Knights face Orange with first on line
The Rutgers men’s soccer team understands how significant the No. 1 can be for the program. The Scarlet Knights missed out on a Big East Tournament berth last year by only one game.
The Knights find themselves in second place this season in the Big East Red Division, only one point behind conference leader South Florida.
Rutgers’ next chance to finally erase the one-point deficit comes tonight, when it returns to Yurcak Field to face conference-rival Syracuse.
While the Orange sit in dead last in the league standings, the Knights know there are no guaranteed wins in the Big East portion of the season.
“We are taking it one game at a time. We don’t go into any games thinking we are automatically going to win,” said senior forward Ibrahim Kamara. “It is just one game at a time because the Big East is very difficult. Any team can beat any other team at any given time. We just want to maintain our momentum into one game, then into the next game and so on.”
The Knights enter the matchup in the midst of a three-game winning streak, all within the Big East. Their last win, a 1-0 victory against DePaul off a goal by Kamara, marked Rutgers’ first conference win on the road this season, as well as the first shutout this season for the defense.
But Syracuse visits Piscataway with impressive conference achievements of its own. The Orange held Louisville, the then-No. 11 team in the country, to a 0-0 tie earlier this season.
The Knights are 0-2 so far this season against ranked opponents.
“There is no such thing as a lesser opponent in the Big East. Syracuse has gone on the road and gotten great results against Louisville,” said head coach Don Donigan. “They have been in just about every match they have played in.”
Syracuse’s last matchup was against South Florida, the one team still standing in the way of Rutgers’ conference lead. The Orange had the Big East frontrunners on the ropes for the majority of the matchup, until three unanswered goals late in the game gave South Florida the win.
But where some may see only a loss, Donigan sees a team that showed its potential to knock Rutgers off its conference pedestal.
“We are going to watch their film very closely and get a good idea of what to expect from them. Certainly just like everyone else in this conference, there is no easy ones,” Donigan said. “When you look at Syracuse [last weekend] they had South Florida down, 2-0, and it was an unfortunate three unanswered goals that gave them the loss in overtime. Certainly they are a very dangerous and capable team that we need to be prepared for.”
A win is pivotal for the Knights, as the final three games following Syracuse mark the toughest portion of Rutgers’ schedule. All three games are against ranked opponents.
But before the Knights can focus on those three teams, they need to first work on overcoming the Orange and finally erasing the one point keeping them from the No. 1 spot in the Big East.
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