Chris Grassie was named Marshall University’s new head men’s soccer coach on Jan. 10, 2017.
Coach Grassie is entering his fourth season after leading Marshall through an historic year in 2019. Grassie is 32-22-7 with the Herd and 131-42-15 overall. After leading Marshall to the semi-final round of the Conference USA Tournament in his first two seasons, the C-USA Coach of the Year took the Herd into the national conversation in 2019.
During his time leading the Herd, Marshall has had 14 players named all-conference, eight named to the C-USA All-Tournament team, five named all-academic, 12 honored as conference offensive or defensive player of the week, six named All-Region, five honored on College Soccer News Team of the Week, three Scholar All-Region selections, and one each United Soccer Coaches All-American, United Soccer Coaches Scholar All-American, CoSIDA Academic All-American and College Soccer New All-American. His players have been honored 45 times on the Conference USA Commissioner’s Honor Roll (GPA of 3.00 or better) and 14 have received the Conference USA Academic Medal for a GPA of 3.75 or better.
In 2019, Grassie doubled his win total (16 in first two seasons) Marshall earned its way into the United Soccer Coaches/NCAA poll for the first time since Oct. 1, 2001, and finished the year 16-3-3. The Herd began to receive votes on Sept. 24, 2019 after a 2-1 win over Akron, the 2018 National Championship Runners-up. The votes continued to come as Marshall kept on winning. Finally, the Herd entered the Top 25 at No. 21 on Oct. 15 after a scoreless draw at then No. 5 Charlotte. Marshall remained in the Top 25 for the rest of the season, culminating at No. 11 by season’s end.
The Herd kept on dominating throughout the year, and showed how it could compete with some of the best in the country. On Senior Day (Nov. 3), 15th-ranked Kentucky came to Hoops Family Field and in front of a record crowd of 2,032, Marshall defeated the Wildcats 1-0 and put the team in prime position to win the Conference USA Regular Season Title. However, the Herd had to do it on the road at No. 19 FIU. Marshall traveled south and spoiled the Panthers’ Senior Day with a 2-1 victory, locking up the No. 1 seed in the C-USA Tournament and the Regular Season Championship.
Marshall received the first round bye in the conference tournament and came out in the semi-final round with a second shutout over Kentucky, 1-0. The Herd entered the Championship match against No. 2 seed Charlotte. The teams battled through a scoreless match into the second overtime. Three minutes into the final overtime period, junior Pedro Dolabella found the back of the net with a header off a corner kick to give Marshall its first ever conference tournament title, and first ever berth into the NCAA Tournament. Dolabella was named Tournament Offensive MVP and senior Carlos Diaz-Salcedo was honored as Defensive MVP. Sophomores Collin Mocyunas and Vinicius Fernandes were also named to the All-Tournament Team.
During a packed watch party for the NCAA Selection Show, the Herd learned that it was ranked No. 11 overall and would be hosting a second round match. The opponent ended up being the West Virginia Mountaineers. On a sunny, late November day, Grassie’s squad took the pitch against the cross-state rivals in front of a new record crowd of 2,126, also the largest crowd of any first or second round match in the NCAA Tournament in 2019. Marshall put on a strong show for the packed house with a 2-1 victory to advance to the third round. The Herd’s amazing season came to an end in the Sweet 16 at No. 6 Washington.
Coach Grassie’s squad brought an attacking style and a stifling defense to the pitch as players piled up numerous awards throughout the year. Marshall scored 47 goals, the most since scoring 50 in 2000 and the third-highest total in program history, and allowed just 20 goals. The goal differential of 27 was the best since 2000 and the third-best in program history. Ten different players scored at least one goal and five scored four or more. Seven players were honored on all-conference teams as well as freshman Milo Yosef being named the league Offensive MVP and the Freshman of the Year. Senior keeper Paulo Pita was the Co-Winner of the Golden Glove Award, finishing the year with eight shutouts, and was later drafted in the first round of the MLS Super Draft, going 24th overall to the Los Angeles FC. Pita was the first Marshall player to be taken in the first round and the first to be drafted since Daniel Withrow went in the fourth round in 2013.
By the end of the year, Grassie’s players were honored with some more firsts in team history. Yosef was the first player to be named a United Soccer Coaches All-American (second team). Senior defender Illal Osmanu was the first Herd player to be named a United Soccer Coaches Scholar All-American (second team) and senior midfielder Jonas Westmeyer became the first CoSIDA Academic All-American. Coach Grassie and his staff were honored as the United Soccer Coaches Southeast Region Coaching Staff of the Year.
In 2018, Marshall finished the year 8-9-3 and again pulled off another first-round upset in the C-USA Tournament. This time as the No. 5 seed over fourth-seeded FIU and shutting down the league’s leading scorer for the win. Marshall advanced to the semi-final for the second-consecutive season and fell 2-1 to the No. 1 seed, and ranked third in the country, Kentucky Wildcats. UK went on to win the tournament championship and advance to the Quarterfinals in the NCAA Tournament. Marshall also earned key wins over Ohio State (1-0), reigning C-USA Tournament champions Old Dominion (4-2) and defeated South Carolina in double overtime for this first time in back-to-back seasons since 2009-10.
