Men’s Soccer Continues Mack Brady Match Unbeaten Streak
Tuesday night’s game was special, but for more reasons than the end result.
It was the fourth annual Mack Brady Match — Penn State’s way of commemorating the life of the young goalkeeper that passed away in 2012 unexpectedly at eight years old from a blood infection. Mack’s dream was to one day play for the Nittany Lions and the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team.
In honor of Mack’s love for soccer, goalkeeping, and the Nittany Lions, his parents created the “Mack Brady Memorial Soccer Fund” — an endowment for Penn State goalkeepers to assist with necessary playing expenses.
Since 2013, Penn State men’s soccer has hosted this memorial game annually and never lost. Tuesday night’s game was no different with the Nittany Lions using a strong first half to take down Ohio State 4-2. Of course, honoring Mack’s legacy is about more than winning, though.
“It’s a celebration of Mack’s life,” Coach Bob Warming said earlier in the week. “It’s a happy day and we’re thankful that we get to live a life that was someone else’s dream.”
Penn State came out firing from the opening whistle, and it all started with one of the team’s senior leaders. Mason Klerks, who’s participated in all four Mack Brady Matches, scored twice in the game’s first 26 minutes. These goals were just the second and third of Klerks’ Penn State career, and his first since 2014.
The sentimental moment was not lost on the veteran.
“It’s just a special day,” Klerks said. “We get to honor Mack with this game and he’s taking care of us. There’s a lot of energy for this game. It means a lot to play for Mack and honor his tradition.”
Klerk’s play tonight was nothing short of phenomenal. His two goals, a blast from outside the box and a header on a set piece, helped get the momentum for the Nittany Lions early. For a player that doesn’t score a ton of goals, he stepped up for the big moment on an important day.
“I’m just so happy for Mason Klerks,” Warming said. “We did some shooting from 22 yards out and 28 yards out [in training]. The first ball came back today and he just took that shot so well. Then we did a whole series of heading, which we hadn’t done this year. Chad [Duernberger] was running the session and I said ‘who was the best?’ And he said Mason Klerks. We’ve never had him up there. We’ve always had him be the guy who stops the counter. It only took me four years to realize that guy’s really good with his head.”
Connor Maloney would score on a penalty kick midway through the first half before Ohio State finally had its chance to strike, also on a penalty kick. Freshman goalkeeper Arie Ammann stepped up to make a big save on the penalty kick on a day honoring another goalkeeper.
“It’s something else than just another game for us, there’s a meaning to it,” Ammann said. “We went out there and fought for a cause other than ourselves. That’s something that fuels us today and fuels us every single day.
Bob Warming was almost speechless when discussing Ammann’s save because of the uncanny similarities to a save during last year’s Mack Brady Match.
“The penalty kick last year for Indiana,” Warming said starting to recap a play from last year’s game. “On the Mack Brady Day, it was the same PK, taken in the same spot, saved by our goalkeepers both years. I think the first thing is, you get this feeling that there’s a presence around you sometimes.”
From the opening whistle, Penn State appeared like it was playing for something more than a win. The Nittany Lions got their victory on the day, but played for something far more important — a young boy’s dream.
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The redshirt freshman has seen increased reps at wide receiver and punt returner this season.
Coming off another conference win, the Nittany Lions emphasized the importance of having each other’s backs in the midst of the Big Ten slate.
“Now, running out of the tunnel at a White Out, it gives you chills.”