Rutgers ends scoring drought upsets No. 22 Indiana
The ketchup was spilled all over the field in Bloomington.
The Rutgers men’s soccer team ended its scoring woes with an emphatic 4-1 win against No. 22 Indiana Sunday afternoon at Jerry Yeagley Field at Bill Armstrong Stadium.
A late surge from the Hoosiers (3-3-1, 0-2-0) threatened to push the game into extra-time, but a dominant first half from the Scarlet Knights (3-2-1, 1-1-0) was enough to secure their first Big Ten Conference win of the season and their first win against a ranked opponent since defeating seventh-ranked Louisville in Nov. 2013.
Indiana pulled back a goal with 13 minutes remaining in the contest while also controlling possession and looking more dangerous than Rutgers. The Hoosiers held all the momentum and appeared to be mounting a colossal comeback in front of 1,842 fans in attendance.
But in a swift counter attack, Jason Wright found an open Erik Sa and the junior midfielder buried his shot past Colin Webb to put a nail in the coffin and guarantee a 4-1 win over a team the Knights have been unable to defeat in their last seven attempts.
Scoring four goals and earning a win against a ranked conference opponent after going through a frustrating goal-scoring drought would please most coaches.
Head coach Dan Donigan is no exception.
“Honestly, I was very pleased with it,” Donigan said of his team’s performance. “I thought the way we’ve been playing in the last couple of games, I feel we’ve just been a little unlucky. Just inches away or a touch away from getting the goals and fortunately for us, we kind of exploded today. I thought we had some really good execution in the final third of the field. I thought our guys really played really well as a group, collectively, for 90 minutes against a very good team on the road in conference.”
Donigan reiterated the difference in Sunday's matinee that allowed his team to finally break through.
“Again, we’ve been playing good soccer," he said. "But today it all came together and we were fortunate to get that pay off in the final third with those goals.”
The majority of Rutgers’ goals were scored in the opening 45 minutes.
Freshman forward Sheldon McKoy opened the scoring in the 19th minute of his first career start. The St. Catherine, Jamaica, native earned a start after impressing his head coach with his most recent performance and he continued to impress after being trusted with a spot in the starting 11.
“I thought he did a great job against Monmouth and we know what he’s capable of doing,” Donigan said. “He gave us some size in the air against an Indiana team I thought would pose problems for us in the air. It was really just to counter what I felt Indiana was posing to us and it worked out well, I thought. Sheldon, again, had a good performance, a great game and we’re happy for him now that he’s transitioned into the game and did well.”
McKoy was nervous as he entered the pitch with the starters for the first time, but the nerves settled and he took advantage of the opportunity.
“I was a bit scared at first because I’m not used to the atmosphere and stuff like that, but I just went out there and did my best,” McKoy said.
Fellow Jamaican forward Jason Wright doubled the Knights' lead five minutes later when he received the ball from Erik Sa at midfield, beat the last defender using his speed, rounded Indiana goalkeeper Colin Webb and scored his third goal of the season to conclude a lighting fast counter-attack for the visitors.
After admitting to being in a bad spell as of late following his last performance against Monmouth, the sophomore from Kingston, Jamaica, felt relieved to get his name back on the scoresheet and believes the key to the win was taking advantage of the chances created.
“It’s a great feeling (to score) … We made the most of our chances,” Wright said.
Rounding out a half where the Knights dominated in attack and outshot their hosts was Miles Hackett. The junior forward scored his third goal of the season to tie Wright atop the scoring list for Rutgers this season and give his team a 3-0 lead heading into the locker room.
The hosts entered the second period to reverse the damage of the first half immediately, with Tanner Thompson seeing his shot go wide of Greczek’s post just 30 seconds following the second half kickoff.
The Hoosiers piled on the pressure, sending up numbers in attack in an attempt to penetrate the Knights seemingly impermeable defense and mount an unlikely comeback.
But whenever Indiana managed to threaten Greczek’s goal, the junior goalkeeper answered the call, making two saves to conserve his clean sheet until Femi Hollinger-Janzen opened the scoring for the home side.
Greczek ultimately had the last laugh, though, as Hollinger-Janzen's goal ended up being a consolation goal for the hosts.
This win puts Rutgers back in the win column and shift some positive momentum into the locker room, but the Knights know this is just one step on a long, grueling journey.
“Yes, the morale is fantastic right now,” Donigan said. “The win comes at a very good time and point in the season for us so we’ll try to make the most of it going forward. The guys are excited about a win on the road against a good Indiana team.”
But Donigan pointed out that the team can't get too caught up in the upset.
“But they also know it’s another game, it’s a win in conference. We lost three points against Wisconsin and we took these three points today," he said. "We’re still on a mission, we still have a job to do and we still know we have a long way to go.”
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