It must have been the shoes.
Ryan Crooks led West Virginia men’s soccer (2-2) to a 4-1 victory over American University on Tuesday with his first career brace as a Mountaineer, and he did it with a new pair of cleats on his feet. After wearing a pair of Adidas boots to support injury recovery. Just days before American visited Morgantown, however, the shoes broke, and he had to switch to a pair of Nikes.
“I had two goals today, so I’m sticking with Nike,” Crooks said.
Crooks’s dream start came from its first two corner kicks, both of which resulted in goals. Aaron Denk Gracia was the first one in the scorebook after finishing a backheel feed from Marcus Caldeira and Crooks. Five minutes later, Crooks nabbed his second assist when he perfectly found Bjarne Thiesen’s head for another goal.
Another five minutes later, Crooks found the back of the net himself with a tap-in shot to put WVU up by three.
The first half wasn’t perfect for Crooks, however. American’s Evan Schweickert put the Eagles on the board after he intercepted an errant pass from Crooks and fired from distance. The shot passed by WVU goalkeeper Jackson Lee, who was frozen flat-footed along with his defensive line.
WVU’s back line picked its slack up after that miscue and prevented the Eagles from taking another shot for the remainder of the half.
American threatened Lee early in the second half, but WVU was back in the driver’s seat soon enough. Crooks added his second goal in the 77th minute off a rebound, closing several minutes of WVU pressure and sealing the victory for the Mountaineers.
“It was a good day and we created chances,” Crooks said. “We just needed someone to be there and I was there.”
Besides the win, there were a lot of positives for WVU in its fourth match of the season. The Mountaineers get back to a .500 record with the victory after a two-game skid in which they dropped two games to rivals Pitt and Penn State, forcing a 17-spot slip in the United Soccer Coaches poll.
“The manner in which we lost to Penn State, my concern was just how well the guys would kind of bounce back from that, and I’ve been really pleased with them,” said WVU coach Dan Stratford.
Ike Swiger, WVU’s top scorer in 2020-21, also returned to the lineup after missing the first three matches of the season with an injury. The Fairmont Senior High alumnus played 16 minutes in the forward position after slotting in as a wing-back for most of 2021.
“You can immediately see what he brings in terms of his athleticism and his ability to harass and chase some things down,” Stratford said. “I know he would have wanted a good chance to get on the score sheet tonight and it didn’t quite come his way, but he still gave a positive, positive impact and a positive contribution when he comes into the game.”
The Mountaineers have a quick turnaround after the win as they host Yale on Friday. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. ET and it will be shown on ESPN+.