Two home games against Florida teams. Two red cards. Two losses. At least the Quakers are consistent.
On Friday, Penn (2-6) fell to Florida Gulf Coast (1-5-1) in overtime, 3-2. Sunday’s game brought more of the same, as visiting Florida International (4-4) beat the Red and Blue, 2-0.
The losses extend Penn’s losing streak to six games and continue the Quakers’ trend of dropping close games by tight margins.
“I really think that it’s just our energy level,” freshman forward Sam Hayward said. “We’ve played with every single one of these teams and it just comes down to our execution.”
Senior Stephen Baker and sophomore Alex Murphy were given red cards for Penn against FGCU and FIU, respectively. As a result, the Quakers ended both games with a man disadvantage.
In the opening 20 minutes of Friday’s game, Penn looked in control as the team pressed the Eagles hard. But the game changed when Baker tangled with a defender and was shown his second yellow card.
The Quakers played down a man for the rest of the game and the Eagles took advantage of their numerical superiority in the 32nd minute with a headed goal from junior Santiago Echeverri.
Just five minutes later, Hayward slotted home his second collegiate goal to tie the game at one.
“We spent a lot of time in practice playing numbers down, and so at halftime I told the guys, ‘Man, if we had only trained for this,’ and everyone got a chuckle out of it,” coach Rudy Fuller said.
FGCU took the lead once more seven minutes after half time, as sophomore Luis Vega curled a free kick past Penn goalkeeper Tyler Kinn.
Junior Duke Lacroix tapped home another equalizer for the Red and Blue in the 68th minute. He was assisted by freshman Matt Poplawski, who showed great hustle to track down a loose ball and feed Lacroix.
But in overtime, it was all Florida Gulf Coast, and in the 100th minute, FGCU sophomore Felipe DeSousa made a run into the box and slid a shot past the outstretched hands of Kinn to win it for the Eagles.
On Sunday, the Red and Blue endured a slow start to the match, allowing Florida International freshman Luis Betancur to put the away side up, 1-0, in the 20th minute.
The next 40 minutes were even, but then Murphy went in late on one of FIU’s midfielders with a crunching slide tackle. The referee deemed the challenge as reckless and showed the Penn midfielder a straight red.
Playing down a man forced the Red and Blue to work harder in order to make up ground, which took a toll on the players’ already tired legs.
“It’s a challenge when you’re fresh, but it was the second game in a weekend and we’ve had a run of four or five games in a short period of time,” Fuller said of playing down a man.
Despite the disadvantage of playing shorthanded, the Quakers actually created their best chances of the game after Murphy saw red.
Junior Louis Schott would have had a great goal if it weren’t for the fingertips of the FIU goalkeeper, and freshman Alec Neumann nearly had a breakaway that was stopped by a last-ditch effort from the Panthers defenders.
But Penn’s efforts to get an equalizer died when FIU junior Quentin Albrecht slotted home a goal to put the Quakers up, 2-0.
Following Sunday’s game, Fuller stressed that his team needs to regroup mentally to turn close losses into wins.
“College soccer is about belief. It’s about the mentality you bring,” Fuller said. “That has clearly been shaken for us and we are going to lean on the team’s leadership — the juniors and seniors — to get it back.”
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