September 20, 2018 | ° F

Blown first-half chances cost Rutgers against Hofstra

Photo by Dennis Zuraw |

Sophomore midfielder Erik Sa dribbles from a Hofstra defender yesterday at Yurcak Field. Sa scored the Knights’ only goal.

Following a disappointing defeat last Thursday against Syracuse, Rutgers head men’s soccer coach Dan Donigan said he was expecting a strong response from his team.

Despite a dominant first half yesterday at Yurcak Field, which included a number of great chances for the Scarlet Knights, an early second-half goal by Hofstra forward Maid Memic quickly shifted the game’s momentum.

With Rutgers frantically pushing for an equalizer, the Pride sat deep in their own half looking to counter and were more clinical in the final third, defeating the Knights, 3-1. 

Seeking redemption following a 3-0 defeat at home last year versus the Pride (0-1-2), the loss for Rutgers (2-2) stings twice as hard.

“We knew going into this game, this was a revenge game, a grudge game, and we were excited for it and ready for it as you can see in the first half,” said sophomore midfielder Erik Sa. “We think we’re a much better team than we played today and … I think we have a better team than we had last year, and that’s the part that hurts the most.”

The win was Hofstra’s first of the season and the Knights’ second straight loss in a row at home. 

Unlike last year’s game, the first half seemed to be going Rutgers’ way until the start of the second. A turnover in the midfield created a Hofstra counter attack and put Memic in on a one-on-one breakaway with sophomore goalkeeper David Greczek. 

The First Team All-Colonial Athletic Association player slotted it past the outstretched Gresczek, leaving the Knights in disbelief that they had fallen behind.

“We were kind of in shock a little bit because we played so well in the first half,” Sa said. “…And once they scored their first goal in the second half — I don’t know if it’s panic — it’s just like, what is going on?”

The Pride made it 2-0 about 20 minutes later when an unmarked Daniel Grundei buried a header into the right side of the net on a corner kick. 

Hofstra caught the Knights on the break once again with seven minutes left when midfielder Rory Murphy was played through by midfielder Joseph Holland.

Murphy blasted a shot low into the right hand corner to go three goals up, giving Murphy his third assist of the game. 

Sa made it 3-1 with five minutes remaining with a perfectly placed left-footed shot into the upper 90 of the far post from just within the 18-yard box. But the superb goal proved to be nothing more than a consolation prize. 

The game could have had a much different outcome had the Knights been able to bury a couple of quality first half chances.

The most notable chance came 10 minutes into the game, when a saved shot from junior midfielder Rayon Gibbs found the foot of inform freshman forward Jason Wright. 

Alone in the 18-yard box, the forward sent a low curling shot past goalkeeper Patric Pray, but it hit the far post instead of the back netting. 

It was a dominant first half for the Knights, who outshot Hofstra, 14-5, and had a season-high nine corner kicks. 

Rutgers made it difficult for Hofstra to build through the midfield during that stretch and won a majority of 50-50 balls. 

“The game could have been 4-0 in the first half,” said junior forward J.P. Correa. “It would have been over. We just have to finish our chances.”

The game ended with Rutgers taking a season-high 20 shots but also allowed 17 of their own.

For a disappointed and frustrated Donigan, it was simply a tale of two halves.  

“You take it for what it is. It was a great first half and a poor second half,” Donigan said. “You just have to take a gut check right now, and you have to look at yourself and tell yourself, ‘Are you satisfied with your performance?’ Because now that’s two years in a row that team has come in here and, quite honestly, taken it to us for a game and a half.”

For updates on the Rutgers men’s soccer team, follow @SeanStewartRU and @TargumSports on Twitter.

Sean Stewart

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