This weekend, the men’s soccer team hopes to turn around a heartbreaking stretch at home.
The Quakers (2-8, 0-1 Ivy) have played five games on their home turf so far this season, all of which have been losses. Four of the defeats have been decided by a single goal.
A big win on Saturday at Rhodes Field against Columbia (2-6-1, 0-1) is just what Penn needs and is almost a necessity if the Red and Blue want to keep their Ivy League title hopes alive. Coach Rudy Fuller believes it will be a good one.
“I would imagine it is going to be an enjoyable game for the fans in attendance,” he said. “It’s going to be who gets the upper hand and who puts a stamp on the game. … We’re going to try to go out on our home field and set the tone for the game from the start.”
“[Winning on Saturday] is huge,” junior forward Stephen Baker added. “We’ve had a couple of disappointing losses that we are hoping to bounce back from. We are looking forward to coming back here and having a good home crowd for us.”
Penn will come into the match with the offensive advantage. Its scoring attack, spearheaded up front by Baker and sophomore forward Duke Lacroix, is ranked in the top 20 in the nation for goals per game. In fact, Baker and Lacroix have more combined points than the whole Columbia soccer team.
The challenge for the Quakers, though, will be maintaining a stout line of defense throughout the game in order to help out their dynamic offense. This is of increased importance Saturday, as all of Columbia’s goals have been scored in the second half.
“It starts defensively,” Lacroix said. “I think if our defensive work is good, then our offensive production follows that.”
The goalkeeper will be a position to watch for Penn. Sophomore starting goalie Max Kurtzman missed last weekend’s game against Cornell due to a wrist injury, and his status for Saturday is questionable.
“It’s a day-to-day situation,” Fuller said. “But we are fortunate to have Tyler Kinn as our number two. Tyler’s logged a number of minutes over the past two years. So regardless of who’s in net, we’ll make sure we are ready.”
It is crucial for the Quakers to have both the defense and offense clicking if they want to take their first victory at Rhodes Field this season. And it is by no means an insurmountable task. Last year, they were in a similar situation — after losing their first Ivy League game against Cornell, they responded with a victory the very next Saturday against the Lions.
The goal difference: one.
“Well, I haven’t been in many Ivy League games where it hasn’t been a one goal, very tight affair,” Fuller said. “That’s what we expect on Saturday.”