After their third straight loss to begin the season, head coach Tim DeByl and the Madison Radicals were forced to go back to the drawing board.
What ended up on the drawing board was to be able to execute in crunch time with a young team, top defender Sterling Knoche returning from injury and assistant coach Pat Shriwise taking the field once again for the Radicals.
The combination of the three aforementioned solutions will hopefully bring Madison their first win of the season when the Pittsburgh Thunderbirds come to Breese Stevens Field. This will be the second and final match between the two on the season, with the first one resulting in a heart-breaking buzzer beater that ended in the Thunderbirds’ favor.
The Radicals may be coming off a loss in their home opener to the Chicago opener, but Pittsburgh is coming off of two loses after starting their season with two wins. Their two losses have come at the hands of a 14-point loss to the Minnesota Wind Chill and a one-point loss to the Philadelphia Phoenix.
Throughout the Radicals’ three losses, they have been in it the entire game until the last couple minutes. Two buzzer beaters, and a breakdown with a few minutes left to allow Chicago to go on a three-point run to secure the win have been the situations so far in the 2023 season.
The inexperience and injuries that Madison has had to deal with has been spotlighted in crunch time. DeByl understands that they have the talent and skill to be competing with the best, but recognizes the improvement that still needs to be made within the young squad to bring in that first victory.
“The goal is always to create some separation earlier in the game, rather than waiting until the last six minutes. We’re a really young team and you can see that at the end of games,” said DeByl. “The attitude has been great. Everyone feels like we are more talented than we’ve played. We’re not executing well enough.”
The young core of the Radicals have shined in moments. Currently third-year player Henry Goldenberg leads the team with ten assists and rookie Anthony Gutowsky has been finding his groove by finding the endzone on nine different occasions this season.
The veteran presence is still very much there for Madison as Brain Hart continues to get back into the swing of things and Victor Luo being arguably one of the most consistent handlers in the league. Looking to put everything together against a stout Pittsburgh team will be a tall order.
According to DeByl, adding veteran Shriwise to the offensive line will provide some calmness and more consistency to an up-and-down offense. Shriwise has been participating in practice since January but as a coach. He’s in a game-shape and will take the field for the first time since 2021 when he had a one-year stint with the Union after his seven years with Madison.
Currently, the Thunderbirds have one of the best players in the league in Max Sheppard. Sheppard has been included on 25 scores this season, good for eighth-most in the league. Sheppard also was on the end of the buzzer beater when he jumped over three Radicals to bring in the game-winning goal.
Madison will need to execute in the final minutes and will need to create a few more blocks on defense. The historically great Radical defense has only produced 25 blocks so forth this season, giving them fourth-least blocks in the league.
It’s go-time for the Radicals. A loss will bring them to 0-4 on the season, boost the Thunderbirds three games above them and give them the head-to-head tiebreaker over them when it comes to the conclusion of the season.
The second game of the season at Breese Stevens Field will take place on Sunday, June 4 at 5 p.m. CDT between the Madison Radicals and the Pittsburgh Thunderbirds.