The Penn State men’s soccer team (3-1-1) felt like they needed a change on offense after a loss to No. 21 Georgetown, even if it meant sitting its leading scorer, Julian Cardona, who has four goals.
After a poor offensive showing their last time out, coach Bob Warming elected to use Cardona as a substitute Thursday night against West Virginia (2-2-1).
The move did not work out as intended, as the teams played to a 0-0 draw.
Warming knew it would be a tough night for the offense as he cited the strength of the Mountaineers’ defense, especially in the box.
“We couldn’t just knock balls long because, to me, they have two of the best players in the country there,” Warming said. “We had to find a way to build the ball out of the back.”
The Lions attempted to do this by having the defenders play short, quick passes off of free kicks.
With forward Mikey Minutillo still out, the offense focused on a new look to try and generate chances. The team used Marvin Ledgister as the lone forward with the defense looking to provide service from the wings. They clogged the middle of the field with five midfielders and tried to create offense from defensive transitions.
It was a struggle at first. The Lions went 21 minutes without a shot to start the game as the Mountaineers’ high-pressure defense created mistakes.
“Our offense looked a little risky but we had to play,” Warming said of his offensive strategy.
Once Cardona came in during the 24th minute, the offense started to look more positive, registering four shots in the final 21 minutes of the half. They exploited the Mountaineers on the wing, with the defenders whipping crosses into the box. The Mountaineers were up to the task in blocking them.
In the earlier games this season, the team used Cardona as a target man. He’d make runs in the box while the defenders and midfielders provided him service through the air. On Thursday, he was more of a play-maker, attacking the right side of the field to create chances.
In total, Cardona played 56 minutes and had a chance to win the game with 10 minutes left. He took the ball down the left side, beating his man. This created a 1-on-1 chance with goalie Pat Eavenson, who went down low to save it.
Through overtime, the offense could not create enough chances to win it, registering just three shots in the two extra periods.
Coach Warming was proud of what the offense accomplished, especially with their final chance of regulation, a miss that summed up Penn State’s night.
“We had an unbelievable play to slip it Kelton [Cheney],” Warming said. “Any other time and that ball is in the back of the net.”