Stratford seeking “12th man” in the stands for Monday’s Backyard Brawl clash

Gold and Blue Nation

Match vs. Pitt will mark first full capacity home contest of new era for program

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — One of the biggest matches of the year for WVU men’s soccer quickly approaches. 

The 50th rendition of the men’s soccer Backyard Brawl is set for Monday night at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium. It’s the first full-capacity home match of Dan Stratford’s tenure as head coach at WVU, after his first season was moved to last spring and played out in front of restricted crowds.

Stratford played in the rivalry when he was a Mountaineer midfielder from 2004-07. Though the series has stood as a regular fixture for much of the last six decades, only two current Mountaineers, goalkeeper Steven Tekesky and defender Kevin Morris, played in the most recent meeting between the two programs back in 2018. 

But Stratford has made certain that his athletes, who hail from 10 different countries, understand what to expect when the Panthers come to town.

“When I came in, that was the first thing they told me, that Pitt was a rival,” redshirt junior midfielder and Netherlands native Dyon Dromers said. “Yeah, [I’ve] never played them before, so I’m really excited to play them on Monday. I hope we get a packed house at home. Really excited to play them. I think the whole team is really excited, we’ve been talking about it.” 

There’s plenty of reason to be excited about this matchup. After all, Pitt is one of the most formidable opponents on West Virginia’s 2021 schedule. The Panthers enter the match ranked No. 3 in the country, and they reached the College Cup semifinals in the spring. 

“It’s a great fixture to have back on the schedule,” Stratford said. “It’s that Backyard Brawl. It’s everyone’s favorite team to hate, but I have a ton of respect for the quality of players and quality of coaching that team has. But we’ll have a plan. We’ll be ready for them.”

West Virginia has already earned one victory over a top-10 foe under Stratford. The Mountaineers stunned then-No.8 Marshall at home last spring, becoming the last team to defeat the Thundering Herd before their run to the national championship. 

Stratford is hopeful that Mountaineer fans will do their part to give the home team an advantage against Pitt. 

“Hopefully we break our attendance record on Monday night, and that’s our 12th man to help us get over the line,” Stratford said. 

Dick Dlesk Stadium seats 1,650 fans, but the Mountaineers have drawn crowds larger than that capacity nine times in the stadium’s history. The last time that happened was in 2016, when 2,019 fans watched Maryland defeat WVU 1-0. 

The stadium’s record for attendance was set in September 2009, when 2,938 watched the Mountaineers lose to UC Santa Barbara. 

In 2010, 1,470 people attended a WVU home match vs. Pitt, the largest crowd for a Backyard Brawl match at Dick Dlesk Stadium. 

Monday’s match kicks off at 7 p.m. and streams live on ESPN+. 

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