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Matt Poplawski assisted on Penn's only goal of the year over the weekend.

Credit: Thomas Munson , Thomas Munson

It was a rainy trip to Florida for Penn men’s soccer this weekend, both literally and figuratively.

With a two-game slate scheduled in the Sunshine State, the Quakers dropped their opener in disappointing fashion to Florida International, 3-1, on Thursday night. Two days later, after nearly two hours of delays caused by lightning, Penn’s matchup against Florida Gulf Coast was cancelled, with no plans made to reschedule.

The Red and Blue (0-2-1) started off their Florida swing with a fantastic first half at FIU. Freshman Jerel Blades scored in the 13th minute for the Quakers, notching the team’s first goal of the season and collecting his first collegiate goal in the process. Junior midfielder Matt Poplawski set up the goal by sending a 25-yard pass into the box that left Blades alone with the keeper.

However, the strong play didn’t continue for the Quakers in the second half.

Despite conceding the game’s opening goal, the Panthers (4-2-0) dominated possession thereafter and finally broke through in the 51st minute with a goal by sophomore midfielder Darren Rios, one that came on a transition chance after a Penn turnover near midfield.

The Red and Blue looked as though they were about to retake the lead in the 63rd minute when Blades was taken down by a collision in the 18-yard box. However, the Quakers’ calls for a penalty were not answered, and, moments later, FIU stormed down the field with Rios able to tap in for his second goal of the match.

The Panthers’ third and final goal came less than 10 minutes later after another Penn defensive breakdown led to an odd-man break.

“We came out well although even in the first half we were very defensive, scoring a counter-attack goal,” Poplawski said. “We did not do a very good job in the second half. All of their goals came in transition, after a bad giveaway. Just couldn’t recover quick enough which has been a theme so far.”

As concerning as the loss was, an injury sustained by senior goalkeeper Max Polkinhorne — who had already made three saves — 35 minutes into the game was also startling. Luckily, Penn coaches and players think Polkinhorne will be fine going forward.

Freshman Etan Mabourakh came off the bench and was credited with the loss despite having little chance of keeping the ball out of the net on all three Panther goals. Defensive breakdowns plagued the Quakers in this game, as they did in the team’s 4-0 loss to American last weekend.

“I would echo Matt’s comments,” coach Rudy Fuller said. “We put together a pretty good first half, we had the tempo we wanted and scored a goal. In the second, a couple breakdowns in transition got us, and that’s something we need to be better at." 

Although the Quakers looked forward to redeeming themselves with a victory against Florida Gulf Coast on Saturday, the game was cancelled due to dangerous lightning conditions at the stadium. The match was originally delayed an hour, with the teams warming up and preparing to play when the storm came back. Now, Penn returns to Philadelphia still in search of its first victory of the young season.

There was a ray of sunshine this weekend, as the Quakers played more aggressively after conceding their third goal.

“I definitely think towards the end of the FIU game, we were moving the ball really well and started to look a little more dangerous as a team going forward,” Poplawski said. “And that’s something we want to take into our next few games going forward. Getting more shots on target [and] creating more chances will put us in a better position to wins some games.”

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