Men’s soccer kicks off spring friendly matches against pro club Forward Madison FC


Patrick Sloan-Turner

Freshman winger Felipe Corral (24) attempts a tackle against Forward Madison FC on Saturday in DePaul’s friendly match. DePaul lost 3-0 to the USL League One pro team.

MADISON, Wisc. – Several longtime staples of DePaul’s men’s soccer team departed following the conclusion of the 2022 season last fall. Since then, head coach Mark Plotkin and staff have been tasked with filling key roles on field.

On Saturday, the Blue Demons traveled to Madison, Wisconsin for a friendly match with United Soccer League (USL) League One club, Forward Madison, to see how the new roster would fare. DePaul fell 3-0 against the pro club, whose team includes players 10 years senior to Plotkin’s squad, but the Demons learned some things about themselves in the frigid matchup at Breese Stevens Field. 

“For us, it’s about, you know, having perspective and understanding where we are,” Plotkin said. “And also, it’s about us playing against a professional team and seeing how far off we are and how close our guys are to this [level of] competition.”

Saturday’s game, which was closed to the public, featured new starters at the fullback positions for DePaul, as left back Jake Fuderer and right back David Gripman played their final game for the Blue Demons in November. Freshman Alex Peters started at right back, while senior Kristian Malinich played at the left back spot.

Peters showed some inexperience in his first game on DePaul’s back line, as two Forward Madison goals came from the right side of the defense, showing Plotkin right back is a position he and his staff to focus on.

“It’s definitely a spot that we know that we’re searching for the answer at,” Plotkin said. “We’ve tried a bunch of guys … and it’s just an area that we’ll have to see who’s going to step up.”

At the other side of the backline, Malinich played with poise, regularly contributing in buildup on the left wing and out-pacing opposing attackers in defense.

While the Demons were not happy with the final score, there were some bright spots for players who are taking on new roles. Freshman winger Felipe Corral saw a significant increase in minutes on Saturday. The speedy attacker had a mix of playing time as a substitute and starter last fall, but played most of the match against Forward Madison.

Corral said he is focused on becoming more of a contributor for DePaul next season and becoming the kind of attacker that will create havoc for opponents in the final third of the field.

“I’m still fairly new — it’s my first year — I’m just trying to get settled in and learn and develop,” Corral said. “I think definitely I’m trying to take on a bigger responsibility and be that guy who puts the ball in the goal for us.”   

Corral, who scored his first career goal against UIC last season, showed his talent against Forward Madison on Saturday. In an impressive sequence at left wing, Corral found a seam on the counterattack in the opponent’s back line and received a nice through ball after the intelligent run into the box.

One-on-one with the Madison defender, Corral created space with an impressive stepover and fired a shot towards the net. The shot was blocked and ricocheted out to Corral’s teammate, sophomore midfielder Colin Mackey, but the sequence showed Corral’s ability to create chances against an opponent of significant talent. Last season, DePaul struggled to find goals at times, and Corral could be a key piece in improving the team’s offensive ability.

For the team’s leader on the pitch, graduate midfielder Michael Anderson, Saturday proved a good opportunity for players who are fighting to fill vacancies left by departing players. 

“I mean, there’s definitely people on this team fighting for spots, whether that’d be at forward or on our backline,” Anderson said. “I think you learn a lot in terms of gaining experience against a professional team who’s very quality on the ball.”

For context, a pro club like Forward Madison is a team of higher quality than DePaul is used to seeing. The 3-0 score might not reflect some of the more impressive performances by the Demons. Senior midfielder Jacob Huth cleverly created a handful of opportunities in buildup through the middle, junior standout goalkeeper Ghandi Cruz made a few impressive saves and junior midfielder Cade Hagen touted some controlled touches against Madison defenders.

In one sequence, Hagen showed skill when he escaped a scrum of three surrounding defenders during a build up in the middle of the field.

In particular, Plotkin said that his two center midfielders showed they have the quality to compete with players like those on Madison’s roster.

“Huth and [Anderson] showed that they can play at this level,” Plotkin said. “And hopefully, being able to be seen by these guys for 90 minutes, gives them a chance to play at the next level.”

Saturday’s match was the first of five spring friendlies for DePaul. On Friday, April 7, the Demons will play UIC at the Bridgeview dome before traveling to East Lansing, Michigan on April 15 for a game against Michigan State. Then, DePaul hosts Loyola-Chicago on April 22 and will follow up that match with a game in Evanston against Northwestern on April 28.