Rutgers hosts high-powered Florida Gulf Coast
After earning its first tie of the season, the Rutgers men’s soccer team will try to ride its momentum into its fourth non-conference game of the season against the highest scoring team in the country — Florida Gulf Coast.
The Scarlet Knights (0-6-1, 0-3-1) are heading into Tuesday’s game for the first time this season not coming off a loss.
“It just doesn’t make you forget the other games,” said head coach Dan Donigan after his side held No. 4 Indiana to a scoreless draw on Friday. “But at the same time it does alleviate the bad feeling of feeling much more pressure to get a result.”
Rutgers had a season-high 16 shots against the Hoosiers, while senior keeper David Greczek tied his second career high in saves with eight stops.
On paper, the Knights look stagnant and out of life, but this was the second time this season that Rutgers has pushed a top five team into double-overtime, fighting until the very end of the game.
Through the first seven games, the Knights have been outscored 14-2, but at home, the tally is only 5-1.
No. 12 Creighton, No. 9 Denver, No. 1 Maryland and No. 4 Indiana have all beaten Rutgers at home, but the games have been tighter than the record shows.
The Blue Jays defeated the Knights 2-0 in the season opener, the Pioneers won 1-0, the Terrapins scored their only goal in the 103rd minute and No. 4 Indiana was held scoreless through two halves and two overtimes.
Donigan said he thinks his team plays better at home.
“I mean that’s home field advantage right, everyone has it," Donigan said. "We have the (student supporters club) Riot Squad out there, our family and friends or crowd behind us, it’s always an advantage being home.”
Rutgers' record still has a zero in the win column and Tuesday’s matchup with Florida Gulf Coast isn’t anticipated to be an easy win.
The Atlantic Sun Conference member is 6-2-1, good enough to warrant 17 votes in the latest NSCAA Coaches poll as they fight for a spot in the national top 25 rankings.
FGCU's status partly comes from its dominating offense — the Eagles have outscored their opponents 25-11 in nine matches.
On the other hand, the Knights have been outscored 17-2, but junior striker Jason Wright said he feels that he is finally coming to grips with the slow start.
Wright was able to nail five shots on Friday’s tie against Indiana, three of on the frame of goal.
“I’m getting into my game,” Wright said. “I’m getting into my groove.”
It may be at the perfect time for Wright to get back to his old form.
Through six games, FGCU's keeper is averaging a .96 for goals against, compared to Rutgers' netminder Greczek who averages a 2.31.
In Tuesday's match, Greczek must keep an eye on Eagles junior forward Albert Ruiz.
Ruiz is leading the Atlantic Sun Conference with 19 points and is tied for fourth in the country in goals with eight.
But he isn’t the only goal scorer the Rutgers has faced this season.
Creighton’s Riggs Lennon and Maryland’s Gordon Wild both are tied for fourth in the country with Ruiz in goals scored this season.
Another striker the Knights have to be attentive towards is redshirt sophomore Arion Sobers-Assue.
Sobers-Assue has a total of 13 total points this season — 12 of the 13 points coming from goals.
But Greczek, who now has the second highest number of saves made in Rutgers history, is aware of what the Eagles bring to the table offensively.
“They're one of the best offensive teams in the nation,” Greczek said. “And if we play like we did against Indiana and Maryland, I strongly believe the guys can get another clean sheet and another result out of it.”
As the schedule continues to present the Knights with top rated teams, Donigan will continue to prepare his team appropriately.
“Our guys need to work and take care of our defensive responsibilities," he said. "Like I said, FGC is a very talented (team). We watched a good amount of tape on them, (and) they’re very, very good going forward. We’re gonna be ready.”
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