Rutgers to face 1st ranked opponent in No. 5 Michigan State
After its home match against Marist was canceled Tuesday due to rainy field conditions, Rutgers will travel to East Lansing, Michigan for a tough match against No. 5 Michigan State on Friday, Sept. 21, at the DeMartin Soccer Complex.
The match will be the Scarlet Knights’ (1-4-1, 0-1) first time sharing the pitch with a nationally ranked team this season.
Rutgers is currently second to last in the Big Ten conference standings, having dropped its first conference match against Michigan, last weekend.
The match against the Spartans (6-0-2, 0-0) will kickoff their 2018 Big Ten slate. A win in East Lansing could add some momentum for the Knights.
Rutgers faces a highly offensive team in Michigan State. The Spartans rank first in the conference in shots (96), with the team averaging 12 a game, second only to their in-state rival, the Wolverines.
Midfielder Giuseppe Barone leads the team with 16 shots, three of which were on goal. Barone’s older brother, Hunter, a forward, has orchestrated several of the midfielder’s shots.
The older Barone played a season high 71 minutes in Michigan State’s 1-0 win over No. 8 Notre Dame on Monday. He has also come up with a game-winning goal twice this season, as he tends to heat up during the second half.
The Knights gave up 2 goals to Michigan last weekend, but there were several bright spots. Sophomore defender Bryce Washington returned to start his first match, as he was sidelined due to a hamstring injury the previous three games.
Freshman defender Thomas DeVizio’s offensive defender style of play has worked in setting up plays for Rutgers. The Scotch Plains, New Jersey native had a shot against the Wolverines, an opportunity that started when the defender intercepted a Michigan pass.
DeVizio has also taken a variety of corner kicks. He had several in the 2-2 draw with Hartford.
After their shutout loss to the Wolverines, head coach Dan Donigan noticed areas offensively where the Knights could improve.
“We need to do a better job possessing the ball, building an attack and sustaining (it),” Donigan said.
The Spartans come into the match after holding the Fighting Irish to a scoreless 1-0 match on the road. Michigan State has yet to drop a match this season, having only tied two matches, each winnable for the team.
Forward Farai Mutatu has had an impressive start to his collegiate career, putting the only points on the board for the Spartans with a late first half goal against Notre Dame. The loss was the Irish's second of the season against a Big Ten team, as they lost to Indiana the previous week.
Goalkeeper Jimmy Hague has been a force between the pipes for Michigan State. He has only allowed 7 goals this season and has started each match. Rutgers will have to capitalize on junior forward Jordan Hall’s speed to attack Hague early in the match.
A key for the win would be to contain the Spartan midfield defensively. The midfield duo of Michael Pimlott and Giuseppe Barone sparked several offensive surges for Michigan State.
Barone is second in the Big Ten Conference in assists per game at six. The Knights will have to play tight defense around Barone to shut down his offensive playmaking.
“There’s still some things we need to refine,” Donigan said following the Michigan match. “Certainly, being able to possess the ball and knock it around is one of them.”
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