RU battle's weather; Peacocks to victory
Amid heavy rain and less than stellar field conditions, the Rutgers men's soccer team fought Mother Nature as well as St. Peter's and came out victorious. The Scarlet Knights defeated the Peacocks, 2-0, on a dreary afternoon yesterday at Yurcak Field.
The win marks the first of the season for the Knights (1-1-1) after a come-from-behind 2-2 draw Friday against Delaware. It is also the first win for Rutgers during the Dan Donigan era.
"It wasn't a pretty game. The conditions were tough, but to come away with a 2-0 win against St. Peter's is good," said Donigan, who spent the past nine seasons at the helm of Saint Louis' program. "It's tough for both teams to play in the rain and the slop and these conditions. We're happy."
Rutgers drew first blood against the Peacocks (1-3-0) in the 33rd minute, when senior captain Yannick Salmon headed a perfect cross from midfielder Nye Winslow into the right corner of the net.
Salmon's tally marked the second goal in as many games for the Westbury, N.Y., native. Salmon netted the game-tying goal in the 90th minute Friday against the Blue Hens.
"Yannick is a leader of this team," Donigan said. "He's an emotional leader. He's a physical leader. He's a talented leader. We need him to get involved and get his touches. When he's not, then it makes things that much harder for us."
Salmon's goal against St. Peter's was a painful one at that, after he suffered a cut on his head late in the Delaware contest.
"It's still a little swollen and it hurt on the goal, but it'll be OK," he said.
The insurance goal came in the 90th minute, when North Brunswick High School product Ibrahim Kamara found space behind the Peacock defense and took his time, dribbling past goalkeeper Carlos Suarez. Calm, cool and collected, Kamara deposited the ball into the empty net.
The goal is the first on the year for Kamara, who led the Knights in tallies last season.
"I saw the keeper and I was waiting for him to come out and I wasn't going to go around him. I was going to chip it," Kamara said. "But he never came out so I had to go around him and that's what happened."
In goal, Donigan went with junior Adam Klink after starting Southern Methodist transfer Kevin McMullen in the season's first two games.
Klink responded with a clean sheet, making four saves and looking strong on his feet, despite the conditions.
"You never know what's going to happen [in these conditions]," he said. "You've got to be ready for everything and you've got to be sure with your moves because everything is moving faster."
While the shutout is credited to Klink, the Chesapeake, Va., native gives credit to his defense and the rest of the time as well.
"I love the four guys in front of me," Klink said. "Even the midfielders, too. It's a whole team defense. I just think our backs are phenomenal. They block such a high amount of shots and they shut guys down so I don't have to do too much."
In the first game of the weekend, under the lights on Friday night, the Knights conceded two goals to Delaware before coming back in the final 13 minutes to draw even.
The tying goal came from Salmon in the 90th minute on a free kick just outside the 18-yard box. The ball struck the Blue Hen wall of defenders and squeaked into the lower-left side of the net past the hapless goalkeeper.
"It doesn't matter to me as long as it gets in," Salmon said. "I picked out the right upper 90, but it completely went the opposite way. I just started running [in celebration] right after."
Rutgers fell behind by two scores in the 53rd minute, when Demar Stephenson found space between the Knights' back line and drilled a low line drive from just outside the 18 that eluded McMullen and found the back post.
Down two, Rutgers looked to another captain to jumpstart its counter. Andrew Cuevas, a defenseman, headed a brilliant feed from midfielder Robbie McLarney into the Delaware net.
The goal — Rutgers' first of the season — came in the match's 77th minute. The tally was also Cuevas' third goal via header in two seasons.
"It's my thing I guess," said Cuevas of his knack for scoring with his noggin. "Everyone on the team calls me Big Head. Robbie is usually the guy who serves me those balls. I guess we just connect and find each other."