Baltimorean riding the Wave to success

Forward Tirschman blooms in Milwaukee's attack


March 16, 2001|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

It turns out learning on the go has Milwaukee Wave forward Matt Tirschman insistent on staying put.

When the 25-year-old Baltimore native went to Milwaukee three years ago, Wave coach Keith Tozer - no ifs, ands, or buts - slotted him at the target forward position.

So there is Tirschman, stationed in front with his back to the goal, fending off defenders to find his offense, and finding it all very well.

"Most of the time, I'm going up against guys who are bigger than me, so it's probably one of the most physical areas to play. It can wear on you, but I love it," said Tirschman. "It's been tough, a lot of hard work, but I think it's starting to pay off, and hopefully, it will continue."

Starting to pay off is an understatement.

Last season, Tirschman, an Overlea High grad who played four years at Salisbury State, was fifth on the Wave in scoring with 83 points in the regular season. And he wasn't finished, adding 17 more points in a postseason run that ended with the Wave becoming National Professional Soccer League champions.

"It was a whole big process - a journey throughout the whole year with all the ups and downs," he said. "We worked so hard as a team, and then, for it to all just come together, I had no idea what it was like. It was kind of like a release, that everything we did, all the hard work - you can look back on it and be very satisfied."

After a disastrous 1-7 start to this season, the Wave has fully recovered to take over first place in the National Conference with a 19-14 mark going into tomorrow's visit by the Blast.

Tirschman, second in scoring with 69 points that include a team-high 24 two-point goals, certainly has done his part.

"It's a tough business, having guys pound on you, but he's learning all the aspects of [being] a target player, and he's just going to get better," said Tozer. "He's got a gifted left foot - strikes the ball really well - and he's now beginning to be able to hold the ball and how to fight off defenders."

Blast coach Kevin Healey, who coached Tirschman one season with the Baltimore Bays in outdoor soccer, has taken notice. Tirschman also spent his first season in the NPSL with the then-Baltimore Spirit, before Healey's tenure.

"Matt has really developed very well with Milwaukee," Healey said. "Both feet are very good, he turns very well on the ball, and he works hard. He's constant motion up front and has become a dangerous forward."

Tirschman isn't ready to call Milwaukee home just yet (his mother won't have it), but he has certainly made the most of his time there.

Last summer, Tirschman made the U.S. national futsal team, also coached by Tozer. Futsal is worldwide indoor soccer, played without dasherboards the NPSL uses.

The youngest member of the 12-team squad that also featured the Blast's Lee Tschantret, Kansas City Attack standout Wes Wade, and Milwaukee teammate Victor Nogueira, Tirschman got a taste of international indoor play in the CONCACAF futsal world championship qualifying tournament in Costa Rica.

The Americans, who entered as defending champion for North and Cental America and the Caribbean, left with a bronze medal, and Tirschman left with an experience he won't soon forget.

"It was like an old gym, and there were probably 4,000 or 5,000 people there, and they were just so intense," he said. "I had never seen international-style soccer before, and for me to be on the field when all that was going on was just great."

For Tirschman, there's never enough time when it comes to soccer. During the offseason, he's director of player and coaching development for Spring City Soccer Club in Milwaukee, working with nearly 600 youth players from 5 to 18.

"Youth soccer is huge out here," he said. "Once the weather gets nice, I'm out on the field every night. So I meet a ton of people, and they know me - I'm not just a guy [who plays for the Wave]. I'm Matt."

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