Men's Soccer Opens 2016 Against American on Friday

PHILADELPHIA – A new season dawns for the University of Pennsylvania men’s soccer team as 2016 kicks off against American University on September 2 at 7 p.m. at Rhodes Field.

The Coach
James C. Gentle Head Coach of Men’s Soccer Rudy Fuller enters his 19th season at the helm of the Quakers in 2016. He has won 126 games as head coach of the Quakers, and secured three Ivy League championships with four NCAA Tournament appearances. Over the past six seasons, Fuller has posted a 4-2 record in season openers.

The Team
With the 2015 season in the rearview mirror, an experienced group returns for another go in 2016. Eight starters are back for the Red and Blue, and 15 letterwinners return.

Every player who scored a goal for the Red and Blue in 2015 is back for the 2016 campaign, led by three-time All-Ivy selection Alec Neumann. Hampered by injury last season, Neumann still earned second-team All-Ivy honors while netting two goals and leading the team in shots. He enters his senior season with 15 career goals and nine career assists.

Another All-Ivy performer returning to full fitness after an injury-plagued 2015 is central midfielder Matt Poplawski. After starting the first six matches of last season, Poplawski suffered a season-ending injury. An All-Ivy selection in 2013 as a freshman, Poplawski had played in every possible match during his career before the injury last fall.

Neumann and Poplawski will be joined as tri-captains by Sam Wancowicz. A junior defender, Wancowicz earned honorable mention All-Ivy honors in 2015 despite missing the first half of the season with an injury. He returned to score two goals and add an assist while averaging 79 minutes per game at center back.

Other potential scoring options for the Red and Blue are Joe Swenson and Jerel Blades. Each netted two goals last season in the first years at Penn. Swenson, a junior who transferred in from UConn, will return to a wide midfield role, while Blades will again slot in at wide forward.

In goal, the Quakers have three strong options. Senior Nick Savino started six games last season, while sophomore Etan Mabourakh made three starts and appeared in six games overall. Another sophomore, Scott Forbes, is expected to push Savino and Mabourakh in search of his first collegiate minutes.

The Newcomers
The Red and Blue will welcome eight newcomers for 2016 – Promise Adebayo-Ige, Casey Barone, Brandon Bartel, Nagu Chidambaram, Sam Hefter, Aramis Kouzine, Santi Musalem Pinto, and Dami Omitaomu. Heavy at midfield and forward, this crop of newcomers is expected to add to the overall depth of the squad – with a few newcomers potentially seeing key minutes immediately.

The Opponent
Friday night will be the 12th meeting all-time between Penn and American in men’s soccer. The Quakers hold a 4-7 record all-time against the Eagles, and will look to erase any memory of last season’s 4-0 loss in the nation’s capital.

American is 1-0-1 to open the 2016 season, coming off a 1-1 draw at No. 19 South Florida on August 29. The Eagles dominated much of that game, outshooting USF, 24-11, and only a nine-save performance from USF’s keeper denied American the win.

American is coming off a 2015 season where the Eagles posted a 14-5-3 record and fell just short in the Patriot League Championship Game. The Eagles had eight named All-Patriot League including returning midfielders Panos Nahkid and Dale Ludwig who were first-team selections. Forwards Joel Hart and Joe Iraola and defender Jake Garcia also return with All-PL honors to their resumes.