Men's Soccer Standout Joins Pro Ranks|
April 3, 2013
CINCINNATI – University of Cincinnati men’s soccer senior Matt Bahner ended his Bearcats career with prolific numbers. The hometown native from West Chester, Ohio and graduate of Lakota West High School played in 68 career games, starting in 65 of them. As a midfielder for UC, he scored 13 goals and tallied nine assists for 35 career points. He took 134 shots throughout his career and recorded seven game-winning goals.
While these numbers will certainly be remembered throughout the Cincinnati men’s soccer community for years to come, they will not be the last you hear from Matt Bahner.
On March 25, 2013 Bahner signed a professional contract to play with the Harrisburg City Islanders of the United Soccer League (USL) Pro Division, a partnering league with Major League Soccer. His 18-year dream of playing professional soccer had finally come to fruition.
“Playing professional soccer was a dream of mine since I was a little kid” said Bahner. “I have grown to enjoy it so much that I wanted to make it a career for myself. Of course when I was little and growing up playing the game I did not know that I would actually get the chance to reach this dream. I had always hoped and dreamed that it would happen, but always knew it was a very difficult challenge to endure and never knew what was going to happen during the process.”
Bahner’s dream was realized on March 25 when he put pen to paper with the Islanders. He was invited to the club’s preseason on March 10, starting his tenure as a trialist and hoping to prove himself worthy of joining the team. After two weeks of two-a-day practices and three preseason games, the Islanders extended him the contract offer.
The Harrisburg City Islanders play in the USLPro Division, which has a direct link with the MLS, working together and feeding players into the major league. This season, the Islanders will begin a direct partnership with Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union.
When asked what he is looking forward to most about playing professionally, Bahner cited continuing to play the game he loves. “I am very honored to call myself, and be among the category of professional athletes” said Bahner. “But I don't want this to be the end, just the beginning. I am looking forward to being a part of a great organization that has great management, coaches, and players. I am hoping to continue to improve and get better as a player and help the team in any way that I can in our pursuit to win a championship.”
The flank midfielder gives a lot of credit to UC head coach Hylton Dayes and the Bearcats’ program for preparing him for his professional career. “Playing for Coach Dayes helped me prepare for the next step, because he always challenged me to be a better person, player, teammate, and leader” said Bahner. “Playing for UC helped me prepare for the next level, because of the BIG EAST competition and the quality of players you were playing with and against day in and day out. The high pace at which you had to play the game, both mentally and physically, was definitely something that helped me get to the next level.”
As for the UC coaching staff, Dayes expressed his excitement for Bahner after the signing. “We are delighted that Matt has signed to play for the Harrisburg City Islanders in the USL Pro Division. He has worked extremely hard to prepare for this opportunity and I know he will do well. We will miss him in our program. He has been a true Bearcat and a joy to coach.”
While the UC captain did well to lead his team to three BIG EAST Championships during his time in Cincinnati, he knows the competition will be much stingier in the big leagues. He understands that the pace of play and the quality of soccer will be vastly different from what he experienced in college. “There is always a learning curve when it comes to new things and I am still working through that” Bahner lamented. “One key difference in playing professionally is the consistency that you must bring to the field each and every day as a professional player”.
Bahner is now looking forward to a lengthy career as a professional soccer player and excited to see where his journey takes him. But at the end of the day, he knows that he owes much of his success to the Bearcats family that supported and encouraged him along the way. “I just want to thank UC, the Athletic department, Hylton Dayes and the men's soccer coaching staff, all of my teammates throughout my five years as a player, the training staff and everyone else at UC who has helped me in some way reach my dream of playing professionally” Bahner said. “I could not have done it without all of you and will strive to continue to live up to the Bearcats way.”