Salmon hurt in loss to Marquette
The Rutgers men's soccer team opened Big East play Saturday by dropping a 1-0 decision at Yurcak Field to Marquette.
The loss snapped the Scarlet Knights' four-game unbeaten streak and is the team's first loss at home.
To make matters worse, the Knights (3-2-1) might have lost much more than just the game.
Midfielder Yannick Salmon, Rutgers' leading goal scorer, went down awkwardly early in the second half, clutching his right ankle and did not return.
Early indications from head coach Dan Donigan were not good, however he does not know how long he will be without the star player.
"I haven't spoken to the trainer and I haven't spoken to Yannick, but obviously it's something not good," Donigan said. "He's a tough kid. For him to not go back in the game, it must be pretty serious."
The Westbury, N.Y., native said he is "going to be fine" while limping off to the locker room following the game.
Salmon's injury came less than 10 minutes before the Golden Eagles (2-3-2) got on the board with the lone tally of the game.
The goal came when Calum Mallace found space down the right wing and delivered an accurate cross into the box. The ball found its way past the outstretched head of junior defender Andrew Cuevas and right onto the head of Marquette's Chris Madsen.
The forward propelled the ball into the net and right past the helpless Adam Klink, the Knights' goalkeeper.
"We just weren't marked," the junior goalie said about the goal. "You can place blame on just one person — I mean I place blame on myself, I should have sorted it out better."
Madsen's speed gave Rutgers fits all game long. The forward let a total of five shots go with three of them on target.
The defensive line played all game without outside back Chris Edwards, who missed his second straight game with a bad hamstring.
The team greatly missed the senior's speed and experience.
"We try and deal with setbacks as much as we can," said senior captain and defender Paulie Calafiore. "Having Edwards back there helps so much, not just with his speed and knowledge of the game, but with his experience and his heart."
Rutgers maintained possession for much of the second half after the goal, but was unable to generate enough quality scoring chances.
Set pieces gave the Knights the most opportunities to draw even, with the team taking a total of six corner kicks in the second stanza. However, none equated to goals.
"Corners are tough," Donigan said. "If you look at the percentage of how many are taken that equate to goals, it's not a very high percentage. [Marquette] has a couple of big boys that they are able to get back on restart situations."
The Knights' best chance to tie came with less than 20 minutes to play, when converted midfielder Bryant Knibbs saw his point-blank shot from inside the 18-yard box rattle off the post.
The rebound gave substitute Todd Webb a look on goal, but the freshman's header went high and wide, allowing Marquette to earn a goal kick.
Since moving to the midfield halfway through last Sunday's match against Hartford, Knibbs has arguably been Rutgers best offensive player.
The Pine Bush, N.Y., native looks comfortable on and off the ball, taking a total of six shots against the Golden Eagles — two on target.
"We give him the freedom to roam around and get a feel for where he's positioning," Donigan said. "I have the confidence to tell him to push forward. He knows what I mean. Knibbsie just has a very good feel for the game."
The loss to Marquette ends a five-game homestand for the Knights on a sour note after winning the past three games. Rutgers opened the homestand with a 2-2 tie against Delaware.
The Knights hit the road for a Wednesday matinee with Temple in Philadelphia before traveling to Cincinnati for another Big East match on Saturday.
"I just said to our guys that we got to bottle up this loss and use it to harness the energy for the rest of the season," Calafiore said. "Nobody likes to lose. You just got to take this feeling and when you have any doubt you have to pull it back out and remember what it felt like and push yourself so you don't let it happen again."