The DePaul men’s soccer team kicked off their 2019 season by defeating Northern Illinois 2-1 in the first game of the Chicago Classic at Wish Field on Friday. The Blue Demons scored both goals courtesy of freshman David Gripman, with the winner coming inside the first 10 minutes of the second half.
DePaul played three exhibition games leading up to Friday’s opener against the Huskies, but in the first competitive match of the season, head coach Mark Plotkin was able to play and utilize his first recruiting class. Plotkin, who is entering his second season as the head coach, was able to bring in his type of players this past offseason—and gave three freshmen their DePaul debut.
“I think the other two freshmen in [Michael] Anderson and Danny Iscra, they both played a ton tonight and were fantastic and are going to be staples for us moving forward,” Plotkin said. “They help us out so much defensively and don’t play like freshmen and then Jacob Seeto playing at the right side was unbelievable. We tried him over there against Indiana and we were like, ‘This kid is fantastic for us over there.’”
At the end, Plotkin’s trust in playing his less-experienced players paid off in the first game. But the freshman that stood out the most was Gripman with his two goals against Northern Illinois.
“It’s just exciting, first time playing an actual college game and it’s exciting,” Gripman said after the game. “The goals are obviously exciting for me, but we won and that’s what matters for the team. I didn’t do any of it on my own, my teammates gave it to me basically. So, nothing special but it’s exciting.”
Like Gripman mentioned, his teammates played a major role in both of his goals. For the first goal, his fellow freshman teammate Anderson played a ball over the top of the defense, which allowed Gripman to use his pace to get behind the Huskies’ backline and finish the chance off in the 17th minute of the first half.
But that lead wouldn’t last too long for the Blue Demons as the Huskies got an equalizer in the 37th minute of the first half from their sophomore, Louis Sala. Both teams would go into the break tied at one, with both sides struggling to create plenty of chances in the first 45 minutes.
Less than 10 minutes into the second half, however, Gripman would hit the back of the net once again when his junior teammate Brayden Callipari passed the ball across the six-yard box and Gripman was able to tap it in for the game-winner.
“[David] has been really exciting for us all preseason and it was super exciting to see him score a couple of goals today,” Plotkin said. “ He get in really good spots for us because we know he has some unique abilities and some unique quickness, for him to get two [goals] in his first game is a great start for his career.”
While Gripman was part of a new looking attack for DePaul, their defense also featured a different backline with the inclusion of freshman Iscra, who’s brother Timmy Iscra is a junior on the roster. Iscra partnered senior Max De Bruijne, who’s the new captain for the Blue Demons, in defense and apart from the one goal that was scored against them, they looked like a partnership that might stick together for the future.
“We’ve only had two weeks together, it’s been a really good, fluid change for everyone there,” junior goalie Drew Nuelle said. “Obviously, Max leading out in the back helps me out a lot because he can do a lot of what I fail to do. Just having him centrally allows for a much better rotation when we have to move the ball. It also helps the young guys because Max knows what our team’s goals are and I don’t have to over-communicate that to them.”
With the defense playing its part in the second half, allowing up no goals and limiting the Huskies to only one shot on goal, that allowed for the Blue Demons to pick up their first win of the season.
At the end of the game, however, Gripman almost capped of his first collegiate soccer game in the most memorable way possible. He picked up the ball in his own half and then started dribbling past multiple defenders and, with the hard part already done, Gripman’s shot went straight to Northern Illinois’ goalie.
“It’s unfortunate, I would have loved the third,” Gripman said. “It sucks, I wish I had it. But it took a lot of time off the clock, so at least I did that much.”
DePaul will be back in action when they take on Vermont in the second game of the Chicago Classic at Wish Field on Sunday.