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Liam Butts’ Late Goal Earns Penn State Men’s Soccer 2-1 Win Over Penn

Despite trailing at the half, Penn State men’s soccer (3-1-1) snapped Penn’s (2-1) undefeated start to the season with a 2-1 victory in Philadelphia Friday night.

The Nittany Lions conceded early, but a 51st-minute goal from Andrew Privett, and a Liam Butts strike within 10 minutes from the final whistle clinched the third win of the season for Jeff Cook’s squad.

How It Happened

Jeff Cook rolled out a pretty predictable lineup, albeit for freshman Sean Bettenhausen earning his first start. Jalen Watson remained on the bench following his red-card suspension, with Andrew Privett and Alex Stevenson favored.

The start of the game was nothing special for the Nittany Lions, but it seemed as if they had everything under control in the first five minutes in a hostile environment.

However, in the eighth minute, Penn midfielder Isaac McGinnis received the ball in the midfield and was given too much time. The senior got on the half turn, and Sean Bettenhausen was too lazy in his close out. McGinnis went all the way and hit a strike from 20 yards that should have been saved. However, an uncharacteristic mistake from Kris Shakes secured Penn the opener.

The rest of the “first quarter” was pretty back-and-forth, although Penn State’s first strong build-up play came in the 22nd minute. However, the Nittany Lions simply didn’t look clinical with the final ball, and the few shots they had were deflected into defenders in the early going.

Cook made his first substitution in the 25th minute, bringing on Tyger Evans for Adam Laundree. Evans occupied Femi Awodesu’s left back spot, while Awodesu slid centrally next to Brandon Hackenberg. As soon as the sub was made, the group seemed to have more energy, and the chances began to pile on.

Penn State nearly got the equalizer a few minutes later, but Dane Jacomen made two quick saves to deny the Nittany Lions their first goal of the match.

Penn State was undoubtedly the better team toward the end of the half and enjoyed the lion share (no pun intended) of possession. However, the team continued to struggle with the final shot, a theme throughout the whole first half.

One of the best chances of the half came with just 48 seconds to go. Evans showcased his speed down the left flank, earning a foul just outside the box. Jacomen bobbled the service but was able to corral Awodesu’s effort on the rebound to keep the Quakers’ lead to the locker room.

For all the promising momentum, the Nittany Lions were still down. And they got a sobering reminder of that just 40 seconds into the second half, as Shakes was nearly beaten again on a deflection. Luckily for Penn State, the play wound up harmless and Cook’s squad went back to dominating possession.

Penn State’s chance finally came in the 51st minute.

Liam Butts was brought down in the defensive third after some hold up play. The Nittany Lions played a quick restart to Alex Stevenson, who bombed it forward to Peter Mangione. Jacomen was inexplicably off his line, but couldn’t beat Mangione to the ball at the edge of the 18.

Instead of trying to chip Jacomen for the spectacular, the sophomore waited for support, and found Andrew Privett at the top of the box for the easy finish.

“Interesting, you got two goalkeepers here in Dane Jacomen and Kris Shakes. Highly regarded young goalkeepers, and they have both made mistakes,” the color commentator said following Penn State’s goal.

Just before the hour mark, Penn State should’ve taken the lead. The pressure resulted in Butts getting in on goal. Butts made an intelligent layoff to Privett, but he couldn’t get it out of his feet. An impressive tackle from a Quaker defender on Privett saved the day for the hosts.

This game just seemed like one of those that Penn State should eek out, despite not having the most convincing performance.

After another flurry of chances, Penn State left it all the way until the 81st minute for the game winner.

The beauty of Butts’ goal was that he created it himself. The Nittany Lions had some possession, but it seemed aimless until Butts took control of the ball and drove at the defense. The Georgia native went down on a good tackle from the defender, but Stevenson was able to find him on the half-turn for a beautiful finish.

It could have been better, but the Nittany Lions ultimately capped off a perfect week after being dumped from the national top-25 rankings. There is good mojo within the team heading into the marquee matchup with Pitt.

Player Of The Match

Liam Butts, Striker

I’m not one to put too much stock in one goal, and while the game winner was so important, Liam Butts did so much more than his one strike. The junior terrorized the Penn defense throughout the match and capped it off with a deserved finish.

Butts struggled for long stretches of last year, so it was nice to see him score his second of the season, especially in poacher fashion.

What’s Next

Perhaps the biggest match of Penn State’s regular season, at least of the non-conference slate, is up next.

The Nittany Lions will host No. 15 Pitt on Monday at Jeffrey Field. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m., and the match will be aired nationally on FS1.

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About the Author

Otis Lyons

Otis is a sophomore majoring in print journalism and is one of Onward State's associate editors. He lives just north of San Francisco, and is a diehard San Jose Earthquakes fan. Feel free to send over your soccer hot takes to his twitter @otisnlyons1 and instagram @otislyons

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