Rutgers earn shutout in overtime road draw
After losing four of its last five games, the Rutgers men’s soccer team faced Michigan State on Sunday hoping to finish in a familiar way to its first road game against Wisconsin on Sept.12.
Although the overtime was similar, the result differed, with the Scarlet Knights (3-4-1) drawing the No. 16 Spartans (5-1-2) 0-0 to go to 1-1-1 in Big Ten conference play.
The tie is the Knights’ first of the season and was against a Spartans team that has conceded just one goal in eight games. Head coach Dan Donigan said he is content with the result.
“Anything on the road in this conference is a positive, if you sneak away with a point,” Donigan said. “Certainly, four points in two games on the road is fantastic, and we’ll take it, especially against a Michigan State team that’s very, very, very good and very dangerous.”
Junior forward JP Correa nearly scored his second game-winning overtime goal of the season five minutes into the second overtime, but his shot struck the post instead of the back netting.
The Spartans also had one last chance in the final minute when a ball from defender Jimmy Fiscus found forward Adam Montague in space, but his effort was just wide of the post.
“We gave them a couple glaring opportunities,” Donigan said. “But … I think we had four or five glaring opportunities that could have won the game as well, and I think their coach would probably say the same thing.”
Donigan elected to start sophomore goalkeeper Mitch Walier in the first half, saying sophomore goalkeeper David Greczek has not been at his best recently.
The change didn’t alter much, though, as the Knights found themselves under early pressure with the Spartans creating two dangerous opportunities within the first five minutes.
Rutgers got things going in the attacking third in the 15th minute when shots from Correa and sophomore midfielder Erik Sa tested goalkeeper Zach Bennett.
But the attacks were short lived, as Michigan State began to pile on the pressure. The Spartans’ best chance in the first half came in the 26th minute when a corner kick found midfielder Fatai Alashe, but his header ricocheted off the cross bar.
Michigan State then earned four corner kicks in a span of three minutes, but the Knights did just enough to keep the score level.
The half concluded with the Spartans outshooting Rutgers, 11-3, in the half, forcing Walier to make four saves.
“The first half, we were kind of hanging on a very thin line.” Donigan said. “They’re a very good, big, strong physical team, very dangerous on restarts, and we were very fortunate to get out of the half tied 0-0.”
Donigan swapped Greczek in for Walier in the second half in what he called a gut decision and the Knights improved in limiting the amount of chances.
Rutgers had a chance of its own to take the lead in the 56th minute when a ball clipped to the back post found junior midfielder Rayon Gibbs, but his header was put wide of the goal.
Although Rutgers only managed three shots in the second half, it limited the Spartans’ offensive chances, holding them to five shots to earn its first shutout since Aug. 29 against UMKC.
Despite the result and clean sheet, Donigan admits there is still plenty of tinkering that needs to be done.
“It’s hard to shut down good teams for 90-plus minutes,” Donigan said. “So for me overall, yes, I am happy, but I still am really never satisfied with the performance.”
For updates on the Rutgers men’s soccer team, follow @SeanStewartRU and @TargumSports on Twitter.