UCF Tops Penn State in Jeff Cook’s Debut
Penn State and new head coach Jeff Cook fell 2-1 to the visiting UCF Golden Knights in its season opener Friday night. Freshman forward Jeremy Rafanello opened the scoring with a beautiful goal on a breakaway where he managed to slip behind the UCF defense. On scoring his first goal in his debut match, Rafanello said, “It’s amazing seeing all the fans out here, there’s nothing like it, the sounds of Jeffrey[field] are amazing, and I thought scoring my first goal was amazing."
A fast, aggressive start helped Penn State take the early lead, but for much of the remainder of the game, UCF was the better offensive club. Louis Perez knotted up the score with a goal in the 45th minute, swinging the momentum of the match firmly in favor of UCF. Ricardo Oliveros of the Knights headed in the winning goal in the 101st minute off of an excellent cross by Louis Perez.
Oliveros played an electric 45 minutes in which he used his speed to create plenty of crossing opportunities teammates that nearly resulted in goals earlier in the match. As the match drew on, a few statistics made it clear that UCF had the better offensive night, despite needing two overtimes to ultimately secure the victory.
The Knights had 24 total shots to Penn State’s Six, as well as 17 corner kicks for UCF to Six for The Nittany Lions, displaying a clear control over possessing the ball on offense. While Penn State battled hard, especially late in the match, UCF managed to create more opportunities to score and it ultimately paid off.
Penn State goalkeeper Josh Levine had a strong outing in the losing effort, making eight saves, several of which were diving stops that showcased his athleticism. In regards to his performance in the season opener, Levine said “ feel great, healthwise I feel great, looking forward to the rest of the season. I know the guys are fired up. It was a disappointing loss… but we had some good moments, and as the season goes on, we’ll capitalize on those moments.”
New Head Coach Jeff Cook was happy with how his team responded to adversity over the course of the match
“They dug in and were under pressure at moments in the game, and that's when you saw fantastic saves from Josh[Levine], Ryan Gallagher had a goal-line clearance at the other end… it’s easy when things aren’t going your way to give up or concede, and we never did that…” he said.
On getting to play in front of Penn State men's soccer alumni on opening night, coach Cook said “it was a Special night remembering [late coach] Walter Barr… I’ve been so grateful for the warm welcome from alums, from community members, from the student body, and I think this is a place we can grow the program…”
Coach Cook has previous head coaching experience with the University of Cincinnati (1996-2000), Dartmouth College (2001-12), and also headed Philadelphia Union’s youth development program for Major League Soccer. Penn State will hit the pitch this Tuesday, Aug. 28th in a match against Bowling Green at home.
Jeremy Ganes is a sophomore majoring in Broadcast Journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.