The Road to Redemption
Published: Thursday, September 5, 2013
Updated: Thursday, September 5, 2013 21:09
Pinpointing the most exhilarating moment in the Georgetown men’s soccer team’s historic 2012 season is a difficult undertaking.
Was it winning a share of the Big East regular season championship? Was it watching fans stream onto Shaw Field following the win that propelled the Hoyas to their first ever College Cup appearance? Or was it beating Maryland in penalty kicks to advance to the national championship game? Maybe it was the mere fact that no one really saw them coming.
For Head Coach Brian Wiese, it was the waning seconds of the Hoyas’ Elite Eight win over San Diego.
“After they started the countdown on the PA system for the 10 second countdown and we knew the game was won, I had a really hard time not getting choked up because of how proud I was of that team,” Wiese said.
The Hoyas, who began the season unranked, shattered records and racked up individual accolades, drawing not only the attention of the traditionally basketball-crazed student fan base but of the entire country. With a cast of fabulously talented players and a never-say-die attitude, the Hoyas’ season had all the makings of a classic fairy tale.
Except, perhaps, for the ending.
On Dec. 9, 2012, the Blue and Gray fell in the College Cup to the Indiana Hoosiers 1-0. The Hoyas were one heartbreaking goal away from a national championship title, the sting of which hasn’t quite subsided for Wiese.
“As a coach, there’s a ton that you think about — you know, if I could do that game again knowing what I know now, I’d do a lot of stuff different,” Wiese said. “But we made all of our decisions to the best of our ability at the time.”
Even so, the 2012 season was the best in program history, and the pressure is on to repeat the heroics. Without stars Ian Christianson, Andy Riemer, Tommy Muller and Jimmy Nealis, all of whom were drafted for Major League Soccer last spring, topping last season’s magic is no small task.
Luckily for the No. 11 Hoyas and their avid new fan base, the team is returning a handful of veteran players including senior forward and captain Steve Neumann. Among his many individual awards, Neumann was a finalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy last season — the highest honor in college soccer — and was also named to the MAC Hermann Trophy watch list for the 2013 season.
“Stevie is the guy who everybody looks to. He’s the guy that gets all the press, and he handles it very well,” Wiese said. “He’s a very mature captain, and he’s going to be someone that we’re going to look to not just to score goals and make assists but to help everyone around him get better.”
The experience and leadership of the upperclassmen players will prove invaluable as the team welcomes nine freshman to the squad. Defender Joshua Yaro, forward Brett Campbell, forward Alex Muyl, midfielder Bakie Goodman and midfielder Jared Odenbeck are just a few of the Wiese’s most promising rookies.
“It’s a pretty special group overall,” Wiese said. “Brett Campbell hasn’t seen the field yet other than preseason games, but he’s incredibly dangerous. The problem is that he plays the same position as Brandon Allen and Steve Neumann.”
“[Goodman’s] been a real pleasant surprise,” he added. “He’s this little tiny thing, but he’s so slippery — it’s unbelievable. You cant track him. His soccer IQ is terrific.”
The Hoyas entered the season ranked No. 3 in the nation, the highest preseason ranking in program history. This ranking, combined with last season’s success, has formed a hovering, almost tangible cloud of expectation and anticipation over the team.
“It’s always easier to be the underdog,” Wiese said. “Last year the team came in very much with a chip on their shoulder because they were underappreciated in terms of their quality. This year maybe we’re a little younger and the expectations are bigger.”
The Hoyas kicked off their season last weekend in California, losing 0-2 to the Cal Golden Bears on Friday but beating Stanford 2-0 Sunday. Neumann tallied both goals in the victory. Georgetown will play their home opener against West Virginia on Friday before facing No. 9 New Mexico at Shaw Field on Sunday.
Falling into the trap of holding this year’s team accountable for repeating or topping the success of last season’s squad is all too easy, and Wiese is quick to emphasize that this year’s team has different components and strengths than the 2012 dream team.
“We’re a good team, but we’re a different team. I have every bit of confidence that they’re going to grow into where they need to be to be just as competitive as they were last year,” Wiese said. “It’s just going to be a different path.”