In the first two games of the regular season and throughout the preseason, the offensive attack for the Penn State men’s soccer team was taking over games and headlines.
The Nittany Lions (3-1-1) scored seven goals in the first three games of the 2012 campaign against Stetson, Hartford, and Duquesne — solid teams, but clubs that Penn State was expected to handle.
Despite this outburst of scoring, the offense has fell hard on luck the last couple of games with missed opportunities to net a few goals.
With the offense fledgling, the Lions’ defense has quietly held down the fort and kept the team in contests against substantially stronger competition in Georgetown and West Virginia.
In the away match-up on Sept. 2 with currently No. 12-ranked Georgetown, the Lions’ defense kept in check a potent offense led by junior forward Steven Neumann, who earned a spot on the prestigious MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List before the season.
Despite allowing a couplet of goals in a 2-1 defeat, the defense was plagued by an unfortunate ricochet that led to an own goal in the first half.
With the exception of the own goal at Georgetown, the Lions’ defense has kept the team from trailing at halftime in any of their games this season, including a bout with Big East foe West Virginia.
In a game where the scoring attack was sluggish for the entire first half, Penn State’s defense turned in their best performance of the year on Sept. 6 at home against the Mountaineers.
The Mountaineers haven’t been a prolific scoring team so far in 2012, scoring just seven goals in six contests.
Despite this, West Virginia owned the majority of possession with the Lions’ offense failing to get in a rhythm, challenging the defense to step up in big spots.
In a contest that ended in an overtime 0-0 draw, the defense, led by senior Brian Forgue and sophomore Owen Griffith played a key role in implementing a prevent defense in the first half and flipping momentum in their favor in the second.
Griffith’s 110-minute performance was laden with possession-driven hustle plays and crucial slide tackles, earning him Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors.
Looking at the season as a whole, the cohesive Lions’ unit has remained consistent, holding opponents to a 0.80 goals per game percentage (four goals in five games).
The Lions will be poised to continue this success with two home games coming up this weekend against Albany and Adelphi.
Considering the two teams’ relatively weak competition, their combined average of one goal per game shouldn’t be worrisome to a Lions’ defense that is gaining momentum after each game passes.
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