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MSU men’s soccer and Penn State battle to 0-0 draw

October 1, 2023
<p>Senior forward Greyson Mercer (9) running towards goal during a game against Penn State University at DeMartin Soccer Complex on Oct. 1, 2023.</p>

Senior forward Greyson Mercer (9) running towards goal during a game against Penn State University at DeMartin Soccer Complex on Oct. 1, 2023.

The Spartans faced off against Penn State as they closed out the Michigan State soccer doubleheader that featured both the men’s and women's teams kicking off. The two sides battled to a draw sharing the points in a defensive showcase.

The first action of the match came in the sixth minute, when Penn State found itself with a free kick on the right side of the 18-yard box. The free kick was clipped into the back post before redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Zac Kelly punched the ball, ricocheting it off a Penn State man before flashing just past his post.

In the 13th minute, the Spartans got their first sight of a goal. Freshman forward Richie Ludwig slipped a pass to sophomore forward Jake Spadafora who went bursting towards the Penn State end line. Spadafora squared a ball to the feet of sophomore forward Jonathan Stout who fired a goal-bound shot had it not been blocked last second by a Penn State defender.

Penn State quickly responded just two minutes later through Samson, who found himself one-on-one with freshman defender Will Eby. After sizing up Eby, Samson fired a shot in between the defender's legs which was met at the near post by the diving redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Zac Kelly.

In the 20th minute, the Spartans created yet another dangerous chance. Sophomore forward Jake Spadafora found himself about 40 yards out from goal before going on a solo run into the Penn State 18-yard box. Picking his head up, Spadafora sent a ball to the feet of senior forward Greyson Mercer, who took one touch too many as the ball was cleared before he could fashion a shot.

The Spartans continued to pick up dangerous spaces but were unable to apply a finishing touch or provide the decisive pass to open up scoring.

“I trust the guys in the box. This was the first game we didn’t score this year, so I don’t want to change a whole lot,” head coach Damon Rensing said.

Penn State created its most dangerous chances in the final ten minutes of the half. In the 37th minute, Mangione of Penn State found himself in the Spartan 18-yard box, creating space with some clever feet before senior midfielder Jacob Cromer made a last ditch tackle to prevent the free shot.

Just three minutes later, the final chance of the half fell Penn State’s way as a cross was fired into the Spartan 18-yard box. After getting miscued by multiple Penn State and Michigan State men it fell to the feet of Danielson, who turned and fired his shot into the hands of redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Zac Kelly.

In the second half both sides would struggle to find chances, as the majority of possession was spent in the midfield. 

The first chance of the half found senior forward Greyson Mercer, when in the 50th minute sophomore forward Jake Spadafora squared a pass into the 18-yard box to find the wide open senior who was unable to put his first time attempt on target.

Seven minutes later the Nittany Lions responded through Liscum, who found himself on the end line of the Spartan 18-yard box ready to cross a ball to an open man at the back post. However, freshman defender Will Eby appeared out of nowhere to make a last ditch tackle preventing a near Penn State goal. 

“He plays well beyond his years. To me he’s one of the top freshmen, not just in the Big Ten, but in the country,” Rensing said after the game, enforcing the importance the freshman has had in the Spartan backline.

In the 68th minute the Spartans got their best chance of the half, following a cross that would be floated into the box and fall to sophomore forward Jake Spadafora who was unable to put the peculiar bouncing effort on target from 10 yards out.

“I think all in all it was a really solid performance from the guys. Penn State is a good team, we just couldn’t find that shot or goal,” Rensing said.

The final chance of the match came in the 87th minute as Penn State had a free kick from about 20 yards out which managed to beat the wall as it went flashing towards the bottom left corner. Redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Zac Kelly got down and made an impressive save to preserve the point. 

With Sunday’s performance, Kelly earned himself his fourth clean sheet of the season and first in the Big Ten conference this season.

“It was a complete team effort. Not conceding gives us a chance to win games, and that’s our job,” Kelly said.

The Spartans will be back on the road when they make their way to Madison, Wisconsin to face off against the Badgers next Friday on Oct. 6 with kickoff scheduled for 8 p.m. ET. Streaming will be available on Big Ten Plus.

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