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msoccer-matt-leigh
Credit: Son Nguyen

Defensive, but not boring in the slightest.

Penn men's soccer traveled to Baltimore to take on UMBC on Tuesday night. Coming off of a tie with Columbia in double overtime, the Red and Blue (4-4-2, 1-0-1 Ivy) were hungry for a win, but they were outlasted by the Retrievers, 1-0.

The game was characterized mostly by defensive play, with both sides struggling to get going offensively. Although UMBC (5-6-1) outshot the Quakers in total, 5-3, both teams put two shots on goal.

Both the Red and Blue and the Retrievers started strong in the first half. Penn nearly found the back of the net in the 12th minute, with a strong attempt by sophomore forward Matt Leigh. UMBC responded quickly, launching two shots that were both blocked by the Penn fullbacks. Leigh once again nearly found the goal in the 21st minute, with a shot that was barely wide of the mark. 

After both teams had stretches of maintaining possession, the Red and Blue had their closest opportunity to score. Sophomore midfielder Ben Stitz nearly scored on a well-timed header, which was kept out by an equally impressive save. The Retrievers nearly responded two minutes later, but Penn freshman Nick Christoffersen notched his lone save of the game. Penn’s physicality and aggressiveness was apparent in the first half, with the team committing 10 fouls.

“One thing that we need to focus on is consistency throughout the game," Stitz said. “I think we created some good chances in the first half, but then in the second half, we lost a bit of the momentum that we had. We just need to put together a full 90 minutes, and I think that if we do that, we will be in a  better position to win more games and score more goals."

The second half was much more tactical for both sides. Starting with a quick corner in the 47th minute, the Quakers steadily threatened the UMBC goal. However, UMBC was quick to react, putting themselves in scoring position two minutes later only to be caught offside.

The Retrievers' breakthrough came in the 57th minute. With the only shot by either team in the second half, UMBC senior Colin Weyant placed the ball into the bottom-right corner from well outside the 18-yard box, just out of Christoffersen’s reach. For the rest of the half, the Quakers desperately attempted to jumpstart their offense. Although Penn created a couple of goal-scoring opportunities, including two corner kicks, the visitors were unable to threaten the UMBC keeper in any significant way.

Although the match ended in defeat, there is much to look forward to for the Quakers. With three players earning their first start — Christoffersen in goal, sophomore Brendan Hanrahan at fullback, and Leigh at forward — the Red and Blue demonstrated their up-and-coming talent.

“When we get on the board first, we have a pattern of winning games," Stitz said. “When we get that early lead, it gives the rest of our team confidence to say ‘Hey, we can win this game.’ It gives us more belief. But we’ve also proven that we can come back from deficits, like when we played Columbia coming back from a one-nil deficit."

Tuesday's game equalized the Red and Blue’s record against the Retrievers, bringing the all-time tally to 2-2-1. 

Penn will resume Ivy League play this Saturday when it takes on a Dartmouth (4-5-1, 1-1-0 Ivy) team that is winless on the road. Last year’s game ended with a commanding 3-1 victory for the Big Green, but this time around the Quakers will look to maintain their solid defense from Tuesday while jumpstarting their attack.

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