In 2017, Marshall defeated No. 21 Kentucky in the regular season for the first time since 2011 and for the first time at home since 2000, with a 1-0 victory. The Herd then upset the third-seeded Kentucky Wildcats, 1-0, in the first round of the C-USA Tournament. Marshall fell in the semi-final round to the eventual tournament champions, No. 2 seed Old Dominion Monarchs, 1-0. The Herd went 5-2-0 at home for its best home record since Hoops Family Field was opened in 2013. Along with the win over the ranked Wildcats, Marshall defeated UNC Asheville (3-0), Eastern Illinois (3-0), South Carolina (2-1) and UAB (2-1).
Grassie returns to Huntington after spending the last six seasons at the University of Charleston, where he compiled a 99-20-8 record and advanced the Golden Eagles to the NCAA Division II Final Four the last three seasons. UC was the national runner-up in 2014 and 2016.
The Thundering Herd’s new head coach is familiar with the program. Grassie served as a graduate assistant at Marshall from 2004-06, where he focused on team training, goalkeepers and recruiting. While at MU, he received his master’s degree in exercise science with a focus in athletic administration.
“I’m honored to accept the position of men’s soccer coach here at Marshall,” Grassie said. “I’d like to thank Mike Hamrick and Jeff O’Malley for choosing me for this role, and for their belief that I can lead a truly successful program here. I’m excited to get started on this new chapter for Marshall soccer, and I hope I can make all of the alumni and those associated with the program proud.
“I’d like to thank Dr. Bren Stevens and President Edwin Welch from the University of Charleston for all the support they have given me over the last six seasons in building a premier Division II program,” Grassie added. “Finally, I’d like to thank Bobby Gray for all of his support over the years, as it was Bobby who, 13 years ago, gave me my start in Division I men’s soccer as his assistant at Marshall, which makes this such a special homecoming for me. I hope I can make him proud and I know he will be our No. 1 fan.”
Grassie replaces Gray, who retired in November after 22 seasons and 190 wins with the Herd.
“I would say that Chris is highly motivated, knowledgeable and one of these up-and-coming coaches who is going to have an outstanding career,” Gray said. “I think he will do well at Marshall. He has paid his dues and has been very successful with what he has done, not only at Charleston but at the University of Michigan.
“When he was at Marshall he was only a graduate assistant but he might as well have been a full-time coach. You could tell it was in his blood to want to do this for a living.”
Grassie is the winningest coach in University of Charleston history. In the last three seasons, UC is 61-7-3, including a 29-4-2 record in the Mountain East Conference and 32-1-1 record at home. Grassie led UC to the MEC tournament championship in 2013, and MEC championships in 2014, 2015 and 2016. In 2014, when the Golden Eagles posted the best record in the country and led all Division II programs in goals scored and goals against average, Grassie won the MEC Coach of the Year and NSCAA Atlantic Coach of the Year awards. In 2015, when UC finished 20-3-0, Grassie won the MEC Coach of the Year and MEC All-sports Coach of the Year awards.
“We are fortunate to have found a coach with this amount of experience and success,” Hamrick said. “Chris has won consistently and at a high level for his entire head coaching career, he played college and coached in our state and spent three years working as an assistant coach to Bob Gray here at Marshall.
“We are excited to have someone who has competed for championships, who has played professionally and has developed professionals. He has a degree from Marshall and he lived in Huntington and wanted to come back and be part of the Thundering Herd family. That makes this a perfect fit.”
Grassie’s UC teams have won six consecutive conference tournament championships dating back to the now-defunct West Virginia Conference. He has coached eight All-Americans and four of his former players landed professional contracts. UC’s program reached No. 1 in the national rankings under his direction, and finished the 2016 season ranked No. 2 after losing to Wingate University in the national championship game. The Golden Eagles have consistently been ranked in the top 3 nationally the last three seasons.
Under Grassie’s direction, UC had the West Virginia Conference Player of the Year in 2012; Mountain East Offensive Player of the Year, MEC Defensive Player of the Year and MEC Freshman of the Year in 2014; and MEC Offensive Player of the Year and MEC Defensive Player of the Year in 2015.
Prior to UC, Grassie spent four seasons as an assistant coach at the University of Michigan (2007-10). The Wolverines won the Big Ten championship in 2010 and appeared in the 2010 College Cup, losing in the semifinals to eventual national champion Akron.
Prior to arriving at Marshall, Grassie spent the 2003 season as an assistant coach at his alma mater, Alderson Broaddus. As a player at Alderson Broaddus, Grassie was named to the all-conference team multiple times and was a team captain. He majored in political science and history. After graduation, Grassie played professionally in England, most notably with Northwich Victoria.
Grassie is a native of Newcastle upon-Tyne in the United Kingdom. He and his wife, Allison, have two children: a son, Ever, and a daughter, Ia.