By Mike Esse, GoPSUsports.com Staff
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After playing close with No. 10 Indiana and earning a draw at conference foe Michigan, the Penn State men's soccer team (6-4-2, 1-1-1) welcomed No. 3 Akron (8-1-2, 3-0-0) to Jeffery Field on Wednesday. The Zips, who only have one loss on the year, scored two first half goals to hand Penn State their second home setback of the season.
Even with the shutout loss,
the Nittany Lions looked at the positives post-game after only allowing what
head coach Bob Warming called the slickest passing team Akron has ever had to
only three shots in the second half.
"I don't think we will play anyone this year that will pass the ball like that," said Warming. "Our speed of thought improved as we went along in the game we got more tackles and started winning some balls and I think that will transfer over into Sunday."
However, after playing a team that moves as fast as Akron did Wednesday night, the pace of future opponents will look slower for Warming's team and that is an adjustment they will have to make against Michigan State.
Warming has been able to get a few players on the field that didn't get a lot of minutes earlier in the season to make some of those adjustments, including Eli Dennis and Hasani Sinclair who both saw big minutes Wednesday. Dennis came on in the 15th minute replacing senior defender Brian Forgue, who sat for the first time all season.
"Eli came in and did a great job so he really came in and gave us a boost when Forgue had to come out," said senior midfielder John Gallagher. "If we need Eli again he will step in and do his role."
Sinclair, who has seen his minutes rise in the past five matches, had a big opportunity with seven minutes remaining in the first half but could not connect on a cross from Julian Cardona. However, Sinclair's role has grown to getting more shots on net and adding to the variety of players on the offensive end for Penn State. Sinclair's personal goal while on the field is simple.
"Basically I just want to help the team try and score and work as hard as I can to help the team," said Sinclair.
Moving forward to Michigan State (5-6-1, 1-1), a team that outshot Penn State 11-4 in a 1-0 Spartan home victory, the Nittany Lions will look right back to the Akron match to see what they need to do to notch their first victory in five matches.
Gallagher said he doesn't think they will face a team like the caliber of Akron and it will allow them to have confidence when they play the Spartans at Jeffery Field on Sunday at 3 pm.
"Akron is number 3 in the nation right now, everyone on that team can play and has a great touch so for us to be able to come out and compete as well as we did is going to be great for us against Michigan State," said Gallagher.
The Spartans and Nittany Lions have played each other tight going 2-2-1 in their past five meetings. Each team has split their past two matchups including a 2-1 win at Jeffery Field in 2010, the last time both teams met on the Penn State campus.
Warming said that there are a few areas that his players will focus on before Sunday, but his team is familiar with Michigan State and remembers the 1-0 loss from a year ago.
"For some guys focus is getting rest, for others a little technical training," said Warming. "I drove down on Sunday and watched them play against Ohio State, they present a really good challenge for us. We lost up at their place on a free kick and I think our guys will be excited to play against them."