The Penn State men’s soccer team will look to test its offensive depth on the road as it opens up conference play against Wisconsin on Friday night in Madison.
The Nittany Lions had little room for error in Big Ten play last season as they scored one goal in six conference games, the lowest in the conference. All the team’s conference losses were by a goal, with five of them being 1-0 defeats.
As the team enters its conference schedule this season, the offense is in top form, as it has scored 12 goals in the first seven games.
The Lions hope the team’s offensive depth will contribute to the game since forward Mikey Minutillo cannot go the full 90 minutes as he recovers from an MCL injury.
“Mikey is not 90-minutes fit,” coach Bob Warming said. “Someone else will have to come in for him and play well so that the level doesn’t drop too much.”
Minutillo, a junior transfer from Virginia Tech, has helped fuel the offense so far this season. In his four starts, he has contributed a goal and an assist.
His chemistry on the field with leading scorer Julian Cardona has been a key to the team’s hot start. Minutillo has been on the field for all five of Cardona’s goals, and Cardona played a through ball to assist on Minutillo’s goal against Adelphi.
“We both feed off each other’s movements really well,” Minutillo said of his chemistry with Cardona. “We both set each other up for goals.”
While Minutillo was out three games with that sprained MCL, the team’s production dropped, as it scored only two goals. The Lions went 1-1-1 as the team focused on a one-forward system, while staying organized in the midfield and on defense.
Warming said guys like Kelton Cheney and Marvin Ledgister are now getting more playing time as they get back to full fitness as the season goes on.
Cheney got significant playing time in the win over Adelphi on Sunday, scoring the first goal of his collegiate career. Ledgister has shined in his limited role as well, scoring against Georgetown in his only start of the season.
Warming said the plan is to play 15 or 16 players against the Badgers.
“When you get into conference play and things are tight, it’s tough to make substitutions unless there’s an injury or fitness issue,” Warming said.
The bus ride to Madison will give the offense plenty of opportunity to get on the same page as the younger offensive players learn new roles to prepare for increased playing time.
“There’s no distractions. It’s just us and traveling together,” Warming said. “With the 10-hour trip up there, I can grab groups of guys and watch stuff on the laptop or iPads and show them things that need to be worked on.”