PHILADELPHIA – A new era for Penn’s men’s soccer program begins on Thursday night as the Quakers play their first match at renovated Rhodes Field against 2012 NCAA finalist No. 19 Georgetown at 7 p.m.
Rhodes Field will unveil its brand-new video scoreboard in addition to added seating areas, new team bench areas and a brand-new playing surface as the Quakers host the Hoyas to kickoff the 2013 Ivy League/BIG EAST Challenge. Princeton and Villanova will play over the weekend, as the Ivy League/BIG EAST Challenge enters its fourth year.
Penn is 2-0 at “home” this season, winning both of its matches played at Penn Park while Rhodes finished its renovation. In its two matches on Dunning-Cohen Champions Field, Penn outscored its opponents, 7-0. Last weekend, the Quakers ventured west to California, dropping a pair of one-goal matches to Cal Poly (3-2) and UC-Santa Barbara (2-1 in double overtime) to enter Thursday’s match with a .500 record.
Positive results in one-goal affairs are of high priority for the Quakers, the pair close calls bring the Red and Blue’s record in matches decided by one goal to 1-11 dating back to the 2012 season. In 2011, Penn was even in one-goal matches, going 4-4, while the 2010 team which reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament went 9-4 – including 4-1 in overtime. Georgetown is 2-1 in one-goal matches this season, including wins in its last two outings, 1-0. Last year, en route to the program’s first NCAA title game, the Hoyas were 14-3 in matches decided by one goal.
Penn is 1-2-1 all-time against Rudy Fuller’s alma mater, with a 1-1-1 mark in matches played over the past three seasons as part of the Ivy League/BIG EAST Challenge. Last year, the 12th-ranked Hoyas defeated Penn, 3-1, in D.C. Penn’s lone win against Georgetown came in 2010 – a 3-1 win on The Hilltop. The Quakers trailed early in that contest, but scored three times in the second half – including a pair from Stephen Baker – to score the win.
Baker is tied for the team lead in scoring after four matches, with two goals and an assist. He scored Penn’s lone goal at UC-Santa Barbara on Friday, tying the match for the Red and Blue minutes after the Gauchos had taken the lead.
Baker shares the team lead in scoring with freshman Alec Neumann. The rookie from New Hope, Pa. has two goals and an assist, scoring on both of his shots to reach goals this season.
Neumann will see a familiar – and familial – face lined up in Blue and Grey on Thursday night. He older brother, Steve, is an All-American forward for the Hoyas. Second on the Hoyas with two goals this season, Neumann was a Hermann Award semifinalist last season and named Most Outstanding Offensive Player of the 2012 College Cup after notching a hat trick in the national semifinals against Maryland. He scored 10 goals and added 13 assists last season, and has 33 career goals to his name – scoring at least 10 in each of his first three seasons.
Sophomore Brandon Allen gives Georgetown a potent 1-2 punch up top, entering the match with four goals and two assists after going for 16 goals in a freshman season which saw him earn TopDrawerSoccer.com, SoccerAmerica.com and BIG EAST Rookie of the Year honors. If a match was on the line last year, Allen usually finished it in favor of the Hoyas. He had 10 game-winning goals, most in the nation.
Four players who started for the Hoyas in the national championship game graduated last May – each selected by an MLS franchise in the offseason. Each was a defender or midfielder part of 10 clean sheets in 2012 for the Hoyas.
The Hoyas have not missed a beat this season without the four draft picks, recording a shutout in each of their four wins. Goalkeeper Tomas Gomez boasts a goals-against average of 0.48 and has made 18 saves to keep opponents at bay at a .857 save percentage. Defender Keegan Rosenberry was named BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Week this past week after backlining the Quakers to a pair of 1-0 shutouts while adding an assist.