Last Friday night, the Georgetown men’s soccer team continued its spring season against the George Mason Patriots under the bright lights of MultiSport Facility. The teams played to a 1-1 draw. The night, however, was about more than a soccer game.

Grassroot Soccer, according to its mission statement, is an organization that uses the power of soccer in the fight against HIV and AIDS to provide African youth with the knowledge, life skills and support to live HIV-free. Friday night, the student-athletes of the men’s soccer team laced up their cleats in the name of this cause.

“It’s a really good cause, especially because [of what it does] for D.C.,” junior goalkeeper Matthew Brutto said.

Brutto was referencing a parallel Georgetown initiative, GrassrootHoyas, which was founded in early 2009 by alumnus Tyler Spencer (GRD ’09). Spencer started the D.C.-focused organization after spending time in Africa working for Grassroot Soccer. His organization works toward the same goals as Grassroot Soccer, but aims to achieve them here in D.C. with the help of Georgetown student-athletes.

“We see it as a positive thing we can do for the community,” junior forward Jose Colchao said.

While Friday night’s game was played in the name of Grassroot Soccer, the event was fueled by the support that GrassrootHoyas has invoked from the student-athlete body for increased HIV and AIDS awareness and prevention. The two organizations are inspiration for each other.

“Under GrassrootHoyas, we [the players] put a lot of effort into it,” Brutto said. “We tried to hang up flyers to get the word out. We sold a lot of raffle tickets and tried to get the student body excited about coming out as well as [others] in surrounding areas.”

To encourage members of the community to attend, admission to the game on Friday night was free. The student-athletes instead focused their fundraising efforts on donations and a charity raffle, which featured an Apple iPad as its grand prize. Those who purchased of raffle tickets, which sold for $10 each, were also entered into drawings for gift certificates to Gordon Biersch, Jiffy Lube, Chipotle and Dick’s Sporting Goods.

“I think everything turned out really well. We were sort of given a dry run to see what it would be like to put on a game during our actual [spring] season on the field, and I think the boys were really excited. We got a good turnout, good food and good fun,” Brutto said.

At halftime, local youth soccer teams played small-sided games on the field, and a full concession stand remained open for the duration of the event.

“Over the years, we’ve always wanted to get more of a crowd involved. . There were a lot of people out here. Seeing the club teams around, former coaches, former players, was great. It was a fun game to have,” Colchao said.

The event was a success, but there was one potential roadblock that the student-athletes faced in the planning of the event. While the athletic department did not interfere with the players’ efforts to organize the fundraiser, it did not offer its usual level of support because of conflicts inherent between Grassroot Soccer and the Catholic mission of the university – for example, the groups’ divergent views on the endorsement and distribution of contraception.

“I really don’t have an opinion on that,” Brutto said of the issue.

When asked if the lack of managerial assistance from the athletic department caused any difficulties for the student-athletes in preparing the event, Brutto commented, “I don’t really think so. There were no conflicts, at least that I know of, and I feel like everyone was just excited about [the game] and the good cause.”

On the field, the Hoyas had something else to be excited about. The team played well, and although the tie score was not what they were looking for, the players were pleased with their overall performance.

“I felt good. I thought we created a lot,” Colchao said. “[The Patriots] are a good team, and they’ll be good next year. It was good for us to sort of match up with a team of [that] caliber.”

Georgetown came out firing in the first several minutes of the match, earning multiple scoring chances and corner kicks. Unfortunately, the Hoyas were unable to capitalize on any of their first-half opportunities, and freshman midfielder Tommy Muller was lost to injury early on after being struck near the eye on a contended header in the 18-yard box. The home side’s best chance of the half came in the 29th minute when Colchao found himself one-on-one with the George Mason keeper, but his shot was saved and held.

The second half provided both goals of the contest, and the Hoyas struck first. Shortly after freshman midfielder Andy Riemer missed a point-blank opportunity from inside the six-yard box, junior midfielder Seth C’deBaca and junior defender Ibu Otegbeye combined on a textbook give-and-go that sent C’deBaca in on goal. The midfielder fired a shot from the right side to the far post and into the left side netting, putting Georgetown on top 1-0 in the 69th minute.

The Hoyas’ elation was short-lived, however, as they were punished by an opportunistic Patriot attack for playing lackadaisical defense over the next five minutes. After a few missed scoring chances, George Mason sophomore forward Alhagi Toure made Georgetown pay in the 74th with a rocketed 20-yard strike to the near post that escaped the reach of Georgetown junior goalkeeper Mark Wilber. Unable to counter with a go-ahead goal in the final 16 minutes, the Hoyas settled for a 1-1 tie and a 2-0-1 spring record thus far.

“It’s always deflating when we give up a goal late in the game after we were up 1-0, but it’s the spring. We’re out here to learn and really grow as a team during the springtime so I think we have a lot to take out of this. We’ll watch film and really break it down,” Brutto said.

Although the match was played as an exhibition, the Hoyas played with intensity.

“It’s always competitive,” Colchao said. “I always miss playing under the lights, and that always adds an extra element to the game. It was a great atmosphere. We wanted to win.”

From the funds raised for Grassroot Soccer to the product on the field, Friday night’s event gave the Hoyas much to be proud of. As the fall creeps closer, signs point toward this upcoming soccer season being a good one on the Hilltop.

“We have a lot of work to do, but we’re excited about next year and about how good we can be,” Brutto said.

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