Rutgers rides momentum into West Point against Army
Rinse and repeat.
After moving into a tie atop the Big Ten standings as a result of its exhilarating 4-2 win over Northwestern Friday night — until Ohio State's 2-0 win over Wisconsin placed the Buckeyes into first — the Rutgers men’s soccer team will take yet another break from Big Ten play for a midweek matchup.
The Scarlet Knights (8-4-1, 3-3-0) will play their fourth Tuesday night non-conference game in as many weeks tonight as they travel up to West Point to face Army (3-4-4).
Owning a four-game winning streak and being within a point of first place of a Power Five conference has the spirits in the Scarlet Knights' camp high, but they won’t allow themselves to underestimate their next opponent.
“I expect the same result as we’ve gotten the last four games. It should be a win for us,” junior goalkeeper David Greczek said. "But … that doesn’t mean that we have to go in there thinking, ‘We just beat Northwestern, we’re first in the conference, this should be a game in the bag.’ I think we all, as a team, know Army’s a very good team. They work hard and we have to outwork them like we did against Northwestern.”
The second meeting between the teams in two years serves as a revival of a matchup that was played every season for 25 years between 1964 and 1989. The Black Knights have historically dominated their Scarlet counterparts, owning a 16-9-2 record in the all-time series and winning 14 of the first 15 meetings.
But Rutgers had the last laugh.
The boys from the Banks defeated Army 1-0 in a defensive gauntlet at Yurcak Field last fall thanks to a goal from then-junior midfielder Mitchell Taintor.
But with the way this season has been going, there may be more than a few goals in store for the fans at Clinton.
The Scarlet Knights lead the Big Ten in goals with 32 — 10 more than second-place Michigan’s tally. Rutgers has buried five or more goals in the same match five times this season, including an 8-0 thrashing of Loyola (Md.) in Piscataway.
The outpour of offense is led by the same player who took the Big Ten by storm a year ago: sophomore forward Jason Wright.
The Kingston, Jamaica, native leads the conference in goals with 11, a mark good enough to rank fourth nationally. Wright’s latest goal was the most important of the bunch, as it sealed the Knights' win over Northwestern after the Wildcats appeared to be mounting an unlikely comeback.
Wright clinched Rutgers' fourth straight win on the road, the longest such streak since the 1997 campaign. The Scarlet Knights have looked their best away from Yurcak Field.
But Rutgers' road record will mean nothing if the Scarlet Knights don’t enter West Point ready for war.
“You know they’re going to be fit, you know they’re going to be organized. Army is more than capable of giving you problems,” head coach Dan Donigan said. “So all I have to do is explain to our guys that we’ve gotten these great results in conference, but they’re nullified if we don’t get results against the Army’s of the world. So we certainly have to come out ready to play because Army’s gonna be ready to go.”
Playing away from home in the best form they’ve been in all season, Rutgers has the most momentum its had this year, but they remain humble and focused on winning every game, regardless of the opponent.
“We’re feeling very confident, as you can imagine. But a game like Army is a very important game where we can’t have any letdowns,” senior center back Mitch Lurie said. “We need to get to 9-4-1 and we’re very focused on that. We’re very excited to play them and ultimately continue what we’ve been doing ... Hopefully it works out the way it has the past four games.”
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