RU aims to put end to losing streak at Yurcak
Following Tuesday night’s 3-0 defeat to Monmouth, head coach Dan Donigan stressed that his players did not respond to adversity.
When the Rutgers men’s soccer team hosts No. 14 Indiana tomorrow at Yurcak Field, the Scarlet Knights (3-3, 1-0) will need a response if they are to have any chance against one of the most storied soccer programs in college soccer.
“They’re going to be good. I mean, look at their program history — it speaks for itself,” said senior midfielder Nathan Bruccoleri. “And they’re always competing for a national title and Big Ten ring every year, so we’re excited for that.”
The Hoosiers’ (3-1-2, 0-1) history does speak for itself: eight national championships, 27 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances and the reigning Big Ten Tournament champions, to name a few of their credentials.
But this current Indiana squad is not without its flaws, most notably in the offensive end.
The Hoosiers lost six starters and had to replace nearly 70 percent of their goal-scoring production last year for a team that finished only 8-12-2 a year ago.
San Jose Earthquakes forward Tommy Thompson was among those to depart, deciding to join Major League Soccer and become the Earthquakes’ first-ever homegrown signing after his freshman season.
Tommy Thompson’s brother, Tanner Thompson, and forward Femi Hollinger-Janzen, give Indiana some talented options upfront, but its offense has only managed four goals in six games. The Hoosiers were also 1-7 last season on the road and have yet to play an official road game.
Rutgers has plenty of flaws of its own, though, having lost its last three home games by a 1-7 goal margin.
But there seems to be a sense of tranquility from the Knights’ players, who feel Tuesday’s showing against in-state rival Monmouth was not indicative of their overall ability.
“To be honest I thought we played well [against Monmouth],” said junior defender Mitchell Taintor. “We played good soccer and possessed the ball, but we had a little mishap in the first half which led to the goal. That was unfortunate because I thought we deserved better than that.”
These “mishaps” in the back have been one of the few consistent trends for Rutgers this year, having conceded a goal or more in its last five games and trailed in the last four.
Although Indiana has struggled to score, having not scored more than once in a game this season, the Hoosiers’ backline only conceded twice, ranking them ninth in the nation in goals against average.
Facing a team that is used to grinding out 1-0 victories, the Knights’ defense will need to be more organized. That’s proven hard to do without junior defensive captain Drew Morgan, who has struggled throughout the season with a recurring head injury.
While sophomore Kieran Kemmerer’s efforts to replace Morgan have been commendable, Taintor feels the chemistry he and Morgan have is difficult to replicate.
“Drew and I, we’ve been playing together since we were 17 as freshmen coming in,” Taintor said. “Kieran is a great player, but we don’t have the same relationship Drew and I have, and Drew brings different qualities to the team that I think we missed [on Tuesday].”
The last time Rutgers conceded three goals at home, it earned its biggest win on the road against a Big Ten opponent in Wisconsin.
It’s hard to predict how well the Knights will play tomorrow, but if hosting their first-ever Big Ten game against a program like Indiana isn’t motivation enough, attempting to redeem Tuesday’s loss certainly adds to it.
All Donigan can do is hope his team gets the memo.
“We’re still 3-3, we’re still 1-0 in the Big Ten and now… we have every opportunity to kind of come back out here and have another response and do something positive,” Donigan said. “So you know, I can just explain to them the scenario we’re facing and hope that there’s going to be the proper response that I want.”
For updates on the Rutgers men’s soccer team, follow @SeanStewartRU and @TargumSports on Twitter.