With a conference road trip to Michigan and a matchup versus No. 7 Akron at home looming, the Penn State men's soccer team (6-3-1, 1-1-0 Big Ten) is looking to improve on its offensive production.
The team has scored either zero or one goal in seven of its last eight. Six of the eight contests were decided by a single goal. The team is sixth in the Big Ten, scoring 1.30 goals per game.
While the Lions have outshot their last five opponents and averaged 17 shots per game over that span, they have scored on just five of the 85 shots.
Julian Cardona, the team's leading scorer with five goals, said it has to be a team effort if the Lions are to start taking advantage of their chances.
“It's tough because it's not just the forwards. A lot goes through the midfielders and defenders,” Cardona said. “Everyone has to get on the same page, and we all have to be ready to score.”
The forward knows that any chance could be the one that gets the team back on track, even if it means they have to score a lucky goal.
In the last game against No. 14 Indiana, the team generated strong chances, but it could not generate shots on target to test Indiana's goalie, forcing the Indiana keeper to make just three saves despite outshooting the Hoosiers 12-7.
The Lions have put a focus on team chemistry this week, electing to practice in groups over having full team drills.
“Me and Julian, that's the person I've been in rotation with, have been working harder,” attacker Mikey Minutillo said. “We've been getting some shots in front of goal at practice, and that's what is going to help us out.”
After attacker Hasani Sinclair gave the Hoosiers’ defense problems Saturday night off the bench, forcing three yellow cards and registering two shots in overtime, the team could look to add his speed as an extra dimension to the attack.
“He came back in the best shape he's been in the fall...and today he's scored more goals than any of our strikers,” coach Bob Warming said about Sinclair after Tuesday's practice. “We're all real excited about that.”
As the Lions' offense attempts to re-find its goal scoring touch, Saturday's game could give the Lions just what they need against a struggling Michigan defense. The Wolverines have allowed 1.62 goals per game this season, the fourth most in the Big Ten, while they have played two less games than the rest of the conference.
With a week off in between games to relax and prepare, the team hopes that practice will help it get back to its early season goal scoring form.
“We've been working really hard,” Minutillo said. “Practice has been a lot more intense since the loss [against Indiana] happened.”