Penn State (6-4-2) got a boost Wednesday night in a 2-0 loss to No. 3 Akron (8-1-2) when midfielder John Gallagher returned from his two game suspension.
After picking up a red card against Lehigh in the 88th minute for a hard foul, Gallagher was forced to sit out against Indiana and serve a one game suspension. The NCAA reviewed his suspension and he was forced to sit out another game, this one against Michigan. Before the suspension, the senior started the team's first nine games.
Coach Bob Warming said that having Gallagher back in the line-up was important for the team as the team used his pace down the left-hand side.
“He gives balance because he's a good left footed player on that side,” Warming said.
For a defense that struggled with Akron's pace, Gallagher was a bright spot on the Lions.
While Gallagher’s defensive presence was felt, it was his offense that had the biggest impact. He looked the most likely to produce a Lions goal as he pushed the ball down the left side of the field, trying to spark the Lions' attack.
The midfielder had a positive impact to start off the game against a Zips' defense that has been tough to crack this season. Coming into the game, Akron had allowed five goals this season, including five straight shut outs. He took all corners and medium range free kicks, whipping balls into the box with pace. One cross barely missed a Lions' attacker's head and was bouncing around in the box before being cleared by an Akron defender.
“Every free kick I felt like we were going to get a goal,” Warming said. “The ball just didn't fall that way for our guy's tonight.”
The senior produced three crosses from the left side in the first half, took a corner, and took two free kicks from dead ball situations. The Zips were up to the task on the set pieces, heading away the balls in the box.
In the second half, Gallagher produced a free kick that saw midfielder Eli Dennis open on the back post but the duo could not link up for the goal.
On defense, Gallagher was effective in shutting down Akron's buildups. The 5-foot-10 midfielder used his pace to race down Akron buildups. Akron defender DeAndre Yedlin was Gallagher's main target as he pushed himself down the left wing, forcing one-on-one’s. The midfielder was up to the task as Yedlin did not register a shot during the game.
“We held our own at times,” Gallagher said. “We moved the ball but I think we did well against them for the most part.
While Warming said that Gallagher was rusty to start after sitting out the two games, the defender improved as the game went along and looked better in the second half.
Gallagher was subbed out in the final three minutes as he picked up an injury on a tackle by the touchline.
“I just hope he's alright, he took a pretty good knock on the non-foul,” Warming said.