anything but a clear path to playing time, but he made it through with the help of his strong mindset and work ethic.
“Talk to coach [and ask him what he wants from you],” Aly said.
Much of the Slippery Rock defense has been overhauled because of former players graduating or not returning. This has forced Aly to show the defense how everything needs to function and how they themselves can garner more playing time, and it comes down to one simple answer that Aly has been living by for seemingly forever now.
“You have to work for it,” Aly said. “You can literally achieve what you want as long as you tell yourself that you can do it.”
Aly and Coach Wilhelm now look forward to the rest of the 2022 season, hoping to return to the PSAC tournament for the first time since 2019.
One stat that hasn’t left Aly’s mind was the Green and White’s seven losses by one goal last year.
“That’s how close the margins were,” Aly said. “Just play 90 minutes.”
If The Rock men’s soccer can reverse at least some of those close losses, they appear to be primed for a playoff spot.
“Anything can happen, especially in conference play,” Aly said.
Despite his ever-growing confidence and ability as a leader, Aly never forgets the importance of playing as a team.
“Say I concede zero goals, it’s not me that conceded zero goals, it’s the team that concedes zero goals together,” Aly said.