As ex-NFL coach Herm Edwards was once quoted as saying, “you play to win the game,” and it seems the Weber State University men’s soccer team has taken that to heart.
The Wildcats returned to the pitch Friday evening to take on another in-state rival, Salt Lake Community College. They also put their undefeated record on the line and a chance to gain more momentum as the season continues. The Wildcats walked away with a 3-1 victory, scoring all three of their goals in the second half.
SLCC came out with pressure and intensity in the first 45 minutes, gaining an early lead in the first 45 minutes. The Wildcats did not play their best half of soccer. Head coach Kyle Christensen said the men weren’t playing as well as he knew they could have.
“The first half might have been the worst we have played this season,” he said. “We came out sluggish, and it seemed their desire wasn’t where it was supposed to be.”
The second half was a different story, as the Wildcats came out with an urgency to score and to put the pressure on SLCC. One of the things that helped them get back into their groove was the return of forward Matt Tidwell, who had been sidelined with an ankle injury. Besides tying the game up early in the second half with a goal, Tidwell also contributed an assist in his return.
“His presence is huge,” Christensen said. “He creates so many opportunities, whether that be with goals or assists. Teams have to worry about him, because (of) the way that he attacks and his size. It makes a big difference for us, having him back at full strength.”
The Wildcats were able to take the lead on a shot from just outside of the box, the result of SLCC having trouble clearing the ball out. But the Bruins weren’t going to give up easily; they continued to press forward and provide chances on goal.
The unsung hero for the Wildcats was goalkeeper Jeff Rogers, who came up with a huge save to deny an SLCC player. After earning a corner kick, the Wildcats were unable to clear it, and SLCC almost took advantage, but Rogers extended and made the save of the match.
Tidwell and company then went to work to put the game out of reach. On the counterattack, he received the ball just outside of the box and attacked the defense. This led to a man being unmarked and the ball being launched into the back of the net. Shortly after, the whistle blew, and the Wildcats remained undefeated on their quest for another national championship.
Tidwell said he was happy to be back with the team and to contribute to another win. He said the team improved a great amount in the second half and deserved the win.
“We played pretty well; today, as a team, we picked it up after half,” Tidwell said. “We pulled it together in the second half and got three goals and the win.”
Christensen saw a change in his team in the second half as well. He said he felt like the men played more as a team than as individuals, something he feels is going to help them win more down the road.
“(In the) second half, the guys came out with energy and a big difference in their attitudes,” he said. “I think it came down to that desire, and they showed and proved that they wanted it more. When our team puts the effort in, they get the result they want.”
The team will travel to Boise, Idaho, next weekend to face Gonzaga University and Boise State University.