Drew Whalen couldn't have made much more of an impact in his first National Premier Soccer League match.
The Western Illinois forward scored all three goals for the Madison 56ers in their 3-1 victory over the Minnesota United FC Reserves on Sunday afternoon in a Midwest Region match at East Ridge High School in rainy Woodbury, Minn.
"We managed to video the game, so we have the Drew Whalen highlight video," 56ers coach Jim Launder cracked after the Peoria, Ill., native struck in the 6th, 57th and 63rd minutes to help lead Madison to its first league win of the season. "He played very well, took his chances very well, too."
Whalen impressed Launder in his first appearance with the 56ers, a 2-0 loss to the Croatian Eagles in a friendly Wednesday night at Breese Stevens Field, and was rewarded with the start Sunday.
It took him just 6 minutes to open his account. Madison (1-0-1 NPSL Midwest) pressed the Reserves and forward Tony Amolo won the ball and played it to Whalen just outside the box.
"He had an alley to take two quick dribbles and just smoked it," Launder said of Whalen's shot, which rattled off the underside of the crossbar and in.
Ghanaian forward Gideon Asante, who played professionally with the Charlotte Eagles in USL Pro last season, set up Whalen's other two goals.
The first came on a cross after the 56ers won the ball following a corner kick and led to a close-range finish by Whalen to make it 2-0. He finished off his hat trick 6 minutes later, getting in behind the Reserves' backline.
"We had a 2-on-1 break. Gideon took it, broke with it and then passed it, a curled ball behind the defender and (Whalen) was able to run from the blind side of the defender and beat the goalkeeper," Launder said.
A week earlier, Madison had a 2-0 lead on the road against the Minnesota Twin Stars but conceded two goals in the final 10 minutes and had to settle for a draw in its league opener. The Reserves, playing their first match under new coach Peter Rivard, poured players into the attack and pulled one back through Brad Whitsitt in the 70th.
"It was hard hit, but it was going to go to (goalkeeper) Joe (White)'s left. He started moving for it and he would've gotten it quite easily, because it was from pretty far out," Launder said of the Whitsitt's strike. "But it skipped (up off the wet artificial turf), and then it hit somebody's hip and went the other direction."
While Launder was pleased that the 56ers held the home side at bay the rest of the way and claimed all three points this time, the final quarter hour still left the coach with plenty to work on at training this week.
"I'm not totally happy with it, because we still didn't kill (the game off) well," he said. "They sent a lot of guys forward, so you couldn't kill it by just keeping it. We had to find better ways to get balls out into the angles of the field where they didn't have anybody because they had sent everybody forward except for maybe one centerback. We talked about it a little bit. Mostly, we're going to talk about it this week, how to kill a game.
"And now we'll probably never get a lead again," Launder joked.
From the touchline
Whalen has scored four goals in 23 appearances through his first two seasons at Western Illinois. ... Romanian forward Lucian Pârvu made his first appearance for the 56ers, coming on as a sub in the second half. "He did very well," Launder said of the 32-year-old Pârvu, who played professionally for 14 seasons in his homeland. "He really understood what I wanted him to do, and you can see that he's a very smart player. He's a got a great first touch, and little things that a smart, older pro would do, he did." ... Venezuelan midfielder Carlos Martinez also made his debut for Madison, playing the final 22 minutes. ... The 56ers play host to the Reserves on Friday in their 11th NPSL home opener at Breese Stevens Field. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. ... Ian Sagstetter, a defender from NAIA Faulkner (Ala.), decided to leave the team. He played in the 56ers' 3-2 victory over Bavarian SC in their season-opening friendly May 13. ... Launder's assistant this season is Chilean Gabriel Marin. He previously coached an Under-20 team at CD Universidad Católica in Santiago and worked at Madison Country Day school in Waunakee. "We have some similar views of the game," Launder said of Marin. ... Lehigh Valley United Sonic's Andy Adlard (Brookfield East), who played for the 56ers and Milwaukee Bavarians in the NPSL, was an honorable mention selection on the season's first USL Premier Development League Team of the Week. Sonic, whch played in the NPSL for the past five years, tied host Reading United AC 0-0 in its PDL debut May 16.
May 24, 2015 NPSL Midwest match
At East Ridge HS, Woodbury, Minn.
Madison 56ers – Drew Whalen (Tony Amolo) 6
Madison 56ers – Drew Whalen (Gideon Asante) 57
Madison 56ers – Drew Whalen (Gideon Asante) 63
Minnesota United FC Reserves – Brad Whitsitt 70
MADISON 56ERS: Joe White; Miguel Izquierdo, Felipe Mattar, Jack Hagstrom, Brian Bultman; Keenan Newallo (Driton Zyteja 73), Taylor Pill, Jacob Scotte-Hatherly (Carlos Martinez 68); Gideon Asante (Sam Novak 76), Drew Whalen, Tony Amolo (Lucian Pârvu 62). Substitutes not used: Scott Sibik (GK), Callum Glen, Zacc Roelke.
MINNESOTA UNITED FC RESERVES: Andrew Fontein (Mitch Wolff 46); Daniel Cisneros, Tyler Heaps, Andres Jaramillo, Landy Mattison, Bryce Murphy; Sam Mann Jr., Saul Rosales (Rodrigo Yanez 53), Ben Wexler, Brad Whitsitt; Babatunde Oyekah. Substitutes not used: Christopher Aksoz, Grant Griffin, Andrew Roddy, Jesse Saldana.