Rutgers, Michigan play to draw as Knights remain winless
The match between the Rutgers men's soccer team and Michigan resembled a heavyweight title fight – both battling punch-for-punch waiting for the other to drop.
Despite a combined 42 shots attempted, only two goals were scored on a night where the momentum constantly shifted between both squads. The match went the full 110 minutes to try and decide a winner but it ended in a 1-1 draw.
“Everybody played hard,” said head coach Dan Donigan. “The speed of play was fast (and) it was physical ... but, again, a lot of resilience (was) shown by my guys. I’m very proud of the effort and I think they deserved the three points, but Michigan could probably say the same thing.”
The Wolverines (2-6-4, 1-4-1) began the game controlling the tempo, attempting a shot on goal just two minutes into the game that deflected off of the goalpost.
Though it looked like the Scarlet Knights (0-8-2, 0-4-2) were no match for Michigan early in the game, the match soon became competitive until the final whistle.
In the 15th minute, Jack Hallahan received a cross from Francis Atuahene and connected on a scorching shot to give the Wolverines a 1-0 lead.
Although Michigan had more shots for the majority of the first frame, the Knights found a rhythm and had numerous chances towards the middle portion of the half.
Junior defender Niel Guzman reflected on the team's slow start, which hindered their chances in the opening half hour.
“I think we started off a little slow the first 20 minutes,” Guzman said. “I think with perseverance, we fought and battled throughout the match.”
Rutgers remained goalless until the 37th minute when senior defender Ross Tetro attempted a cross that deflected to junior midfielder Dante Perez, who launched a shot that was cleared out and found Guzman, who slotted away the equalizer to level the score at 1-1.
“I was at the right place at the tight time,” Guzman said of his goal.
The Wolverines outshot the Knights 10-6 in the first frame, but the enormous amount of missed opportunities from Michigan kept Rutgers in the game, as both sides headed into the halftime break tied up at one apiece.
In contrast to the first half, the Knights started the second half with full control.
In the opening minutes of the second half, junior forward Ryan Peterson sped down the right flank, giving himself a one-on-one matchup with Wolverines goalkeeper Evan Louro. Peterson shot the ball, which then hit the crossbar, setting the tone for the majority of the time remaining.
Throughout the entire second half, Rutgers had multiple opportunities it could not capitalize on, essentially mirroring Michigan's play in the first half.
Still tied in the closing minutes, Guzman had a golden opportunity to nab the winner, but his header caromed off the crossbar. Neither team could do anything to break the deadlock, and the sides geared up for overtime.
The Knights came out swinging early in the first overtime.
Sophomore midfielder Thomas Dovell took a shot that was blocked and then recovered by Perez, who missed from 3 yards out on an open goal, which was Rutgers' best chance all night.
In a game where the Knights were continuing to push the ball, create opportunities on offense, control the tempo and play outstanding defense, no balls seemed to roll in their favor.
The last chance for either side came when Michigan’s Atuahene skated past a diving Greczek, leaving an open net. Fifth-year senior defender Tyler Morris saved the day for the Knights, keeping the score level with a goal-line clearance.
“I’m just happy with the boys' effort. We were unfortunate to (not) get the 'W,' but we got the tie, which is a big thing in a big conference,” Greczek said. “I’m just proud Tyler (Morris) stuck it through, everyone was just committed to the full 90 and then overtime. There were no mental lapses, which is a positive thing, and I'm just happy we were able to stay as a unit and play the full game.”
Rutgers walked away with a draw, good for a point in the Big Ten Conference. With in-state rival Princeton coming into town Tuesday night, the Knights must carry their momentum into their next games to enter the conference tournament in their best form of the season.
“I thought it was a very high-paced, high-energy game,” Donigan said. “I respect Michigan. I think they’re a very good team. I think they play quality soccer. They’re very difficult to deal with and defensively they’re very solid. I thought we created enough to get the game winner, but again, we were unlucky, and hopefully that'll turn around by Tuesday."
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