Late goal gives Knights victory
After its scheduled night game Wednesday was postponed due to inclement weather, the Rutgers men’s soccer team took the field yesterday afternoon to take on conference opponent Syracuse.
The Scarlet Knights entered the matchup against the conference bottom feeder Orange with a must-win mentality, as it marked their last game before they face three consecutive ranked opponents to close the regular season.
The Knights got exactly what they wanted as they picked up their fourth straight win by a 2-1 score. They solidified their second-place standing in the Big East Red Division heading into their ranked matchups in the process.
“This is very big. This team has put themselves in a very good position,” said head coach Don Donigan. “It should allow them to play with a little bit of confidence and a little bit of arrogance. Syracuse was a very dangerous team who hasn’t lost by any more than one goal in any game they have been in. By no means did we understate them at all.”
The win was not easy for the Knights. Syracuse knotted the score at a goal apiece in the 80th minute. Rutgers responded only two minutes later, when freshman midfielder Nate Bruccoleri fired a rocket past Syracuse goalkeeper Phil Boerger for the game-winner.
“We were a goal up and we all knew we needed another one,” Bruccoleri said. “I gave a heads up to [senior midfielder Bryant] Knibbs and he got it to me. I pretty much kicked it as hard as I could and it worked out.”
Senior Ibrahim Kamara, who notched the game-winner last week against DePaul, got on the board first for the Knights. A deflection off a Syracuse defender found its way to Kamara, who headed it into the back left corner of the goal.
“It’s amazing, the way we have been playing as a team. As I’ve said before, my main job on this team is usually to create space, to get others the ball,” Kamara said. “To get two big goals like this in two weeks, it is really amazing.”
The first half proved the ultimate stalemate, with both teams looking their opponent’s equal in every aspect. Both Rutgers and Syracuse entered the locker room totaling four shots and one corner kick apiece, but neither team found the back of the net.
The majority of the Knights’ chances in the first half came from the foot of Kamara, who tallied three shots at the Syracuse goal.
“The first half was really a sign of fatigue because the game was rescheduled,” Kamara said. “We came out this afternoon and we weren’t as fired up as we should have been. Luckily we were able to turn things around in the second half.”
The Knights hope to use the momentum from yesterday’s matchup as they continue their ascent to the top of the Big East standings. They need all the momentum they can get as they head into the portion of their schedule against three nationally ranked conference opponents.
First on the list is a road game tomorrow against No. 13 Louisville.
“We go on the road now to face, in my opinion, three of the best teams in this conference you could possibly play,” Donigan said. “This is really the best way possible for us to enter these upcoming games.”