MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia brings a slightly higher national ranking and an undefeated record, while Marshall counters with the status of defending national champion. The No. 4 Mountaineers (4-0-1) visit No. 6 Marshall (3-1-1) Friday evening in one of the most highly-anticipated men’s soccer fixtures in West Virginia in recent memory.
Collectively, WVU head coach Dan Stratford and Marshall frontman Chris Grassie built the University of Charleston into a Division II national champion. Now they line up on opposing ends of the pitch in a top ten contest.
A top 10 matchup in Huntington! @DanStrats joins @Bradhowe07 and @Hunterwvu88bgn ahead of @WVUMenssoccer‘s matchup with defending National Champs @HerdMSoccer
WATCH: https://t.co/yCFQ3nDJuy pic.twitter.com/MiQeme8NVv
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) September 16, 2021
“He is one of my closest friends. He was a great boss for me at Charleston. I thoroughly enjoyed working with him,” Stratford said.
“We have been texting back and forth all week and one of the things we have alluded to is that it is not often that you get to coach against a really good friend and someone I really, really respect as a coach, with both teams being ranked in the top ten. Rather than be nervous or have any anxiety going in, I think we are both going to try to enjoy it, quite honestly.”
West Virginia has posted wins over nationally-ranked foes Pittsburgh, Penn State and Ohio State in the opening weeks of the season. WVU has had a full week to prepare for the Herd, their longest rest to this point in the season.
“We keep a close eye on our GPS numbers, metrics and data that we are tracking to see exactly how far the guys are running. And the effort to start the season has been incredible. It needed to be to get us off to such a good start.
“A couple of tactical sessions are quite hard to come by, honestly. Often it is a recovery session, a pre-match session and then somewhere in between there is a day off.”
Both teams return similar lineups from when they met in Morgantown on March 24. West Virginia prevailed 1-0, handing Marshall one of their two losses in the spring season.
“It is a very similar eleven to what we played with Marshall last time. We are still playing the same formation. And I know Chris. I know he will be prepared for us and I know he will have studied us just as we have them. Unless he is looking to throw a curve ball our way, or vice versa, I think we will both feel well-prepared for one another.
“It was somewhat of a guessing game going into the spring of where our program was, comparative to the national stage and comparative to the rest of Division I.
“That barometer was important as we went through that spring, but no game obviously more important than Marshall knowing what they had come off the back of in 2019 and knowing now what they have achieved. I think it gives this group a ton of belief.”
Marshall has announced that only standing room tickets are available at Hoops Family Field. WVU will be playing in just their second road match of the season.
“As great as it is do it in front of your own fans, I have some incredible memories of going to some places in hostile environments, UConn away, Maryland away, winning those games. What a feeling it was to leave the stadium and know that you have been the party poopers, so to speak.”
In five matches, the Mountaineers have yielded just two goals.
“I really do think it has been the collective eleven on the pitch at any one time that has helped us in some of those defensive elements.”