For Penn fans who believe soccer is too low scoring, the men’s team has more than enough firepower up front to prove you wrong.
Even though the Quakers struggled last year in a difficult 3-13 season, the team still showed how strong it is on the offensive end. Penn ranked second in the Ivy League in goals per game.
The Red and Blue also return two of their top three scorers from last year in senior Stephen Baker and junior Duke Lacroix, who will need to step up to replace now-graduated Travis Cantrell’s production.
For coach Rudy Fuller and his squad, having Baker and Lacroix in the front line allows for a more fluid system and more options for formations.
“We’re seeing how everybody is coming back in after the summer, who has improved and who has not,” Baker said. “We’re trying a lot of different things with maybe three forwards, two forwards, five midfielders, four midfielders, a lot of different things.”
“What it looks like in front of our back line could be different each and every day,” Fuller added. “We really don’t get too caught up in what the system is called. We focus in on the relationships that the guys have on the field.”
In Lacroix and Baker, Fuller has a partnership that should be even stronger than last year, when the two combined for 11 goals.
“The beginning of last fall was really the first time that we had paired them together in a front two,” Fuller said. “And that relationship really takes time to develop. There is an old saying that strikers hunt in pairs, and you can really increase their effectiveness exponentially when they are on the same page.”
Baker and Lacroix have very contrasting styles of play, which has the potential to befuddle opponents.
Lacroix, Ivy Rookie of the Year his freshman season, uses his blazing speed to dribble and run past the opposition, while Baker takes up a more central role in order to get in good positions in the box to score goals.
“I think we work well together chemistry-wise. A little bit of salt, little bit of pepper,” Lacroix said. “Two different styles of play, but they come together in the game and it shows when we put a couple of goals in the back of the net.”
“I definitely think we can work off of each other,” Baker added.
“They are going to be expecting [Lacroix] to be making all the runs in behind because of his speed. So if he doesn’t, that opens up an opportunity for me to hit a hole.”
The Quakers started off their 2012 campaign with six consecutive losses, but the lack of victories didn’t show that the offense still created plenty of goal-scoring opportunities.
Together, Baker and Lacroix launched more than 50 shots during those first six games, but unfortunately couldn’t finish off enough chances to pull out a win.
That should change this year, as the pair have grown in confidence of their ability to score off the chances they create.
“Fifty shots in the first six games is huge, it means we’re creating opportunities,” Baker said. “We’re both good players so it’s just a matter of time until the ball goes in the back of the net. Just like Kobe Bryant, we gotta keep shooting.”
“I think it’s personal as a striker, every shot you take you want it to go in the back of the net,” Lacroix added. “So for me, every shot missed is a missed opportunity.”
With another year together, the dynamic pair of Lacroix and Baker should provide Penn with the offense necessary to improve in 2012 and challenge for an Ivy League crown.
“I think we’re another year wiser,” Lacroix said. “We have another year under our belts, a full year of experience. We went through some tough times last year and I think that just makes us stronger because we know how to handle it now.”
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