On Homecoming weekend, the No. 11 Brown men’s soccer team edged out Penn at Rhodes Field by a score of 1-0 — Brown’s sixth victory of the season by such a score.
The nationally ranked Bears (12-1-2, 4-0-1 Ivy) got off to a quick start when they found the back of the net under four minutes into the match on a one-timer to the upper left corner off a deflection.
Given that Brown had kept a clean sheet for over 230 minutes going into Saturday’s game, the path to victory looked difficult for the Red and Blue (2-12, 0-5).
“Their team definitely grinds games out,” sophomore forward Duke Lacroix said. “They know how to get the result done … and their defense is a big part of that.”
But Brown’s potent defense didn’t intimidate the Quakers.
Penn coach Rudy Fuller switched his setup, starting only Lacroix at forward, rather than relying on the usual Lacroix-Stephen Baker duo.
“We wanted to trade the guy up top to give us an extra man in the midfield so we could really be good at winning balls in midfield and getting at them quickly,” Fuller said.
Using that strategy, Penn created several opportunities in the first half. The Quakers seemed focused on trying to lob over Brown’s backfield or get a through ball past the back line, and relied on Lacroix’s speed to get to the ball and challenge the keeper.
“The strategy was to suck them in and get at them in transition before they had an opportunity to get their line set,” Fuller said.
Penn’s efforts resulted in five shots on goal for Lacroix — four in the first half — who used his speed and footwork to generate solid, and often creative, opportunities.
“Lacroix was outstanding up top,” Fuller said.
Unfortunately for the Red and Blue, the only thing missing was, in Lacroix’s words, “putting the ball in the back of the net.” While it might only provide a slight measure of solace for the Quakers, they did force Brown’s goalie, senior Sam Kernan-Schloss, to make eight saves. In the first half alone, Kernan-Schloss was challenged more times than he has been in any other half this season.
“Brown defensively was very solid, and even still we were able to create more than our fair share of chances,” Fuller said.
While Brown has consistently performed in its defensive half, Penn’s main concern going into Saturday was its own defense, which had allowed roughly 2.5 goals per game heading into the weekend.
Apart from the early lapse on the left flank, the Quakers’ backfield successfully neutralized Brown’s offensive bursts, and goalie Max Kurtzman made eight key saves of his own to hold Brown to a lone goal. Entering the match, Penn had only held a team to one goal once this season.
“We had a good defensive effort — probably our best of the season,” Lacroix said.
Saturday was only the second time the Quakers have been held scoreless this year. As multiple players and Fuller have mentioned, the team isn’t worried about scoring; they’re focused on defense.
If Penn can recreate its defensive effort in its last three, games, it may end a tough season on a high note.
The Quakers proved they can compete with anyone — even a top-ranked team. Now, they just need to finish strong.
If Hurricane Sandy doesn’t delay their schedule, they can start at home against Penn State on Wednesday.
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