Three former men’s soccer players are living their dreams: playing the sport they love in front of their friends, family and hometown crowd. As an added bonus, they get to do it together.
Back in their days donning cherry and white uniforms, goalkeeper Pat Hannigan and midfielders Tony Donatelli and Steve Wacker patrolled the grass of Ambler Field. Now, they are wearing the black and red of the Philadelphia Kixx, of the Major Indoor
Soccer League, and are playing on the AstroTurf of the Wachovia Spectrum in South Philadelphia.
Together, the Philadelphia natives led Temple to back-to-back appearances in the Atlantic Ten Conference title game in 2003 and ’04. Individually, they have amassed such honors as Hannigan’s A-10 Defensive Player of the year, Donatelli’s Philadelphia Soccer Seven Player of the Year and Wacker’s Philadelphia
Soccer Seven Academic Player of the Year.
Despite the accolades they have collectively received, these three former Owls had to change their games in order to adapt to the vastly quicker world of indoor soccer.
“It’s a pretty big change,” Wacker said, who joined the Kixx halfway through last season.
“It took a while to get used to and last year helped a lot.”
Donatelli reiterated the differences between the two games.
“It’s a faster pace,” he said. “I’m learning a lot of different things like the angles off the boards. But this season I felt I’ve done a good job of adjusting.”
While it takes time to amend to the playing surface, Donatelli credits his former coach at Temple, Dave MacWilliams, with helping him through the process.
“He taught me a lot of stuff, soccer in general,” Donatelli said. “Since I’ve been assigned here, I’ve been talking to him and he’s been helping me out.”
The adjustment has probably been the toughest for Hannigan, considering his progression from a four-year starter at Temple to being a backup with the Kixx.
However, Hannigan said he has taken the lack of playing time in stride.
“It’s tough to not have your number called every game,” he said. “But I’m playing
behind one of the best goalies in indoor history [Peter Pappas], so I’m learning a lot about the game just watching him play. It’s a great learning experience.”
On the other hand, both Wacker and Donatelli play regularly, often together. Through the first two games of the MISL season, Donatelli already has three goals, the most on the team. His goal Saturday night, a game the Kixx lost in overtime to fall to 0-2, tied the game in the third period.
“Someone took a shot, it BASKETBALLbounced out, and it looked like it floated right to me,” Donatelli said. “I tried to hit a one-timer, trying to catch the goalie off guard, and it was lucky enough to go in.”
As the Kixx continue their season, Wacker looked back on his days at Temple, and how playing for the Owls prepared him for challenges ahead.
“I remember the competition of the games,” Wacker said. “The work ethic of practice, the hard work that went into it. It really helped me with my game.”
Hannigan said he felt the same.
“Playing at Temple was a great experience,”
he said. “It was a great opportunity
for me to play in front of my friends and family.” Even though the first two games of the season have not gone the way the Kixx would have liked, Hannigan said he is still able to find something positive out of these back to back losses: playing with his college teammates.
“I don’t think it could be any better than this,” he said.
Todd Orodenker can be reached at email@example.com.