On a chilly Saturday night at Penn’s Rhodes Field, freshmen striker Stephen Baker took his team leading goal-scoring tally to 8 and the defense did the rest as Penn (12-3, 5-0 Ivy) recorded a 1-0 victory over visiting Brown (10-2-3, 2-2-1 Ivy).
Penn, ranked No. 14 in the nation, was looking to bounce back against 13th-ranked Brown following a 2-1 midweek defeat to Penn State, and the early stages of the match did no look promising for the Quakers as they cheaply squandered possession and looked vulnerable to the searching runs of Brown striker Sean Rosa and midfielder Thomas MacNamara. Were it not for the Quaker center back pairing of juniors Jake Levin and Thomas Brandt, Brown might have found the breakthrough but as they found their final ball consistently repelled, Penn began to grow in confidence and found their footing in the match.
As Penn began to control more of the play, left midfielder Loukas Tasigianis began to trouble the Brown defense and in the twenty-second minute he collected a pass from Aaron Ross in space and lifted a delightful chip into the path of Stephen Baker who expertly rounded goalkeeper Paul Grandstrand and slid the ball into the empty net. It was a tremendous finish (one that would earn Baker his third Ivy Rookie of the Week Award) and left Brown reeling considering they had owned most of the possession to that point. Penn used the momentum to attack in search of a second goal and were having their way on the left flank forcing Brown into a series of hard fouls committed on Tasigianis, resulting in a caution for Brown captain David Walls.
Midway through the half, Penn had established dominance in the middle of the park with senior midfielders Ross and Jason Gorskie doing the hard work to insure Brown’s attack was starved of opportunities. With Rosa and MacNamara struggling for service, winger Jon Okafor stepped to the fore and his one on one battle with Zach Barnett continued to wage for ten minutes with Barnett winning all but one interaction, a deflected corner to the Bears. It would be Brown’s best chance of the half, as in the tangle of bodies from the resultant corner, Rosa’s service was headed just over the bar.
The second half saw the removal of goal-scorer Baker, reshuffling the Quakers into a 4-5-1 with Travis Cantrell as the lone forward. With Brown again on the front foot, Penn struggled to maintain the first half’s momentum and despite his high workrate, central midfielder Christian Barreiro looked well off the pace, struggling to connect on his passes and assert his influence on the match. But, as in the first half, Aaron Ross was there to rescue the Quakers as he clogged up the midfield, breaking up passes and pressing the ball high up the field.
Against the run of play in the 58th minute, Loukas Tasigianis latched onto such a long outlet pass and looked to be flattened inside the box, but the referee waived play on. At the next stoppage, Rosa, MacNamara and Okafor all returned with fresh legs and again went looking for an equalizer but the stout back four of the Quaker’s refused to yield. Okafor went down outside the area looking for a call but the official saw nothing wrong with Thomas Brandt’s challenge and in an almost forecast-able moment of frustration, Rosa dove hard into a tackle, earning himself a place in the referee’s notebook. As the evening grew colder and the challenges continued to fly, tempers wore thin and the official did well to keep a lid on the players as the match grew increasingly tense.
By the 75th minute, Brown was firmly on the attack with midfielder Evan Coleman pulling the strings from high up the pitch as the Bears went searching for the leveler. The tireless work of MacNamara saw Brown go close on more than one occasion and in the 79th minute a dangerous cross was only just intercepted by Penn goalkeeper Ben Berg who managed to hold the delivery, snuffing out the attack. Brown continued to launch attacks into the area in the waning minutes, but their energy had been exhausted and Penn held on for a well deserved victory.
Penn’s next Ivy league match sees the Quakers travel to Princeton to take on the Ivy League’s other unbeaten, this Saturday at 7pm. Penn returns to Rhodes Field to conclude their Ivy League season on Saturday, November 13 at 5pm when they play host to Harvard.
(Cover photo: Michael Fabius)