The good news is that the Drexel men’s soccer team scored more goals in its first 2012 match than it did through its first seven matches of 2011. The bad news is that it was in a losing effort, a 3-2 beatdown from the La Salle University Explorers Aug. 25.
The match took place at McCarthy Stadium on La Salle’s campus in North Philadelphia, and there was no shortage of excitement. In the eighth minute, the Explorers were awarded a penalty kick and took advantage of the opportunity as junior midfielder Jason Plumhoff deposited a shot past junior goalkeeper Pentti Pussinen for a 1-0 lead.
The remainder of the first half passed without more scoring, and the Dragons came out firing in the second. Just after halftime, senior midfielder Brandon Zeller fed senior midfielder Malcolm LeBourne the ball that ultimately passed La Salle junior goalkeeper John McCarthy to tie the match at 1-1 in the 49th minute.
McCarthy was forced to make a few clutch saves on junior midfielder Ken Tribbett and sophomore midfielder Ridge Robinson in the second half. In the 87th minute, the Dragons gained possession of the ball and Tribbett led sophomore Fabio Machado with a lead pass.
Machado, a transfer from Burlington County College in the offseason, approached McCarthy in a one-on-one situation and beat the goalkeeper to the right corner of the net to give Drexel a 2-1 lead with just three minutes remaining. With the score, Machado immediately verified head coach Doug Hess’ preseason analysis of the newcomer.
“Fabio is a goal-scoring forward who can push that front line for us,” Hess said before the preseason. “He has an uncoachable quality that gets him in the right spot at the right time. Plain and simple, Fabio is a goal scorer.”
Drexel outshot La Salle 9-2 in the second half, including a 5-1 mark in shots on goal, and had the majority of the scoring chances. But just as the Dragons thought they had notched a victory, La Salle junior defender Mike Stanton knocked a header past Pussinen for the equalizer with just one minute to go in regulation.
Then, only 45 seconds into overtime, freshman midfielder Joe Farrell scored the winning goal for the Explorers following a scrum in the penalty area, sealing the 3-2 victory and stunning Drexel in a matter of minutes.
It was not a great start to the season for Pussinen, who, along with Tribbett, was named as an honorable mention Preseason All-CAA selection. The Dragons’ goalkeeper only saved two of five shots after recording a .742 save percentage last season with five shutouts.
Hess hopes the addition of Ryan Platt, a former goalkeeper at Nazareth College and Georgia Southern University, to the coaching staff will help Pussinen build upon his fantastic sophomore season and take his talent to the next level.
“The goalkeeper position is the most unique on a soccer team because only one plays at a time,” Hess said about this season’s goalkeeping situation. “While Pentti did a great job last year and was recognized for his efforts with a spot on an All-CAA team, this season is a fresh start.”
As for Tribbett, his season got off to a good start with an assist on Machado’s first goal after leading Drexel with four goals last season. In a unique part of the Drexel schedule, Tribbett, of Centennial, Colo., will travel with the team to his home state for a two-game road trip against the University of Denver Aug. 31 and the U.S. Air Force Academy Sept. 2.
“What better way to prepare for the tough CAA schedule than to test ourselves out of the gate on the road,” Hess commented on the early season travel. “The Colorado trip will force us to play two games at altitude against two teams that have seen success in recent years.”
While last season’s team did not notch its first win until September 28 against Temple University, the eighth match of the season, this year’s Dragons are off to a strong start and look to pick up some much-needed victories in the Rocky Mountains.