Junior forward Alex Muyl has always been a good soccer player. He started from day one, recording four goals and nine assists during his freshman campaign. This year, however, the forward has begun to take his game to another level. Muyl plays a key role for No. 3 Georgetown (15-2-2, 11-0 Big East), and he does it in a way only he can.
Muyl’s game starts with his work rate. On both sides of the ball, the forward constantly puts himself in a position to make a play. His efforts when the opposition has the ball have been key to Georgetown’s defensive success, while he is in nearly constant motion in the attack. For Head Coach Brian Wiese, Muyl’s ability to keep up a high energy level all game is one of his defining characteristics.
“He is a personality that [opposing teams] have to deal with. He is talking and he’s running and he’s fouling and he’s being fouled and he’s on the ball all the time,” Wiese said. “He is just around it. You can’t not notice him.”
Just as the junior never seems to stop running, he also never seems to stop looking for a competitive edge. Muyl spends as much time on the ground as any other player. He frequently appeals to referees for favorable calls and chastises them when decisions go against the Hoyas. In short, he is a player that fans love to have on their side and hate facing on a rival team.
It is not just the spectators in the stands who see this side of Muyl’s game. His teammates recognize that he is not afraid to search for any in-game advantage.
“I don’t discourage him from doing that because he is successful at it, to be honest with you. Not that I encourage diving and stuff like that, but I just mean that if he can get an advantage staying within the rules of the game, sometimes you do whatever you can get away with,” senior defender Josh Turnley said.
Muyl’s search for an edge is not limited to the referees, either. He will yell at himself for mistakes and at his teammates if he feels they have made the wrong decision. When the final whistle blows, however, Muyl insists there are no hard feelings.
“The good thing that I love about this team and that I love about my teammates is that they know that on the field, whatever happens, whatever is said, is on the field. As soon as it’s off the field, I’ll apologize … and it’s all good,” Muyl said.
Off the field, when all the on-field intensity has been left behind, Muyl presents a very different image. Far from the gamesmanship and volume on the pitch, Wiese and Turnley describe the forward as more light-hearted.
“He’s always cracking jokes and is the life of the party. So in a little bit different sense off the field he is also a big personality,” Turnley said.
At times in the past, the passion and intensity that Muyl brings to the table have posed a problem. He said he could be so distracted at times by a poor call or missed opportunity that he forgot about the game going on around him. Wiese said the coaching staff knows to substitute him out of the game if he needs a mental break, rather than a physical one.
As Muyl’s career at Georgetown has progressed, however, these occasions have become increasingly rare. His appeals to referees are more calm and measured. His comments to teammates are more constructive than critical this season, and the ends of tight games often see him urging the Hoyas on.
“This year I have really been working on my mentality and trying to be more positive with myself and others. I think it has been making a big impact on my game as well. It doesn’t mean necessarily losing your edge, losing the competitive nature,” Muyl said.
So far in 2015, Muyl has recorded five goals and nine assists. He carried Georgetown to a comeback win over Seton Hall (0-15-1, 0-9-0), creating all three goals for the Hoyas and serving as the team’s vocal leader. He also lifted Georgetown to its first Big East tournament title by beating a defender and scoring the game-winner in double overtime.
Defenses often struggle to contain Muyl, whether he is making runs behind the back line, earning free kicks in dangerous positions or scoring all on his own.
“Without the biting, he is kind of like our [Luis] Suarez. When you look at Suarez … he’s a little bit of a pain in the butt, he’s a little temperamental, he does his own stuff sometimes. But when he is really good, he causes all the problems. … He’s the one that unlocks teams,” Wiese said.
Georgetown will host the winner of Hofstra (13-7, 6-2 Colonial Athletic Conference) and Lehigh (13-5-2, 4-3-2 Patriot League) Sunday in the second round of the NCAA tournament. With their 13-game winning streak and 16-game unbeaten streak, the Hoyas will be the heavy favorite in that match with Muyl at the helm.
“His maturing into the player he has become over the last two years has been maybe the single most important piece to the success we have had this year,” Wiese said.