With Both Goalkeepers Now Healthy, Men’s Soccer Position Battle Begins
With a number of freshmen on the roster at the position, head coach Bob Warming went for experience in naming senior goalkeeper Evan Finney the starter for the opening match of the season against No. 1 Stanford.
Finney rewarded Warming for his confidence in him, posting an overtime shutout on the road against one of the nation’s most prolific offenses from last season. His good form continued, keeping a clean sheet through the first half of the next match and only conceding one goal in 192 minutes of play.
He earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors for the opening week of the season after his two performances.
During that second game, a red card tackle from UC Berkeley’s Simon Lekressner forced an injured Finney from the game. He would go on to miss the next five games for the Nittany Lions.
Freshman Arie Ammann stepped in for the injured Finney late in the UC Berkeley game. The Nittany Lions went to overtime and conceded pretty quickly, but Ammann adjusted to being the starter in net following that game.
During the very next weekend, Ammann took control in goal like he was the experienced veteran. He posted a shutout in his first start against James Madison and came back a couple days later to help the Nittany Lions to an overtime win against Oakland.
Because of his two excellent showings, he too was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week, which made it back-to-back weeks a Penn State goalkeeper earned that honor.
Ammann continued to impress in the weeks that followed in a number of games, including a clash with Ohio State where he saved a penalty kick. With each game, the freshman started to gain some confidence leading from the back.
“I’m gaining more and more confidence,” Ammann said after the Ohio State win. “I’m feeling better in goal with this back line. It’s great, I feel great, and the players feel great. The players are confident with me in goal. I’m confident being back there and we’re going to try to keep it that way.”
Finney had been looming on the sidelines waiting to be declared fit to play. He had been practicing for a number of weeks and originally thought the chance to get back in action would come against No. 4 Maryland. He wouldn’t be ready to go, however, until the next game against Wisconsin.
Finney stepped into that clash and made a save in a 2-1 overtime win against Wisconsin. He once again got the call to start Tuesday night against Temple. Finney was called upon more in this one, making five saves, but couldn’t keep one last shot out of the net in the waning minutes of the 1-0 loss.
Despite the loss, Finney appeared confident back in his starting spot despite missing about a month of action.
Finney has taken the last two starts, but according to Warming, it’s still an open competition for the starting job.
“It’s a battle everyday,” Warming said. “I love training the goalkeepers because one day, one of them is better than the other. I think all four of them are just doing great and we’ll see who trains well the rest of this week. We’ll see what happens.”
Both goalkeepers have had their successes and struggles in goal for Penn State. At this point in the season, Arie Ammann has posted a 3-3 record with 10 goals against and 21 saves. Finney, on the other hand, has posted a 1-1-1 record with four goals against and 10 saves. Finney has played just about a game’s worth less minutes than Ammann this season.
In the coming weeks, one keeper might finally break through as the full-time starter. Heading into Michigan though, it’s an opportunity that’s up for grabs.