Over the course of the last two seasons, in the past 23 games, Penn men’s soccer hasn’t been able to keep a team off the scoreboard.
That’s right, going into Saturday’s match against No. 11 Brown, the Quakers hadn’t recorded a shutout in 23 straight matches.
And so, I made my way to Rhodes Field on Saturday with the intention of watching the squad, and in particular, sophomore goalkeeper Max Kurtzman. These were my thoughts.
Pregame: Former Penn stars Thomas Brandt and Christian Barreiro are in the house. I want to make a joke about how this season would’ve been different with them, but then again, they’re responsible for 10 of the 23 games in the streak that carried over from last year.
1st minute: Barreiro hollers, “These refs suck,” just before the game gets underway. I don’t think the refs have been the only problem this season.
4’: Brown scores a goal that Kurtzman had no chance at saving. The defense broke down, allowing Brown one too many touches in the box.
9’: Corner opportunity for Brown — a dangerous area all year for Penn. But captain Jonny Dolezal gets rid of it. Brandt approves of the play. Dolezal looked like Brandt on that play.
13’: Senior back Bryan Yasukochi makes a nice play to get out of trouble, forcing a corner. Dolezal and Kurtzman fist bump.
15’: Kurtzman makes two big saves in a row. He’s hyped up.
24’: Kurtzman yells at captain Travis Cantrell after the midfielder failed to check his man. Cantrell throws his hands up in response.
37’: The Quakers are giving the ball up a lot in the offensive end, making them work much harder than they need to on defense. On every turnover, Kurtzman is setting his defenders up where they need to be. The fans have heard his voice a lot tonight.
Halftime: Kurtzman has six saves in the first half. He’s one of the first ones back out on the field.
46’: Kurtzman yells at the officials following a foul call on Penn.
60’: Kurtzman yells at junior Nicky Yin for not being in the right spot.
66’: With Brown on a breakaway, Kurtzman comes 40 yards out to put a body on the Brown player. Penn is able to clear it away. Kurtzman laughs afterward.
76’: It’s getting late in the game, and Penn is still down, 1-0. Kurtzman hollers at the ball girl to hurry up in getting him the ball.
80’: Kurtzman yells at Dolezal to open up more on defense.
End of regulation: Penn loses. It’s been 24 straight games without a shutout.
Ultimately, it isn’t on Kurtzman, the defense or junior forward Stephen Baker, who hasn’t produced as much as Penn needs.
On homecoming weekend, with alums like Barreiro and Brandt in the house, the team is just missing that chemistry — that mentality — that the 2010 Penn squad had.
But they’re not far away either. Brown and Cornell, two of the best teams in the country, each beat Penn by just a goal.
Coach Rudy Fuller has said it all year — the Quakers are a young team — and after watching them play a great Brown team tight, it’s fair to say they’re talented, too.
For now, I believe Kurtzman can relax. Clean sheets — and wins — are coming. The team is making progress. It just might take until next year to see the results.