Ready to add the final touch to an illustrious collegiate career in the backfield, Penn senior defender Tommy Brandt looked like Lionel Messi on Saturday.
Brandt netted a hat trick — a feat even the best forwards dream of — as the Quakers defeated Harvard, 3-2, in the season finale.
“I can’t say enough about the guy,” coach Rudy Fuller said. “He’s one of the best players in the country. What a way for him to go out.”
The Red and Blue are known to be an offensive team, led by star senior Christian Barreiro and the rising duo of freshman Duke Lacroix and sophomore Stephen Baker.
But it was Brandt, in his last appearance, who was the lone goal-scorer in Penn’s 3-2 double-overtime victory.
“It’s definitely one of the best [games] that has happened,” the forward said.
The Quakers (8-7-2, 3-4 Ivy) again had to overcome a one-goal deficit — they have started every Ivy game behind this season — despite a red card against Harvard forward Pascal Mensah 16 minutes into the game.
At the 21st minute, Scott Prozeller converted a penalty kick on a low shot to the right post to put the Crimson (2-12-3, 0-6-1) up, 1-0.
“It was a poor call,” said Fuller, who usually stays quiet about the refereeing, an issue that Penn has been dealing with all season long.
But the Red and Blue fought back by doing what they do best — attacking the opposing goalkeeper. Penn outshot Harvard, 18-9.
“We were in control of the game all the way through,” Fuller said. “We felt like the goals were going to come … and they did.”
“It showed a lot of character to go down one and come back,” Brandt added.
Character clearly defined a game that included 24 fouls, three yellow cards and a scuffle between senior defender Jake Levin and Tim Schmoll.
Brandt tied the game for the Quakers with a header on a lob cross from teammate Nick Unger.
Two minutes later, he got his team its first lead off a Barreiro corner.
But, seconds away from the end, Schmoll saved the Crimson, following a free kick from the right side.
That only lasted a few minutes though, as the Quakers didn’t let down.
In the 92nd minute, on a sequence of three shots, Barreiro, Austin Kinn and Lacroix were unsuccessful. Three minutes later, the latter found the goalpost.
And then, Brandt got the golden goal on another header off a free kick by Barreiro.
“We made it more difficult on ourselves than it needed to be, but the win in the end was a deserved result,” Fuller said.
It was a well-appreciated victory for Brandt, who now has his eyes turned toward a potential pro career.
“It’s one of those things on the back of my mind,” the captain said. “It’s been the dream of my whole life to play professional soccer.”
A performance like that certainly helps.