Rutgers seeks to extend strong start to season
The Rutgers men’s soccer team looks to begin its season 2-0 for the second consecutive season as it travels to upstate New York to face Colgate Friday night.
After defeating Siena, 4-2, in the season opener last Friday night at Yurcak Field, the Scarlet Knights seek to take the positives from that match and reproduce them against Colgate.
One of the negatives was Siena scoring two goals despite not looking dangerous going forward. The Saints scored on the only two times they looked threatening in the Knights half of the field.
“In that game (against Siena), we won, 4-2, but the two goals they scored, I don’t think we should have gave those up against that team,” freshman forward Brian Hawkins told the Targum. “We can’t do that against the Big Ten teams or it’ll cost us.”
Hawkins gave a quick summary of what Rutgers will be working on at its training ground throughout the week before traveling to Hamilton, New York.
“We’ve been working on our back four, getting the shape right, getting the marks down,” he said. “Going forward, we’ve been working on connections through the midfield and slipping guys through and getting guys through.”
Senior captain Mitchell Taintor reiterated Hawkins' description of practice while adding a detail his experience allowed him to see.
“I think there are little moments in the game where we have mental errors and just getting everyone focused,” Taintor said. “Our shape in the midfield can get better. … That’s our main focus right now.”
Colgate hosts the Knights after earning a 1-1 draw away against another Big Ten team, Northwestern.
The Raiders, who play in the Patriot League, enter the contest owning a positive record against Rutgers, defeating the Knights six times and suffering only three losses in a matchup that started in 1963.
Rutgers head coach Dan Donigan has studied his team’s next opponent and is aware of the dangers they pose to the Knights.
“They’re very organized, very disciplined, very structured,” Donigan said. “They just went on the road and battled a good Northwestern team to a tie. They’re more than capable team. They pose a lot of issues for us.”
After sitting out the season opener due to injury, senior winger JP Correa has recovered and will be an option for Donigan. The sixth-year head coach will have a lot of thinking to do about who he’s going to start on the wings for Rutgers on Friday.
“Not sure yet. We’ll see in these next couple of days of preparation. Whether we go with JP (Correa) or not will be determined probably before the game on Friday, but we have a lot of options,” Donigan said. “We’ll see how the guys are feeling, how the guys are playing and we’ll watch some game tape on Colgate to see if what we did Friday night (against Siena) makes sense to do on the road against Colgate.”
The Knights have a short turnaround after facing Colgate, traveling to Syracuse to face the Orange two days later. If they defeat both Colgate and Syracuse, they will begin the season 3-0 for the first time since 1996.
But the team remains focused on Friday’s match, where Colgate will host Rutgers in their first official home game of the season.
Donigan recognizes the excitement of the home fans to see their Raiders play for the first time this season. But he knows the match, regardless of atmosphere, is always the same.
“It’s going to be their season opener, so we can expect a more hostile environment. But again, no one could go on their field besides their 11," he said. "At the end of the day, you’re just going out and doing the same you always do, 11 v. 11. So, we just got to be prepared every day and every game.”
Donigan believes the team’s outlook on soccer and its approach to matches is different than what he’s seen before and that will help the Knights make away games feel like home.
“The mentality, the mindset, the culture of this team is different than years past," he said. "So, I think that takes the confidence with us on the road no matter who we’re playing.”
For updates on the Rutgers men’s soccer team, follow @briannnnf and @TargumSports on Twitter.