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Men's Soccer vs Columbia game Credit: Freda Zhao , Freda Zhao

As Penn men’s soccer enters its matchup with Princeton on Saturday, it does so with its back against the wall.

In what will be one of the team’s toughest contests yet, the Red and Blue (6-7-2, 2-1-2 Ivy) looks to secure a victory and continue playing for a chance at the Ivy League championship. Princeton (9-3-3, 3-1-1) also desperately seeks a victory, which would keep it in first place in the Ivy standings with one game to go.

Penn enters Saturday’s contest riding a three-game winless streak. When asked what his team most needs to work on, coach Rudy Fuller remained consistent in his belief that the defense needs to create more plays higher up the field.

“It continues to be defensive restarts. I think if we had taken care of our responsibilities in that area, we would’ve gotten two wins and a draw [as opposed to a 0-1-2 record],” Fuller said. “That continues to be the focus. We feel that in every other area, we’ve gotten better and better as a group, but it comes down to what you do in both boxes.”

Based on the teams’ records and statistics, Princeton surely appears to be the favorite. Just don’t tell Fuller.

“I wouldn’t say we’re underdogs at all,” he said. “I think we’ve played two different types of schedules. I think that they’re obviously playing with a lot of confidence right now. They’ve gotten a lot of good results.”

The Tigers are 7-2-1 in their last ten games and have outscored their opponents 20-11 over that span. They feature a strong defense and a high-octane offense led by senior forward Cameron Porter and junior midfielder Thomas Sanner. The two lead the Ivy League in goals with 12 and 8, respectively.

To add even more perspective, the two players’ combined 20 goals are equal to the number of goals that all of Penn men’s soccer has scored in its past 14 games.

Coach Fuller recognizes Princeton’s offensive threat but remains optimistic.

“They’re really aggressive,” he said. “Again, we’re going to have to be as good as we’ve been defensively in the run of play recently. We’re going to have to take care of things in our box and need to tuck away the chances.”

While defending Sanner and Porter looks to be a difficult task for the Red and Blue, senior midfielder Kamar Saint-Louis recognizes that stopping them is not an individual — or even a two-person — effort. After playing against both of them last year — a match in which Porter scored — Penn knows what is necessary to stop them.

“It’s going to take a committed effort, a team effort,” Saint-Louis said.

On offense, Penn is looking for more production from a group that has scored only two goals in the past three games. Still, coach Fuller believes that the quality of shots is more important than quantity.

“It’s all about creating quality chances and then tucking those chances away,” he said.

Without a doubt, this game is a must-win for Penn, even though there is a distant possibility that the team can still win the title with a tie on Saturday. If Penn secures a victory and Dartmouth loses to Cornell, then next Saturday’s contest between Harvard and Penn would be the deciding match in the Ivy championship race.

Though the odds do not necessarily favor Penn, Saint-Louis is optimistic and believes that the team is excited to go to Princeton and potentially play spoiler during the school’s Homecoming weekend.

“Personally, I’m not too worried,” he said. “I don’t think any of the guys are too worried. We have to win. I think the guys are more excited than anything.”

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