For men’s soccer, the keys to win its next match are fairly simple: defense, defense, defense.
At 7:30 p.m. on Homecoming evening, the Quakers (2-11, 0-4 Ivy) will face off against first-place Brown (11-1-2, 3-0-1) at Rhodes Field.
Brown’s defense has been impeccable this season. Through 14 games, they’ve allowed just seven goals, recorded nine shutouts and secured five 1-0 victories.
Brown’s backfield will have its hands full, though, with what coach Rudy Fuller considers one of the best forward combinations in the country — junior Stephen Baker and sophomore Duke Lacroix. The duo has combined for 11 goals thus far, with senior forward Travis Cantrell adding six more.
“Something’s gotta give,” Fuller said. “Either we get the goals, or they step up defensively.”
Despite Brown’s solid defensive unit, Fuller isn’t worried about his offensive strategy, which he says will be “no different than any other game.”
“[It’s] not really breaking down their defense but more keeping a compact defense for us,” he said. “We’re not worried about the goals coming, it’s just a matter of not giving up goals.”
Indeed, Penn’s defense provides quite a contrast to Brown’s. The Quakers’ backfield has been the bane of its season: 32 goals allowed in 13 games. Even the Red and Blue’s offensive prowess — Penn trails only Cornell in the Ivy League in goals scored — has not mitigated its defensive shortcomings, as their record reflects.
“Our focus has got to be on our defending,” Fuller said. “It’s been an issue for us all season long.”
Although the Quakers, currently playing the caboose in the Ivy League, are taking on a team that has lost just one match and beaten a top-25 team in Washington, there may be a silver lining. Brown is a 1-0 team — it gets the goals it needs, but thrives on its defense. If the Red and Blue’s potent offense can expose gaps in Brown’s play, it will disrupt Brown’s “win-by-the-shutout” mentality.
The Quakers’ offense might also receive an extra jolt from the crowd: in attendance will be the 1962, ’71, ’72, ’73 and ’02 squads. Ex-coach and player Steve Baumann will also be in attendance.
“We take a lot of pride in being the standard bearers for the program right now,” Fuller said. “We want to give them a good effort that they can be proud of.”
While this year’s team won’t live up to those teams — all Ivy League champs or NCAA Tournament teams — maybe they can emulate them for this homecoming game.
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