Rutgers seeks first win in seven matches at Indiana
After a one game break from conference play, the Rutgers men’s soccer team will head on the road for its fourth Big Ten matchup of the season.
The Scarlet Knights (1-6-1, 0-3-0) will travel to the midwest to face Indiana (5-0-2, 1-0-2) on Friday night. The 7:30 p.m. kickoff will mark the fourth straight Big Ten game for the Hoosiers.
For Rutgers, the biggest part of Friday night’s game will be finishing off strong, considering the outcome of its last game was the exact opposite of strong finishing. The Knights fell to Canisius 2-1 in overtime, after a member of the Griffins popped a fast break ball above junior goalkeeper Rafael Pereira.
“We’ve really got no choice but to rally back,” said head coach Dan Donigan. “Now we go on the road to Indiana, one of the best teams in the country. So, these guys have to suck it up and be men about why they are here.”
Rutgers is currently riding a rough stretch of its season, having lost four straight games, including all three home matches this season. Additionally, the Knights lost to No. 3 Maryland on the road last week during their losing streak.
Indiana has started the 2017 season off with a strong start, winning its first four games, all non-conference, while tying in two straight games against ranked opponents before winning its last game against Northwestern.
Since Rutgers joined the Big Ten in 2014, both teams have faced each other every year. The Knights and Hoosiers both sit at 1-1-1 in the three-year series, so this weekend’s matchup gives either side a chance to take control of the series.
“We’ve got to get our legs fresh after playing two games in three days,” said senior midfielder Erik Sa. “In terms of tactical stuff, we’ve got to make sure that we are tight and have an identity against Indiana, because they are going to come out guns-a-blazing against us. We just got to get ourselves ready for that one.”
Sa’s goal in the game against Canisius raised him up on the season stat sheet, tying him with senior forward Ethan Vanacore-Decker in the lead for goals scored, while putting him in second for overall points with four.
Back in 2014, Indiana made a strong introduction at Yurcak Field, giving Rutgers its first loss as a part of the Big Ten in a 2-1 victory. Then-freshman defender Niel Guzman scored the lone goal in that game for the Knights, versus the then-No. 14 Hoosiers.
Then in 2015, Rutgers pulled off a huge upset, capturing a crushing 4-1 victory over then-No. 22 Indiana on its home field. The Knights evened the series with the Hoosiers and saw huge contributions from then-sophomores Sa and Miles Hackett, who each put in a goal.
“They’ve got to figure out why they are here, otherwise we are going to continue to make these mistakes and we are going to have a very difficult season,” Donigan said.
In the troublesome year for Rutgers that was last season, the Knights seemed to catch a big break when Indiana rolled into Piscataway, as both teams couldn’t get much going and ultimately had to accept a 0-0 draw as the result.
With both teams tied in the series, a feud has been born and both sides want to claim the bragging rights this Friday night.
“Against Indiana, we start from zero,” Pereira said. “The game starts 0-0 like any other game.”
Pereira raised his save total to 42 on the season, however he has now also let up 22 goals. The team as a whole has only put in 9 goals so far this season.
Rutgers is in search of an offensive surge this season, having been shut out three times, including twice in the last three games, while also scoring just 1 goal four times. The Knights only have one multiple-goal game so far this season when they defeated Oral Roberts 5-3 in their lone win of the season.
After Friday night’s game, Rutgers will stay on the road, but will be close to home as it faces off against Princeton next Tuesday night. Indiana will stay at home to host the No. 1 team in the nation, Notre Dame.
“We are going to battle and work hard,” Pereira said.
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