Crazy comeback falls short for Rutgers in 6-5 loss to No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast
Nothing new happened Tuesday night.
In fact, it was the same old story – just a bigger letdown.
Despite junior forward Jason Wright’s hat trick, and the Rutgers men’s soccer team cutting what was once a 5-0 lead to 5-4, it suffered a seventh loss in eight games this season Tuesday night in a wild 6-5 contest to No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast.
“Obviously it wasn’t a very good defensive game between either team,” said head coach Dan Donigan. “There were 39 shots and 11 goals. I mean the first 15 minutes, we gave up 5 goals. For me, you can’t win a game doing that. As happy as I am that we responded and came back and had a valiant effort in the second half, at the end of the day, you have nothing to show for it and you still have a loss. And for me, it's totally unacceptable.”
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The Eagles scored 4 goals within the first 10 minutes of the game to put the Knights in an early hole that seemed insurmountable.
“I mean I've said this before, the first five minutes of each half and the end five minutes of each half I think is something we struggled with this season," said junior defender Neil Guzman. "We really dug ourselves into a hole and we can’t be starting like this the rest of the season.”
FGCU junior forward Albert Ruiz proved his highly national ranked status wasn't a fluke Tuesday with a hat trick, all 3 goals put in net within the first 10 minutes of play.
The Eagles controlled possession throughout most of the first half, out-shooting Rutgers 13-8.
Speed and dominance are two words to describe how FGCU played in the early minutes of the game. At no point of the first half did the Knights take control of the tempo. Instead, they played on their heels looking for answers to stop the most explosive offense in the country.
FGCU did not give up though, adding on another 2 goals in the first frame. Redshirt sophomore Arion Sobers-Assue added 2 goals of his own in the first half, giving everyone proof that he deserved the award for National Player of the Week, which he received Tuesday afternoon.
Wright mentioned after practice Monday that he was starting to feel confident in himself after attempting five shots against No. 5 Indiana, three of which were on goal.
He wasn’t lying as he netted 2 goals in the first half and a third in the second half, tying his career-high with his second career hat trick.
“I just had an eye for the goal more than anything else,” Wright said referring to his performance. “I tried to stay around the goal area as much as I can, and I had some good shots that fortunately went in for me.”
The first one came in the 24th minute and was assisted by junior forward Ryan Peterson, and the second one came in the 39th minute as he took control of a pass from Guzman and slid the ball past Eagles keeper Sawyer Jackamn to decrease the deficit to 5-2.
Early in the second half, Guzman received a cross from Peterson that was deflected off of senior Rayon Gibbs. Guzman then shot and put the ball in net to make the score 5-3.
Nine minutes later, junior forward Dante Perez would have the fans at Yurcak Field on their feet as he put a goal past Jackman to cut the once five goal deficit to 5-4.
Rutgers was pushing the pace and controlling the tempo for most of the second half, out-shooting the Eagles 12-5.
The Knights would make a mistake and the Eagles would capitalize on it and put what would be the dagger in the hearts of the 279 in attendance with a goal from freshman midfielder Miguel Perez gave FGCU a 6-4 lead.
In the 77th minute Wright would score his third and final goal sliding the ball past a diving Jackman and cutting the lead to 6-5.
But that would be all Rutgers would be able to score, as what once looked like a blowout turned out to be the most exciting game of the year.
“We made a bad mistake to give the sixth goal,” Donigan said. “And then we fought to get the fifth goal, but then you get only 12 minutes to try and get the equalizer.”
Scoring 5 goals Tuesday night more than doubled Rutgers season goal total through the first seven games of the season, but defensive miscues, especially in the first 10 minutes, made the offensive performance go in vain.
But those errors can be fixed according the Guzman, and once those are patched up, future mistakes will be avoided.
“(Those are) mistakes that we can fix,” Guzman said in reference to the defensive errors that cost his team an early defensive meltdown. “We’re switching the back four almost every game. I mean we’re just very inconsistent, once the back four grows some chemistry a little more, we’ll eliminate the mistakes in the future.”
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