As the defensive injuries for Penn State (8-4-2, 2-1-1 Big Ten) continue to mount up, the Lions could be forced to send out a make shift defense Sunday afternoon against No. 24 Northwestern (10-2-2, 3-0-0 Big Ten).
With defender Eli Dennis suffering a broken leg against Bucknell — likely to miss the rest of the season — and defender Martin Seiler out indefinitely with a knee injury, the team is looking to its bench for options.
“We’re pretty thin,” men’s soccer coach Bob Warming said. “We’ve got six guys out right now, so hopefully our trainers will do their job and get these guys ready to go.
While defender Akil Howard has played on the outside for the Lions and has made one start this season, Warming could look to him to play center back against the Wildcats. Howard featured in the center back position in the second half against Bucknell and was effective, using his body to block shots. The Lions took down the Bison 2-1 Wednesday night.
While the defense has been the Lions’ strength this season, the Wildcats’ offense will put them to the test.
Northwestern ranks second in the Big Ten in offense, scoring 1.57 goals per game. The Wildcats have scored in 10 of their last 11 games.
The Lions will look to freshman defender Shane Campbell and senior defender Brian Forgue to continue their solid play at the back. While the injury to Dennis forced the Lions to change their style of play, defender John Gallagher is confident after what the new style of play showed against Bucknell.
“We had Eli out, and we switched our formation. For us to get a goal in the formation that we switched to, it’s going to give us all the confidence in the world heading into these next couple games,” Gallagher said.
Gallagher could be a factor for the Lions in helping shut down the highly potent Northwestern attack. Since returning from suspension two games ago, the defender has done a bit of everything: stopping one-on-one’s, taking set pieces and even scoring a goal from outside the box with his weak foot.
“Johnny’s done everything,” Warming said. “He’s played wide midfielder, defensive midfielder, he’s played in the back. If he keeps improving, he’s got a future maybe in the game.”
With Gallagher’s return, the Lions netted multiple goals in back-to-back games for the first time since the beginning of the season.
Despite the adversity in the back, Warming feels his team is starting to gel together.
“The speed of the play and the ball movement [against Bucknell] really got me excited for this weekend going up to Northwestern,” Warming said.