Rutgers drops fourth straight match to start season in drubbing at hands of Michigan State
The Rutgers men’s soccer team has struggled early on this season to stop the opposition from scoring early.
For the first 43 minutes of Friday’s contest against Michigan State, the Scarlet Knights were able to do so, holding the Spartans scoreless despite the eight shots they made.
But the pressure from the home side became too much. When Michigan State opened the scoring in the 44th minute, the floodgates were open, and the Knights went on to suffer a 4-0 loss in East Lansing, the fourth straight to open their season.
“It was simple mistakes that happened,” said junior forward Ryan Peterson. “We know as a team and a group we have to stay positive and just know in those key moments, we have to keep our heads up and not commit any stupid fouls that could put us down and put us in danger.”
Rutgers allowed 11 fouls total in the game, one of which almost turned into an early goal.
Three minutes into the game, a corner kick got very scary for the Knights as a scramble in the box turned into fortunate clear out.
Not too long after, a shot from Spartan’s junior Ken Krolicki appeared to be on its way to putting Rutgers in yet another early hole, but sophomore midfielder Sheldon Mckoy laid his body out for a crucial block to keep the game scoreless.
The seventh foul of the first half eventually cost the Knights, allowing sophomore forward Ryan Sierakowski to shoot a free kick that ultimately deflected off of the wall and got past a diving David Greczek.
“I thought the first half, we came out here with a pretty good game plan in place,” said head coach Dan Donigan. “I thought it worked pretty well for the most part of the first half until, unfortunately, we gave up the restart in the top of the box with 20 seconds to go, and it was just a deflected shot off the wall that went in.”
The constant pressure Michigan State forced on Rutgers throughout the first half was replicated during the second half, and the Knights produced the only three shots they had all game.
On one opportunity, senior Rayon Gibbs let it fly from 20 yards out, but it ended up wide left. Shortly after, junior forward Dante Perez took a shot after dodging three defenders and from the top of the 18 shot the ball that sailed right, while aiming for the far post.
“I think the problem is us generating an attack,” Donigan said. “Being able to build things up and play the style of ball that our guys wanna play. Technically, individually and collectively we have not been able to build up an attack. That’s why we only have 10 shots in the first four games of the year.”
An insurance goal was tacked on by the Spartans in the 63nd minute as junior midfielder Ahmad Faheem turned the ball over in Rutgers' defensive half to allow Andrew Herr to sling the ball to teammate Michael Marcantognini, who then turned and shot giving the Spartans a 2-0 lead.
“That second goal really was a downer,” said junior defender Neil Guzman, who converted from full-back to center-back this season. “It was hard to come back from that and I think a few of the players were a little tired and we just weren’t able to rally after that.”
Then within a two minute span, Michigan State doubled its goal total to 4-0 to put the game out of reach for the Knights.
The schedule won't get any easier for Rutgers with No. 5 Maryland set to come to the Banks on Tuesday.
“I just told my team today, if we had four different opponents, we could very well be 4-0,” Donigan said. ”But we're not, that’s the schedule we play, and those are the teams we challenge ourselves with, and we gotta find ways to compete and fight against those teams.”
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