Rutgers play Badgers in Madison
Coming off a resilient comeback that just fell short of a win, the Rutgers men’s soccer team looks to get back on track as it heads to Madison, Wisconsin, Saturday to resume conference play against the Badgers.
But the Scarlet Knights (0-7-1, 0-3-1) face a different kind of team this weekend.
Unlike Florida Gulf Coast’s high-octane offense, Wisconsin sports a totally different look.
Wisconsin’s goalkeeper Phillip Schilling is averaging a .78 goals-against-average — good for second in the Big Ten — as well as a .760 save percentage that ranks third in the Big Ten.
The Badgers are 4-2-1 through their first seven games this season but haven’t played anywhere near as tough of a schedule as Rutgers has.
Wisconsin beat Michigan 2-1 and took down Northwestern by the same score, but lost to Penn State 2-1 in its first three games in Big Ten play.
Although the Knights are used to facing top 25 teams every game, that doesn't make them any more prepared for Saturday’s match.
Head coach Dan Donigan will have his team continue to work on reducing the mistakes causing his team to concede goals.
“(We're) continuing to work, continuing to battle (and) trying to eliminate those moments in the game or those spans in the game where we give up those kinda goals and those kinda opportunities to good teams," Donigan said. "We have no weak games so our guys need to find ways to put 90 minutes together or 110 minutes together like they did against Indiana.”
A bright side to Rutgers' winless record is the five goals it was able to put up against No. 15 FGCU, three of which coming off the feet of junior forward Jason Wright.
Wright said he felt his play starting to come around after practice Monday after he was able to take five shots against Indiana.
That strong play continued giving the Knights life in Tuesday’s loss.
Wright said after Tuesday’s loss that allowing four goals during the first 15 minutes was “shocking," but as soon as Rutgers got the ball rolling, it went on to dictate to rest of the game.
The Knights was outshot 13-8 in the first half against the Eagles but then went on to dominate in the second half, outshooting FGCU 12-5.
But the early goals given up were too much to come back from, a hole too deep for them to dig themselves out of.
After the loss, junior defender Neil Guzman said that his team cannot keep allowing early goals the rest of the season, noting how important he thinks the first and last five minutes of each half are.
Throughout the first 15 minutes of their first eight games this season, the Knights have conceded nine goals
Donigan said it's important for his team to play up to the same standard of their capabilities and not replicate the mistakes from the last game's first 15 minutes of the match.
“I don’t know what the answer is,” Donigan said. “We can talk to them, we can look at the video, we can get 'em all juiced up when we go to Wisconsin, but at the end of the day, you gotta go out there and you gotta do what you know you're capable of doing. Not what you did the first 15 minutes against FGCU.”
As Rutgers tries to bounce back from its dreadful start, there are positives in the making.
But one thing Donigan said — and will likely continue to say — is that his players need to be reliable.
“You gotta do the job when you’re out there,” Donigan said. “You can’t be inconsistent in your performance — it’s as simple as that.”
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