Q & A with Assistant Coach Matt Chulis
Men’s soccer assistant coach Matt Chulis recently checked in with VirginiaSports.com to talk about the team’s season so far and his experience under head coach George Gelnovatch as both a player and assistant coach. The 12th-ranked Cavaliers travel to No. 8 Maryland on Saturday, Oct. 31, for a 7:30 match at Ludwig Field.
Question: Talk about the team’s three-match win streak and how you will take that momentum into a tough environment at Maryland.
Chulis: We have won our past three games by two goals, which is great in terms of scoring good goals and not giving up scores. Maryland is always tough. I think the last time we won there was 2001 (3-0). They have a ton of fans, so we want the Wahooligans up there to rally some support for us. It’s an ACC clash that will be a tough one that we’re looking to grind out. It could be a one-goal game, so we have to be totally committed for 90, 100 or 110 minutes – whatever it takes.
Question: You were an All-American defender at Virginia from 1995-98. Talk about the 2009 Cavaliers’ defensive efforts – ranking as one of the top defenses in the country in terms of goals allowed (seven in 14 games with seven shutouts).
Chulis: They’ve done a fantastic job. We’ve had two center backs [Greg Monaco and Mike Volk] that hadn’t played a lot of minutes prior to this season. Hunter Jumper and Shawn Barry had some experience last year and they’ve been really committed to defending. As well as having goalkeeper Diego Restrepo back there, he’s got a lot of experience and helped to settle us down. They’ve been tough and stalwart and committed to defending. Sometimes it’s not pretty but it’s effective. You have to have that toughness and grit. Guys have been kicked and knocked up but it comes with the territory. They’ve embraced it and are good kids on and off the field.
Question: You are now in your fourth year as an assistant coach with the program after playing here for four years. What has kept you at Virginia?
Chulis: I’ve always had an affinity for the program. I knew what UVa was and all of the players and I knew when I was choosing a college that I wanted to be there and win trophies. That is the standard of this program. I knew when I was done playing I wanted to come back and be part of the program. I did not win a [NCAA] championship as a player. I’ll do whatever I can do help this program do that. It’s given me so much. I have a degree from UVa which I am so proud of. We have a great athletics department committed to winning. I feel so lucky to be in this situation.
Question: How has your relationship with Coach Gelnovatch evolved over the years?
Chulis: I think as a player, sometimes you really don’t get to see the other sides of your coach. Sometimes you can talk and relate more to the assistants. Being on the other side, it’s shown me a lot about George and the type of person he is. As a player you might not see the human side as often. There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes. George is great what he does and it has been great to see both sides of that fence.
Question: What is your proudest athletic achievement?
Chulis: Playing for the United States national team for sure. Being captain of the Under-20 team at the World Cup was a big moment for me. Any time you can do that and hear the national anthem and know you’re not representing yourself, or your school. You’re representing your country. I think that’s the biggest honor any soccer player can have.
Question: What is the team focusing on heading into its last three regular-season matches?
Chulis: Just getting better. You want to be getting better at the end of the season. We’re starting to hit on a couple more cylinders, understand things and play attractive soccer. We’re scoring goals, which is important, and not giving up goals, which is fantastic. That is the foundation of championship teams. I think we are getting better.
Question: Using the team’s last game as an example, the two goal-scorers (Will Bates and Brian Ownby) and the player with both assists (Neil Barlow) all hail from Virginia. How important is it to you as a staff to keep Virginia’s best players in-state?
Chulis: For us, it’s huge. We are the University of Virginia and our goal is always to have the best soccer players in the state of Virginia come here. We’ve done that throughout the history of the program, sprinkled with some out-of-state kids. I think it means a lot to the state kids because they know the reputation of UVa and they get to represent it.
Question: Do you keep in touch with your former teammates? Can you give fans any updates on what some of them are up to?
Chulis: Absolutely. Brock Yetso is the executive director of The Ulman Cancer Center for Young Adults in Columbia, Md., he does a lot of positive things with that. Benny [Ben] Olsen is still playing for DC United, which a lot of fans will know. Hopefully he will win comeback player of the year in the league, because he’s had some ankle problems. The Claudio Reyna Foundation [a non-profit corporation that motivates and support children in low-income communities soccer academies, clinics and camps] is doing good things. Richie Williams [current interim coach of the New York Red Bulls], should get a permanent head coaching job in Major League Soccer, he really deserves it. And John Harkes is doing television stuff, so he’s always interested in the guys. There’s a lot of alumni, and I send out email updates on the program, and I can tell you that there is a ton of support out there from our alumni.