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PHILADELPHIA - Home may be where the heart is, but for Penn men's soccer, they just need home to be where the points are heading into this Saturday's match with Columbia (7 p.m.) The Red and Blue opened the 2012 season with five consecutive home matches, finishing the run without a point following a rash of one-goal games which ended just ticked to the negative side.
As Penn ventured away from University City for the first time, the Quakers began to find their game. After a close battle with No. 12 Georgetown, Penn won both its matches at the Princeton Invitational - the second win a 7-2 thrashing of Rider. Up next were two more one-goal losses to a pair of the nation's hottest teams in Drexel and No. 22 Cornell.
The loss at Cornell last Saturday signified the beginning of the Ivy League season - a seven-game rumble which annually doesn't shake out until the final week of the season. The Red and Blue have a chance to vault themselves right back into the Ancient Eight race with a win on Saturday against Columbia. After the first week of the season, the league is obviously still up for grabs, but a second loss will line the road to redemption with more potholes for the Quakers to navigate.
The Quakers have had little issue finding the back of the goal this season, scoring 22 times over 10 matches. Penn is second in the Ivy League and 17th overall in the country in scoring. Duke Lacroix (13) and Stephen Baker (12) rank second and third in the Ivy League in scoring, with Travis Cantrell giving Penn three of the top-six scorers in the Ancient Eight. All three of those players are tied behind the nation's top scorer - Cornell's Dan Haber - in goals scored with five.
If Penn is to make the jump back into the top half of the Ivy League table, the turning point will come on defense. The Quakers are allowing 2.6 goals-per-game, the most in the Ivy League this season. Penn has yet to concede less than two goals in a match this season, putting the onus of the offense to keep up its scoring pace in order to stay in games. After missing last Saturday's match with injury, Max Kurtzman could return this weekend. He ranks eighth in the country in saves-per-game with 6.14, and his 43 total saves are 33rd in Division I. The Quakers have continuously had to shift the lineup around on the back four this season, with Kurtzman and Tyler Kinn splitting time in goal as injuries have mounted up, slowing the chemistry experiment needed to develop a formidable defensive unit. As the season reaches its stretch run, the lineup should be solidified and the goals should lessen.
The Lions are in a similar situation as the Quakers, entering the weekend with a 2-6-1 overall record and a 0-1-0 mark in the League. Columbia has suffered four 1-0 defeats this season, and is 0-4-1 away from New York City. Contrary to Penn's staggering numbers, the Lions have registered just seven goals in nine matches while conceding 11. Columbia's seven goals have come from seven different players, including 2010 Ivy League Rookie of the Year Henning Sauerbier. Kofi Agyapong has the team lead in points with four, scoring one goal and adding two assists. Kyle Jackson and Michael Atta have split time in goal, Jackson finding the most success with a 2-3-1 record.