Sometimes the bounces just keep going your way.
Penn men’s soccer got the crucial bounce when it was needed, and the resulting goal was enough to edge city rival Temple, 1-0, on a beautiful Saturday night at Rhodes Field.
Out of the gate, both teams tried to enforce their physicality on the defensive end. The first half saw lots of fouls but generated few real scoring opportunities.
For the first 20 minutes of the game the Quakers (3-1-1) dominated the tempo and possession, winning the ball from the Owls (2-4) and sending long passes over the top on the wings. The Red and Blue failed to capitalize on these early opportunities. Despite earning two early corner kicks and three free kicks just outside the box, they managed just one shot on goal, a slow roller that was easily saved by Temple senior goalkeeper Simon Lefebvre.
While the Owls had fewer opportunities in the first half, it seemed that they may have found a breakthrough in the 34th minute, when an Owls header floated over sophomore goalie Dane Jacomen into the top corner. However, Temple's midfield celebrations were cut short — the linesman had indicated the goal was offside. After clearing up the confusion, the goal was disallowed and the Red and Blue went into the half with the contest knotted at 0-0.
Starting the second half, both teams came out with more energy on the offensive end. After a deflection in the box freshman defender Jack Rosener found himself all alone in front of goal but sent his volley sailing over the bar.
With the Quakers continuing to look dangerous, a breakthrough seemed inevitable. That breakthrough came just a few minutes later after junior defender RC Williams started a break up the right wing. The ball eventually found its way to junior midfielder Joey Bhangdia on the far right corner of the box. With plenty of time to set his feet, Bhangdia loaded up and sent a low cross toward net intended for junior forward Jake Kohlbrenner. Instead, the ball skipped off the ground missing both Kohlbrenner and the Temple defender and rolled past a stunned Lefebvre into the bottom left corner.
“From a goal-scorer's perspective I’m always going to say I was shooting,” Bhangdia said. “Those are the kind of plays where in your mind before you hit it you know anything can happen … that one was maybe a little fortunate to get to the back post but Jake did a great job shielding the keeper.”
With the Quakers now in the driver's seat, Temple was forced to push forward. The Owls generated a number of dangerous chances that all found their ways into the arms of Jacomen or cleared by a Penn defender.
“One of the things that we felt like we needed to instill here was the value of needing to defend well,” coach Brian Gill said. “That can make all the difference when you get into a game like the one we had here where there isn’t a whole lot of difference between the two teams.”
On the offensive end, the story was once again Bhangdia, who scored his team-high third goal.
As the result of an injury to sophomore midfielder Isaac McGinnis, freshman Nick Schimbeno was forced into action, logging 26 impressive minutes while also recording the assist on the game’s lone goal.
“With Isaac’s injury we talked with some of the guys early in the season that you never know when your chances are going to come around, and to stay optimistic about the opportunity and stay sharp on the field,” Gill said. “The assist was a really good little piece of soccer from him … but I’m almost more impressed with his ability to step into the game late at a position where he isn’t super comfortable.”
“I think we have a lot of confidence and momentum right now, guys are starting to step up, make their plays, and fill their roles. Tonight probably wasn’t the prettiest win we’ve ever had, but we played gritty, defended well at the end, and took some time off the clock,” Bhangdia said.
“A lot of small things that we keep harping on are going really well; the team has heavily bought in to doing the small things really well, both on and off the field,” Gill said. “There's a lot of motivation to try and make this program relevant.”
The Quakers look to continue their hot start to the season as they return to Rhodes Field Tuesday to take on Lehigh.