Trying to find its second victory of the young season, the Slippery Rock University men’s soccer team took a visit to the University of the District of Columbia, only a few miles from the White House, on Wednesday. In the end, a goal ceded early would have been enough to do the Green and White in, but the hosts added a score late to ensure a win in their home opener.
Coaching UDC was Matt Thompson, an easily-recognizable face for anyone familiar with the SRU soccer program. As a player here, Thompson was twice selected to the PSAC’s All-Conference selection and was the team’s Most Valuable Player in his senior season. Later, as The Rock’s head coach, he claimed a pair of PSAC titles and led the school to three NCAA Championship appearances, all the while being named PSAC Coach of the Year three times.
A teammate of Thompson’s in the mid-1990s and an assistant coach on his 2009 NCAA Sweet Sixteen team, Slippery Rock head coach Kevin Wilhelm described the coaching relationship between the two as mutual and that they both learned from each other in their time together.
“I think that what I was able to learn from him were a lot of his tactical points. The way he dealt with different situations in the game, the way he set up his tactics and training sessions for the next game, that kind of thing,” he said. “I would like to think that maybe what [Matt] got from me was some of the man management and how I interacted with the players to teach certain aspects of the game.”
It was Thompson’s Firebirds squad that jumped out to the front foot early. Shortly after The Rock’s senior midfielder George Oakley recorded the contest’s first shot in the first minute, UDC broke the scoreboard’s seal on a misfired own goal on Slippery Rock’s end.
The subsequent half hour did not lack for excitement. Oakley managed to get another two shots by the 11th minute, one floating over the goal’s mouth and the other being deflected by Firebird goalkeeper Daniel Eisenhauer, who also prevented the rebound from scoring off of Alexander Vilchek’s foot. After that offensive chance, SRU junior goalie Matt Hunsberger made a couple of saves on the other to keep his team from falling into a two-goal hole.
The Firebirds came out of the half absent of signs of complacency. A defensive effort on Slippery Rock’s part was needed to offset the five shots UDC got off within the second period’s first 12 minutes.
The best chance Wilhelm’s team had to even the score came from Oakley in the 78th minute, but a fourth save by Eisenhauer preceded the goal two minutes later that would put the game away for the Firebirds.
The Rock will hope to get back in the win column this Saturday afternoon in a home clash with Cedarville University.