HUNTINGTON — Marshall men’s soccer midfielder Pedro Dolabella has jokingly earned the nickname “The Mayor” during his time in Huntington.
In a comedic moment during Tuesday’s “Welcome Party” for the national champions, Huntington Mayor Steve Williams had Dolabella take his place in reading a proclamation stating May 18 as “Marshall men’s soccer day” in the city of Huntington.
Moments later, Marshall head coach Chris Grassie called Dolabella back to the podium of the celebration at Hoops Family Field once more to share his thoughts on behalf of the team.
This time, the player nicknamed “The Mayor” took time out to thank his “constituents,” whom he credited with being the X-factor in Marshall’s national title run.
“Indiana had a decent amount of fans, too, but the passion and the desire brings it down to who wants it more,” Dolabella explained. “Our fans wanted us to win more than theirs. Consequently, we wanted to win more for them and for the city. We know how much this means to them now.”
The proof was in the numbers as Marshall outnumbered Indiana’s fan base from the start with numbers up around the 3,500 to 4,000 mark for the Thundering Herd, according to Marshall Athletic Director Mike Hamrick.
Considering there were only 5,000 tickets distributed for the match per COVID-19 guidelines with the NCAA, that made for one heck of a home-type atmosphere for the Herd.
Grassie added his love for the fans, describing how the Herd faithful, as Marshall advanced through each stage of the NCAA tournament and on to the College Cup, answered the bell each time, outclassing every fan base involved this year.
In Grassie’s words, as the pressure of the stage increased, the Marshall fan base took its performance to another level to keep the team on top of its game.
“The community, the Herd Nation, have been phenomenal,” Grassie said. “They were the last piece of the puzzle that pushed us over in this tournament.”
Dolabella said that walking into Sahlen’s Stadium in Cary, North Carolina, to the sea of kelly green is something he’ll never forget, adding that the crowd showed itself the most at the tournament’s most pivotal moments.
“When I first walked on to finish our warm-up and saw everybody, it gave me chills,” Dolabella said. “It helped at the end of the second half. They had nothing else. They were giving us the ball and we were attacking. We knew it was going to break open.”
Finally, in the 98th minute, that break came when Jamil Roberts put away a rebound off a shot from Vitor Dias to clinch the title.
By the time Roberts made his way from the goal to the near-side flag, Marshall fans were already on the pitch waiting to jump into the celebration.
Roberts said prior to his goal he had a moment to really take in the atmosphere.
“There was one point in the second half when I was running around and someone went down injured,” Roberts recalled. “I stopped for a second and did a 360 [degree] pan of the whole stadium. I heard them singing and just rowdy as they always are, and I thought, ‘There’s no way that we can lose this.’ These fans, they really are the 12th man and it makes us feel like we’re walking on air.”
Grassie said the post-goal celebration will be the lasting memory etched in his mind from the College Cup victory.
“We took over Cary [Monday] night,” Grassie said. “The atmosphere, the crowd, the singing, the support that these guys felt helped us get over that final hump and win a national championship.
“We showed every team in the country who the best-supported college team in soccer are, and that’s us.”