Georgetown alumni and former soccer players Dan Helfrich (play-by-play, SFS ‘98, MBA ‘99) and Tom Greaser (color commentator, MSB ‘98) have delivered the calls for every Hoya soccer home game this year- and for the 14 prior. As the Hoyas prepare to take on Stanford in Friday’s national semifinal and then hopefully advance to Sunday’s national championship game against the winner of UVA-Wake Forest, they joined us for a very casual look at the team and preview of the big weekend.
CH: How is that you guys are still broadcasting games after 15 years, no real jobs or real life?
TG: We are dedicated to our craft - constantly working to get better. You obviously don’t realize how lucrative it can be to announce college soccer matches. Solid Wisey’s/Tombs money.
DH: Real job, yes. Real life, nope (though 8 kids between us). It’s been so fun seeing Tom grow as a broadcaster...legitimately turning into the Tony Romo of college soccer announcing. Calling plays before they happen.
TG: I wish someone would compare my golf game to Romo’s. BTW, Danny [is] very Gus Johnson in his dramatic goal calls. The “one for the ages on the Hilltop” call on the tying free kick in the Elite 8 was a great moment.
CH: [Head Coach] Brian Wiese has been at school for 14 years and won 169 games, second in school history to Keith Tabatznik’s 220. What’s special about Brian and defining about the Hoyas style of play?
TG: Brian has a calm demeanor that permeates through the team. He trusts his process and puts his players in positions that allow them to succeed. He is also really smart - undergraduate degree from Dartmouth & Masters in Engineering from Stanford. I know you think it is odd that we are using our Gtown degrees to announce soccer, but someone with a Masters in Engineering from Stanford is probably not getting the most of that degree. With that degree he should be living in Mountain View, CA staring at all of his stock options.
DH: Agree, totally composed regardless of circumstance. If you are a referee and Brian is frustrated, you won’t get the John Thompson towel slam. You’ll get more of the, “I’m really disappointed in you” calm, stern parent voice (which as we know, is worse). BTW, Brian’s key “tell” on stress is the velocity of his gum chewing. If you are watching games this weekend and see an RPM of over 50, he’s worried. On style of play, it’s consistent, it’s flowing, it allows every player on team to join the attack...and it’s the kind of “beautiful game” to which few schools aspire and even fewer pull off.
CH: The team has been truly dominant from start to finish, scoring 53 goals and only conceding just 11. Is this the best team in Gtown history?
TG: Yes - this is the best and deepest team in school history. Rounding out my top 5 would be; 2012 (National runners-up); 2015 (Sweet 16 loss in PKs where Danny’s favorite Gtown soccer player of all time tried to re-enact Roberto Baggio in 1994 World Cup final); 1997 (1st team to win a game in NCAA tourney) and 1994 (1st team to win BE championship and 1st team to qualify for NCAA tournament)
DH: Certainly not surprised to see those last two on the list (checks roster, notes both of us present). I will agree with that order. Best moments in Gtown history? Both against Maryland. 1994- first round loss at home in NCAA tourney 4-3 in OT with 5K+ in attendance, Big John cheering us on, and the Pots and Spoons in rare form (hopefully most Casual readers will get the reference). 2012- NCAA Final 4. Dramatic game, win in PKs, send the favored Terps home reeling.
CH: What’s up with the alternate-every-game goalkeeper rotation, feels a little like the QB rotations in college football that never seem to pan out?
TG: It is unique, but both GKs and the team are fully on board with the strategy. Don’t forget that in 2006, Florida won the BCS with 2 quarterbacks, so it can work.
DH: STRONG reference. Chris Leak and Mr. Tebow, I believe. I wonder which of freshman Tomas Romero and sophomore Giannis Nikopolodis will turn to professional baseball in 10 years.
CH: Let’s play soccer-basketball player association game. I say a current soccer Hoya and you name a basketball player (past or present) they remind you of, and a few words as to why?
TG: Achara — Austin Freeman....they both make it look so easy on the offensive side of the ball.
Sean Zawadzki — Perry McDonald...tough players who both punch significantly over their weight class.
Paul “moppy curls” Rothrock — Yurtseven, big time transfers who are fond of their locks.
Giannis — Patrick Ewing, Jr.,both are incredible athletes who perform under the shadow of their much more famous fathers.
Rio Hope-Gund — Roy Hibbert...improve every year.
Derek Dodson — Reggie Williams, silky, smooth players who come up huge in big spots.
BE Midfielder of year Jacob Montes — Jeff Green, both with monster junior years and the ability to completely take over a game.
Two time BE defensive player of year Dylan Nealis — Mutumbo would be the easy choice because of the defensive player of year accolades, but Dikembe can only dream about being as good on the offensive end of the court as Nealis is attacking. So, I would go with Othella Harrington.
DH: Wow, those were all amazing. The Yurtseven-Rothrock thing is haunting me already. My only quibbles: Rio has to be in the all hyphen Hoya name HOF with D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera. Nealis argument is strong but the “O-smbobile” wasn’t exactly known for the defensive end of the ball. So I have to go with Alonzo- high praise but two of the best ever to don the blue and grey.
Bonus additions: Left back Sean O’Hern as Don Reid...strong leadership, consistent play, under the radar but so important. And freshman Dante Polvara as Jahidi White- not sure exactly why but I miss Jahidi. I also think of Zawadzki more like Chris Wright- great two-way players and not quite the Perry-level enforcer.
CH: The last and only time the Hoyas made it to Final Four, they beat the dreaded Terps in semis only to fall 1-0 to the Hoosiers in the champ. What’s similar and different between this team and that one?
TG: That Maryland game was an all time classic...Steve Neumann with the single greatest game in school history - a hat trick on the biggest stage. Amazingly, Maryland found a way to come back and tie the game after being down 4-1 in the 2nd half. Even though Gtown advanced, that game took a lot out of the legs which made it difficult to play in the championship game. This years team has more depth, so guys are fresher.
DH: The teams are actually quite similar in style. Both- to keep the basketball analogies going- liked to play games in the 80s not the 60s. Both have many future pros. This year’s team is indeed deeper- and has also faced less adversity during the year.
DH: Comfortable win over The Cardinal, thriller over UVA in final. Hoyas “cut down the nets” and win their first natty. Wildcard is the weather which looks dicey and could mess with our preferred playing style a bit.
TG - I agree. It is going to be a magical weekend in Cary.
For those looking to tune in and cheer on the team, the game is set to begin at 6pm and will be broadcast live on ESPNU.