September 26, 2018 | ° F

Freshman Wright shines in Knights’ weekend home sweep

Photo by Tian Li |

Junior running back Paul James produces yards after contact on a run through Cougars defenders. He scored the game-winning touchdown for Rutgers’ with 3:24 left.

Replacing the goal-scoring production of former forward Kene Eze and Maryland transfer Mael Corboz was the most daunting concern entering the Rutgers men’s soccer team’s 2014 season. 

In just one weekend, the Scarlet Knights (2-0) may have found their long-term solution. 

Freshman forward Jason Wright was the star player in Rutgers’ 1-0 win against UMKC on Friday and 2-1 win against Lafayette on Sunday, scoring all three of his team’s goals at Yurcak Field. 

The former U-17 Jamaican international was a constant pest up top aside junior forward J.P. Correa, displaying Eze-like qualities with his speed and ability to run at defenders on the dribble. 

With three goals in his first two collegiate games, Wright said he never expected this kind of success this early on. 

“It’s my first two games in the college level, and it’s been pretty tough,” Wright said. “I wasn’t expecting it to be so end-to-end, but I’m adapting and I’m fortunate.”

Nothing was fortunate about Wright’s first collegiate goal against UMKC (0-1). 

Early in the second half, a ball played down the left flank by junior defender Ross Tetro found Wright inside the 18-yard box running off the back shoulder of his defender. Wright’s speed created enough space from his defender to cut inside before tucking home a right-footed effort into the right corner. 

Wright needed just nine minutes to score versus Lafayette (1-1), this time splitting the two center backs on a through ball by Correa before chipping the ball with his left foot into the right corner. 

“I realize how [Correa] plays so when he had the ball on top the 18-yard box, I created an angle for him to play to between me and the defender. … He did that and I ran onto it and slid it home,” Wright said.

His second goal against the Leopards proved vital in a game that was heated both literally and emotionally. 

Following some missed chances from both teams early in the second half, the Knights appeared to clinch the game when a low cross sent in by freshman forward Miles Hackett found an unmarked Wright in the six-yard box.

With time to take a touch, Wright settled the ball onto his right foot and buried the ball into the upper netting.

But an unlucky misplaced header by freshman defender Niel Guzman defending a free kick found its way over the outstretched arm of sophomore goalkeeper David Greczek, bringing the game within one score with 17 minutes remaining.

The Leopards then got their chance to equalize when midfielder Alec Golini sprang forward Greg Biggiani through on the counter. 

The forward cut inside and found midfielder Todd Forrester open eight yards from goal, but his shot was thwarted by Greczek who stood his ground to make the save. 

Although the Knights kept fans on edge for the final 10 minutes, Greczek believes preserving the win shows a sign of growth from last year’s late errors. 

“I’m just proud of my boys to grind it out,” Greczek said. “It was a hot day and sometimes you don’t play the prettiest soccer, but we grinded it out and got the win.”

The two-win performance is the best start for Rutgers since 2008 and the strongest for head coach Dan Donigan, now in his fifth year. 

While the chemistry amongst teammates is still a work in progress, Donigan said it’s hard to be unhappy with his team’s undefeated start.

“I’m pleased with the fact that we were able to fight and work hard enough to get those two wins against two very difficult teams,” Donigan said. “…We just need to continue to clean things up. We’ve only played four games now really together as a group, as a team with all new pieces, so we just have to have patience and keep working at things.”

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

Sean Stewart

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