MSOC: Neither Team Comes Out On Top in Draw vs. No 23. Akron
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The Penn State Nittany Lions (6-6-2, 3-3-0 Big Ten) held on at the end to get a draw against the No. 23 Akron Zips (7-4-2, 1-0-0 American) in a very entertaining 2-2 game at Jeffrey Field Tuesday night.
Penn State came back in the second half after conceding very early in the game just to have Akron mount an attack with eight minutes left to send it to overtime. In both overtimes, the Nittany Lions looked exhausted and held back defensively, holding Akron from scoring and stealing the win up to the final whistle.
The double-overtime draw for Penn State comes after its win Saturday night over No. 19 Michigan State, which means they are currently in a three-game unbeaten streak that includes getting results in two double-overtime games against ranked opponents. Playing overtime games has become a norm now for the Nittany Lions, who played their seventh game of the season that has gone into extra time. The draw also marks the best run of form the Lions have had all year, which is coming at the right time with tournament games just around the corner.
“Our team confidence is at an all-time high right now, getting results against rank teams is proving we can play with anybody,” said senior forward Connor Maloney, who scored both goals for Penn State on the night. “It’s always nice to play well this time of the year, you always want to be playing your best soccer towards the end of the year when the games matter more.”
The game started with action right off the opening whistle. In the first ten minutes of the game, the Nittany Lions put pressure on the zips and were able to create great chances, having five shots and forcing two saves and a goal-line clearance. The sophomore forward Dayonn Harris was the main reason for that start. He had seven shots in the game, and although he didn’t score on the night he was the Lions’ best attack option.
“I told him to keep doing what he is doing. He didn’t score but he is still doing the right things and the goals will come. He was deadly tonight,” Penn State head coach Bob Warming said.
After the great Penn State start, Akron responded with a counter-attack goal which was finished by junior Stuart Holthusen. This gave the zips the lead early and they started to control the game and the possession, showing Penn State very little of the ball. In a way, the goal got the Lions’ aggressive spirit down and they started holding back.
In the second half, the story changed and Penn State captain Maloney took over the game. His squad started pressing and getting the ball more up field. Maloney’s first goal was a beauty; it came in the 64th minute with a perfectly place shot from 19 yards out that curved perfectly in the top right-hand corner. The Akron goalkeeper was left with no chance to make a save. The second goal, which gave Penn State the lead, came eleven minutes later when Maloney was able to jump on a rebound in the box and put it home.
The game at that point seemed to be in the Nittany Lions’ hands but Akron came back somehow and played its best soccer in the game with 15 minutes left. They eventually found the equalizer when the astute Akron forward Holthusen was able to position himself between the Penn State centre-backs and get a free header from six yards out from a cross. The goal marked his second of the game. He was the best player for the Zips on the night as he was able to get off five shots.
When the game was in overtime it was all Akron. The visitors had the momentum since finding the equalizer late in the game and Penn State was playing its second double-overtime game in five days. The Zips outshot the home team nine to one in extra time but Penn state was able to hold of the pressure and see the game out and get the draw.
Penn State will look to continue its five-match undefeated home-stand Friday, Oct.21 at 7 p.m. when they face Big Ten Conference foe Rutgers.
Jose Ruiz is a senior majoring in print journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.