Syracuse Silver Knights goalkeeper Andrew Coughlin could not have envisioned a better Major Arena Soccer League debut.
After officially signing with Syracuse on Jan. 20, the former Canisius College and FC Buffalo star followed up a 3-2 shootout win over the St. Louis Ambush by thwarting 14 of Baltimore's 16 shots on goal in another 3-2 victory, helping hand the Blast its first loss after 11 consecutive wins.
The MASL recognized Coughlin's performances with a place on the league's Team of the Week, where he joined Syracuse teammates Darren Toby and Doug Miller.
After training on Thursday ahead of the Silver Knights' Jan. 30 game in Chicago, we caught up with Coughlin for an interview:
BN Soccer: You didn't waste much time in making an impact after signing a week ago. What was your reaction to Team of the Week honors?
Andrew Coughlin: It was exciting. The guys [on the team] had joked about it after the game on Sunday, but I thought, "Oh, there's no chance." So it was exciting to actually have it happen.
BN Soccer: It sounds like you've been training with the team for a while. What prompted the official signing?
Coughlin: I'd been training with Syracuse during breaks, like Thanksgiving break, and I've known [coach] Tommy [Tanner] since I was younger. I finished school [at Canisius College] in December, then trained with [Syracuse] to stay sharp. I'd discussed connections with Tommy, in terms of pro combines, but there was never any definite talks about signing [with the Silver Knights] -- they had two goalkeepers.
When Brian [O'Quinn, the starter] went down injured in training, Tommy said, "Hey, we could use you; we need a 'keeper."
BN Soccer: How would you explain the atmosphere during the shootout against St. Louis?
Coughlin: I was so new to the game that I had to ask Brian what the overtime rules were once [regulation] ended -- he said it was golden-goal overtime and then three players from each team would take a shootout -- I asked what kind of a shootout, and he said it wasn't like penalty kicks.
So I didn't know the rules [about the shootout], but Brian and my teammates told me, "Get to the top of the box as fast as you can to make yourself big, then the shooter will try to roll the ball around you, but they'll be confused and have a hard time adjusting."
BN Soccer: You almost decapitated the referee after blasting the ball away after stopping the second shootout attempt. Have you seen the video of it?
Coughlin: Yeah, I watched the video again on Saturday. One of the shootout rules is that the shooter has five seconds to score, regardless of whether the keeper touches the ball, so my teammates told me to kick the ball as far as I could or out of bounds. Adrenaline really kicked in -- I didn't mean to kick it at the referee.
BN Soccer: You're from Baldwinsville, 20 minutes away from where Syracuse plays, and you spent two years at SU. Did you have a lot of support at the St. Louis game?
Coughlin: My mom and my dad were there, and my sister and some of her friends. My grandfather actually streamed the game from home because he just had surgery. A few of my old coaches and teammates were there as well.
BN Soccer: Your success on Friday could have very easily led to a letdown on Sunday. How did you prevent that?
Coughlin: We knew coming in that Sunday was the biggest game of the weekend, even though Friday went to an exhausting 10-minute overtime and the shootout. Sunday was a different animal -- Baltimore was an undefeated powerhouse.
We went down early, 2-0, and one of them was my fault. I had a miscommunication with a defender, but I should have claimed the ball [myself]. We could have collapsed, but we were resilient to grab one back before halftime, and no one let down -- as a goalkeeper, you should have a short memory.
BN Soccer: What's your history with indoor soccer? What do you think has helped you adjust so quickly to the MASL game?
Coughlin: I played indoor during the winter season growing up, but for [Empire Development] academy we played outdoor almost year-round. You really don't know how fast [the MASL] is until you're on the field.
Fortunately, I got my bearings during the St. Louis game -- they liked to sit back and let us come at them. Baltimore pressed us hard and tried to force the keeper [Coughlin], who's supposed to be the worst player on the field with his feet, into mistakes.
BN Soccer: How crazy is it that Doug Miller is still playing and excelling at age 46? Had you known him prior to the Silver Knights?
Coughlin: I just met [Miller] last Wednesday, the day we both signed, but I'd heard of him from former Rhinos players who told stories about how he could put the ball anywhere he wanted.
He pulled me aside before Friday's game and said, "Just go out and enjoy it. Once you get to my age, you'll wonder if this is your last game." I can see why Tommy brought him in. [Miller] has pulled me aside in practices and said things like, "This is the ball you should play..." or "This is how you defend odd-man rushes..."
He's got so much experience that, even though he's at that age, he makes up for it with his technique and his brain.
Prior to Coughlin's stingy weekend, Syracuse had gone 0-4 combined against Baltimore and St. Louis this season, and had conceded fewer than four goals in a match just once.
The Silver Knights are now 7-6 overall, a full game ahead of Detroit Waza Flo for second place in the Eastern Division. The division's top three teams advance to the playoffs, with Nos. 2 and 3 going head to head for the right to face No. 1 in the divisional championship game.
Email Ben Tsujimoto at email@example.com