The men’s soccer team (5-2-1, 0-0-1 Ivy) hasn’t lost in over a month. But thanks to an Ivy-opening draw against Brown, the team is already a little behind in the conference title chase. It has a chance to make up ground on Saturday, hosting Penn (4-6, 1-0 Ivy).
The Quakers, who won only one conference game last season, shocked defending champion Cornell last weekend for their second win in a row. After 80 scoreless minutes, during which Cornell played better overall, Penn defender Jonny Dolezal deflected a corner kick off the far post and into the net for his first goal of the season.
Cornell was the only team ahead of Penn in goals per game in 2012, and Penn ranks second in goals per game again this year. But after losing first-team All-American striker Daniel Haber, who began his professional career despite having a year of eligibility remaining, the Big Red has been replaced by Columbia as the leading team in goals scored. Thanks to a wave of young talent both up front and on defense, the Lions boast the best goal differential in the Ivy League.
Columbia’s Ivy opener did not go as well as Penn’s, as the Light Blue drew with Brown 2-2. All the scoring occurred in the first half, with Brown going up by two before Columbia responded.
“I cannot tell you how many times our coaches told us to limit the fouls against Brown,” senior defender David Westlake said in an email. “Unfortunately we gave away way too many fouls, and it led to both of their goals.”
“This doesn’t come from a lack of intensity or physicality, rather from a lack of focus,” first-year defender Joe Morris said in an email.
While Columbia has used many different players up front to spur its league-leading offense, its defense appears to be set. Morris, Westlake, and sophomore Bryce Terrill each played the full 110 minutes in the Ivy opener, while first-year Rhys Williams would likely have too were it not for a late injury due to a collision with Brown’s goalkeeper.
“The chemistry has to be great as it is the understanding of each other that can really make the difference between a solid back four and a weak back four,” Morris said. “It doesn’t matter how good one player is if we can’t work as a unit.”
Penn’s main offensive threats are forward Stephen Baker, midfielder/forward Duke Lacroix, and forward Sam Hayward. However, they were kept quiet by the Big Red, combining for only three shots and none on net.
“For Penn, we need to develop a rhythm of possession much earlier on and stick to it the basic soccer techniques,” Westlake said. “If we do that, I like our chances.”
Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m., following the dedication of the Columbia Soccer Stadium as the Rocco B. Commisso Soccer Stadium.