Rutgers hosts in-state rival Princeton, eyes first win
The Rutgers men’s soccer team seems to be playing its best soccer of the season. Still winless through their first 10 games, the Scarlet Knights (0-8-2, 0-4-2) look to carry their solid play into Tuesday as they host in-state rival Princeton (5-4-1).
Friday marked the fourth consecutive game Rutgers has either tied the opposition or lost by one goal, with two of those four teams being ranked in the top 15.
The offense seems to be creating more creative opportunities to score, even though the Knights are only averaging .80 goals per game.
“I just told them continue to move and get the second and third guys involved in the attack,” said head coach Dan Donigan. “Jason (Wright) draws a lot of attention and if we can get the second and third guys running off of him, I think it opens things up and it relieves pressure from him.”
But the Tigers are above average at is keeping their challengers to very few goals — an area Rutgers struggles in. Princeton has allowed only 1.20 goals per game this season. Tigers senior goalkeeper Josh Haberman has a 1.16 goal-against-average, which is third in the Ivy League Conference.
But the Knights know what its getting itself into Tuesday night at Yurcak Field. The Tigers and Rutgers have split the last two meetings and haven’t played since the 2014 season. The players said that even though they've been winless through their first 10 games, there’s going to be an extra incentive.
“It's big, everyone’s gonna treat it like a derby, its gonna be a rivalry game,” said senior goalkeeper David Greczek. “I’m gonna fight against them, obviously not in a disrespectful way, but I’m sure everyone’s gonna be hungry for that game. We wanna take over Jersey and we gotta make a statement against that game.”
Princeton will be the ninth team over the .500 mark the Knights have faced this season. And although its schedule doesn’t compare to Rutgers, it has played some worthy teams. The Tigers lost 1-0 to a solid West Virginia team to open play this season, lost to St. Johns 3-1, defeated then-No. 22 Rider 3-1 and beat Seton Hall on the road 3-1.
“Princeton’s gonna be very organized,” Donigan said. “They're gonna be disciplined, they're gonna play quality soccer, they're gonna keep the ball on their ground and they're gonna be difficult.”
Junior defender Niel Guzman also said that the match will be big because its an in-state rivalry. While the two teams may have friends on the opposite team, it’s business and whoever shows up with more of a drive is going to take the game.
“We have a close history with them, the past couple of years we played each other like two or three times.” Guzman said. “It will be a good little rivalry, we have some friends on each team and whoever shows up on that day to win — they're gonna win.”
Donigan believes there is not much more his team can do to prepare for the upcoming game against Princeton other than his team keeping its composure more in the box or in the third of the field.
Donigan also said it isn’t buying into the whole rivalry talk explaining the need and importance for every game coming down the stretch.
“There’s an incredible drive to get a win period,” Donigan said. “Right now going into our 11th game of the season, we don’t have a win yet, so there’s plenty of drive to get a win right now regardless of who we're playing.”
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