Weather Delay Cuts Short No. 11 Penn State Men’s Soccer Season Opener In 1-1 Draw Against George Mason
No. 11 Penn State men’s soccer (0-0-1) tied George Mason (0-0-1) 1-1 in season-opening action at Jeffrey Field Thursday evening.
The Nittany Lion offense began the match as the aggressors by delivering three shots in the opening seven minutes. Despite the continuous push, Jeff Cook’s star-studded veteran attack only registered one first-half goal, courtesy of Liam Butts to take the lead into the halftime.
Although Penn State dominated the stat sheet throughout the match, George Mason midfielder Louis Lehr converted a header off of a corner kick to tie the game at one-a-piece late in the action. Penn State continued its push with several shots on goal in the final ten minutes, but a weather delay ultimately ended the home team’s hopes to outlast the Patriots.
How It Happened
The Nittany Lions controlled possession for the majority of the opening action, and were rewarded in the form of four free kicks in less than 10 minutes of play. Despite drawing a series of fortunate breaks, the Penn State attack registered just one shot on goal during the span.
Following a series of quality attempts from First Team All-Big Ten selections Daniel Bloyou and Pierre Reedy, George Mason quickly turned the tide with a breakaway attempt off of fortuitous rebound deep in their own zone. Fortunately for the Nittany Lions, defender Jalen Watson made a swift recovery from the opposing side of the field to stop the push, leading to a possession change.
The back-and-forth, physical bout continued with stoppages highlighting the majority of the initial half. The Patriots stalled Penn State’s high-powered offense by committing seven fouls on the defensive end, which proved to be a successful strategy in the early going for the upset-minded squad.
After registering eight shots in the opening 25 minutes, Jeff Cook’s offensive unit faltered due to stout play by Jonathan Fawole and the visiting backline. In order to spark the home attack, Jeff Cook turned to speedy midfielder Tyger Evans off the bench for his commanding offensive presence.
Nearly 40 minutes into the half, the Penn State defense spearheaded a calculated charge to break the silence at Jeffery Field. After pushing the pace up the sideline, defender Alex Stevenson delivered a pinpoint cross at the feet of to Liam Butts deep in opposing territory. The shifty junior then delivered a strike towards the uncovered left corner of the net, beating keeper Jackson Lee to capture a 1-0 in favor of the Nittany Lions.
With less than eight minutes remaining in the half following the score, Penn State settled back on defense by blocking two more George Mason shot attempts to continue its shut-out effort heading into the locker room.
Daniel Bloyou kept the energy high amongst the student section early in the second half by setting the tone with a shifty in-and-out move at the expense of Miles Montgomery’s ankles. Pierre Reedy capitalized on the offensive separation by firing a shot at the six-yard box, but the attempt landed in the gloves of Lee to end the break.
The Penn State frontline kept its foot on the gas by firing two more shots on goal from Andrew Privett and Peter Mangione during the same possession, but neither look was able to find the back of the net. Despite leading the shot advantage 12 to 8, Penn State’s lead remained slim heading into crunch time.
Towards the halfway point in the second half, Liam Butts picked up the match’s first yellow card on an illegal slide tackle at the heels of Daniel Chica. The Patriot midfielder quickly picked up a yellow card of his own less than a minute later, but immediately channeled his frustration into instant offense after firing a shot at a diving Owen Elliott in net for Penn State.
George Mason midfielder Luciano Covella delivered a high arching corner kick following Chica’s miss, leading the the best scoring chance of the night for the visitors. Louis Lehr timed Covella’s cross perfectly, as the German-born sophomore out-jumped the entire Nittany Lion unit and capitalized on a powerful header to tie the match at 1-1.
The game-tying goal visibly slowed Penn State, as the home favorites embarked on nearly a 10-minute shot drought following the George Mason strike. In an effort to take match into his own hands, Pierre Reedy took on the entire Patriot defense singlehandedly, but came up short on a low bulleted strike at the with just over 10 minutes left in the contest.
Just as the Nittany Lions began to get back in the groove, the match was delayed with just over five minutes remaining due to lightening in close proximity to the stadium. After a series of strikes, the game was called as a 1-1 tie.
Player Of The Match
Daniel Bloyou, Senior
Although the returning First Team All-Big Ten centerpiece was unable register a goal, his offensive presence led a flurry of quality chances for the Nittany Lion offense. The Ghana native tallied three shots, including one on goal, along with several highlight reel displays of footwork in the draw showing.
Penn State will conclude its opening two-game home stand with primetime matchup on Saturday evening against Syracuse. Kickoff from Jeffrey Field is set for 7 p.m., and the contest will air live on BTN+.
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About the Author
Despite losing key contributors at wide receiver and on the offensive line, the combination of young talent and proven transfers should benefit Penn State’s attack this fall.
Applications to join our staff are due by 5 p.m. on Friday, September 2.
This marks the first time the Nittany Lions are left out of the preseason poll since 2016.