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Penn State Men’s Soccer Upsets No. 15 Akron 1-0

Penn State men’s soccer (4-2-2, 1-0-1 Big Ten) took down No. 15 Akron (4-2-2) 1-0 on the team’s Senior Day. A late-first-half goal from Liam Butts pushed the Nittany Lions over the edge in a hard-fought battle at Jeffery Field.

The team’s winning streak now reaches three games as Penn State tries to enter the United Soccer Coaches Top 25 Poll.

How It Happened

Head coach Jeff Cook rolled out a familiar lineup for Senior Day, featuring a four-man backline with a fluid attack of Ben Liscum, Alex Stevenson, Peter Mangione, and Tyger Evans.

Neither side was conservative at the opening whistle, sending aggressive through-balls that challenged goalkeepers Kris Shakes and Mitch Budler.

However, after 10 minutes of play, Akron was able to control much of the match’s tempo. The Zips took their time to find openings in Penn State’s defense while pressing the midfield and defense whenever the Nittany Lions held possession.

Penn State’s attack found a solution to Akron’s aggression 15 minutes into the match, working the ball down the right side of the pitch more with long balls to Evans. The winger hammered in crosses, though they didn’t find their targets.

It was Evans who earned a dangerous opportunity for Seth Kuhn just outside the box in the 24th minute after suffering a harsh tackle from William Portman. Kuhn’s ball found its way into the box, but Liscum’s skied header kept Budler from needing to make a play.

Liscum nearly gave Penn State a lead in the 30th when he beat the Zips defense outside of Budler but once again couldn’t find the target. After Liscum was substituted out of the match, Mangione kept the Nittany Lions’ attack hot with a header near the goal, though that also was off target.

Mangione nearly gave his side the lead with three minutes left in the half with a curling shot to the right post that left Budler frozen. Once again, the shot went just wide.

Two minutes later, the Nittany Lions found their goal. A ball from Evans finally found its target, as Butts’ header from point-blank range sent Penn State into halftime with momentum and a 1-0 lead.

Penn State controlled the beginning of the second half. The team worked good balls from the left wing into Akron’s box, while defending its own well. The momentum didn’t last though, as the game was stopped due to a lightning delay.

After an hour-and-a-half rain delay, the two sides took the field for the final 35 minutes of play.

Aware of the tight scoreline, Penn State sat back a bit more after the delay. When Akron held possession for long stretches of the opening minutes, Evans took a more defensive role, creating a five-man backline when defending.

The Nittany Lions worked the ball into the Zips’ end after five minutes, while Evans worked his way back into his attacking winger role. The offense generated good chances, but three times were stopped by the referee’s whistle.

For the third time in the match, Shakes was called upon to make a stop in the 69th minute, stopping a point-blank shot from Renato Kauzlaric and directing the ball away from a nearby Zips attacker.

As the match entered the final 10 minutes, both teams became a little chippier. Stevenson was the recipient of a needlessly aggressive push to the back, while Shakes received a talking-to from the referee for time-wasting. Moments later, Butts was given a caution for delaying the restart.

Penn State held on for the remainder of the match, bunkering down defensively and avoiding a late-game blunder.

Takeaways

  • Adapt, improvise, and overcome. Despite the initial success of Akron’s aggressive press, Penn State found its way out of dangerous situations. After a few minutes of backward passes, the Nittany Lions found deep balls and positive attacking that led to its goal.
  • Penn State needed to capitalize on man-advantage moments in the attack. The offense had several moments where it had one or two attackers against just one Akron centerback. Taking better advantage of those opportunities could have sealed the game.
  • Welcome back, Liam Butts. The forward hadn’t played in a match since September 9 but looked excellent in his return.

What’s Next?

In a big matchup for the “outside of Philly” crowd, the Nittany Lions will travel for a game against Villanova at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, September 28.

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About the Author

Joe Lister

Joe is a sophomore journalism major at Penn State. He enjoys yelling into the Twitter void over various sports items that don't really matter. If you ever want to meet him, Joe's usually watching soccer with his shirt off or at the gym with his shirt on. Find (and disagree with him) on Twitter (Joe_Lister21) or by email ([email protected])

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