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Rutgers hosts Yale in midweek matchup

<p>Failing to earn a result despite outplaying the opposition, senior center-back and captain Mitch Lurie implores his teammates to keep on keeping on.</p>

Failing to earn a result despite outplaying the opposition, senior center-back and captain Mitch Lurie implores his teammates to keep on keeping on.

The Rutgers men’s soccer team may feel a sense of déjà vu in the near future.

For the second week in a row, the Scarlet Knights (4-4-1, 1-3-1) host a struggling non-conference opponent in the middle of the week after suffering a Big Ten Conference loss over the weekend. 

The Knights host Ivy League bottom feeder Yale on Tuesday night after suffering a 2-0 loss to conference rival Penn State (5-2-3, 2-1-1) in rather abnormal conditions on Saturday.

With a little over four minutes remaining until the start of the second half between Rutgers and the Nittany Lions, a power outage that affected all of Busch campus, where Yurcak Field is located, caused the field to go black as the lights turned off.

The lights returned one hour and 48 minutes later.

Another half-hour tacked on to the already extended intermission for both teams to warm up after sitting around brought the time period between the end of the first half and start of the second half to an unprecedented two hours and 40 minutes.

The crowd grew restless during the long wait, with a majority leaving Yurcak minutes after the outage. Unable to follow suit, the players were forced to wait patiently in the locker room for a decision.

“The locker room (was), you know, kind of anxious, kind of a roller coaster of emotions,” junior midfielder Erik Sa said, describing the unusual situation. “At first, you think it’s gonna be a 10-minute delay, 15-minute delay, and then it drags on, drags on. You start playing games and wondering if you’re ever gonna get out of the locker room. It’s nothing I’ve ever done before. … It was a pretty interesting experience.”

While the result — which arrived with a half-hour remaining until midnight after the game kicked off at 7 p.m. — wasn’t what the Knights wanted, head coach Dan Donigan praised his team’s performance and said the only thing missing from it was the final touch to finish all the chances they created.

“I’m very, very happy with the way these guys are playing,” Donigan said. “Again, for me, I’ll take that kind of play for 90 minutes out of my team any day of the week and I would think percentages will give me more win than these results. I think we did very, very well, but that’s just the game of soccer sometimes.”

Seeking a return to efficiency in the final third, the Knights look to repeat the feat of a week ago against the Bulldogs when they pummeled lowly Loyola (Md.), 8-0.

The eight goals scored against the Greyhounds were the most scored by a Big Ten team in a single game this season and the eight-goal winning margin was largest by a Big Ten team this season.

Yale looks to change its current luck this season in a matchup in which it has fond memories. 

In the only meeting between the Bulldogs and Rutgers, Yale left Piscataway with its last NCAA Tournament win, a 1-0 double-overtime nail-biter in the first round of the 1999 edition of the tournament.

But a lot has changed in 16 years.

The Bulldogs (1-7, 0-1) travel to the Banks having won just one game, a 3-2 thriller over a Quinnipiac team that has yet to win a match this season. Yale has been outscored, 20-6, in eight games, a clear sign of the team’s fragility.

But statistics don't always tell the full story.

Perhaps the Bulldogs are going through a similar season as Rutgers. Those who look at the Knights’ results this season may see a team that has been outplayed in nearly every game.

But that couldn’t be further from the truth in the eyes of the players.

“It’s a bummer because we play well and we think we’ve continued to play well the last four games and we’re just … I think we deserve to get a result,” senior captain and center back Mitch Lurie said following Saturday’s match against Penn State. “You just gotta keep going because we’re playing good soccer. It’s not like we’re struggling whatsoever. We’re outplaying teams and right now, the luck is just not going our way. I mean, that happens and we just got to continue to plug away.”

As is tradition after the final whistle of every match, Rutgers players and coaches huddled together near the sidelines after their latest setback and discussed what happened on the pitch. 

Donigan reassured his troops that if they continue to play the way they have been, they will eventually reap the rewards of their efforts.

“We just preached in the huddle there that if we keep playing the attractive style of soccer that we’re playing right now, at some point, it’s going to click for us,” Sa said. “It already has clicked for us a couple of other games but it’s going to click for us during a consistent basis. We’re just staying positive.”

For updates on the Rutgers men’s soccer team, follow @briannnnf and @TargumSports on Twitter.

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