Scoreless streak snaps, result absent against Louisville
The good news is that Saturday night against Louisville, the Rutgers men's soccer team ended its goal drought that lasted 426 minutes.
The bad news is that the goal was not enough to end a four-game skid and walk away from Yurcak Field with a victory.
The No. 6 Cardinals stole momentum right back after the Scarlet Knights scored their first goal since Sept. 19 and went on to win, 2-1.
Although the Knights lost their fifth game in a row, it was not for lack of effort.
"I was proud of the way we played," said head coach Dan Donigan. "Against a team like Louisville … you've got to be on top of your game and I thought we really were for the most part.
"I feel bad for our guys to only come away from this with a 2-1 loss. I was happy with the way we played, but I feel bad for our guys because I wish they were rewarded with something better than that."
The Rutgers (3-6-1, 0-3) goal came in the 67th minute, when the Knights trailed Louisville, 1-0.
Starting in the fourth game of his collegiate career, freshman midfielder Brennan McNicoll sent a free kick from 40 yards out toward the back post. As the ball curled in, senior captain Yannick Salmon made a run into the box.
Salmon timed a perfect header that blitzed into the back of the net and brought the Knights on even terms with the Cardinals.
"It's funny, because me and [junior captain Andrew] Cuevas were deciding which run we were going to make," said Salmon, who leads the team with four goals. "I was calling back post and I said, ‘I got it.' It went back post and I got a good head on it."
As Rutgers mounted another attack to go for the lead just two minutes later, the Cardinals answered.
Louisville cleared the ball quickly after a Knights corner and showed why it is one of the best in the Big East, taking the lead on a lightning-quick counterattack.
Forward Aaron Horton collected the ball down the right wing for the Cardinals and flipped the ball into the middle of the field as two Rutgers defenders converged, where substitute Andrew Farrell awaited.
With nothing between Farrell and Rutgers goalkeeper Adam Klink but 30 yards of grass, Farrell drove to the net and let a shot go from inside the 18-yard box. Klink made the initial save, but the ball's momentum carried it into the back of the net and put the Knights back down by a score.
"They were effective on the counter [attack] and they were effective on set pieces," Cuevas said. "It's unfortunate because we contained them for most of the game, but they are good players and they are going to find ways to score and they did."
The Cards (8-0-2, 3-0) opened the scoring in the 47th minute on a corner kick when Kenney Walker's delivery found the head of Austin Berry on the near post. The midfielder buried the ball inside the left post for his third goal of the year.
The game offered very few chances for either team, with the two squads combining for only four shots on goal.
Playing this close against an undefeated team left the Knights with nothing to hang their heads about.
"I think we did very well against one of the so-called best teams in the country," Cuevas said. "They are tops of the Big East and haven't lost a game yet and I think we outplayed them. I'm proud of my guys."
In fact, this loss serves as a confidence booster for a team that failed to score a goal in four straight games, including a 1-0 loss to lowly NJIT.
A solid 90-minute effort is just what Donigan wanted heading into six straight Big East games to close out the season.
"Our guys deserved more than what they got tonight, but what you want is a result and we haven't gotten the result," Donigan said. "You can't sulk. You can't dwell, because we still have a very good chance of making the [Big East] postseason tournament. We can get the points necessary to get into that tournament and that's our goal."