Late collapse prevents Rutgers from earning first win
Everything was in place for the Rutgers men’s soccer team to walk away with its first win Friday, the same night it honored its all-time wins leading ex-head coach Bob Reasso.
But after holding a 1-0 lead for 64 minutes of the game, the Scarlet Knights conceded a goal with just two minutes remaining in regulation time to allow Northwestern to creep its way back into the game.
And with 44 seconds left in the first overtime, Wildcats freshman Mattias Tomasino put one past Knights goalkeeper David Greczek to turn the night into a 12th-straight loss for Rutgers, who still remains without a win.
“It’s almost comical to me that this happened to us,” said head coach Dan Donigan. “We’re two minutes and 17 seconds away from three points in the conference, desperation kinda game for both teams and it’s really unfortunate.”
The Knights controlled the tempo early in the game, establishing their presence by getting off shots and connecting on fluid passes.
In the 24th minute of the game, junior forward Jason Wright juked a defender while driving into the box and shot the ball through another two defenders and pass a diving Francisco Tomasino, landing the ball in the upper corner of the goal to give Rutgers a 1-0 lead.
The Knights entered the half with its first lead of the season but was tied in shots with nine apiece.
A lot was at stake for both teams Friday night, as the season continues to dwindle down and the number of conference games decreasing.
If Rutgers won, it would jump Michigan and Northwestern in the Big Ten standings, grasping sole possession of seventh place.
As the second half started, what was once 45 minutes to hold off an equally hungry Wildcats team, trickled down to 30, 20 and then 10. But the time couldn’t expire quick enough and with two minutes remaining, a scramble in the box turned into a sea full of red in awe as the team in purple ruined a story book ending in Piscataway, tying the game up at one a piece.
After the game, Wright said he believes his team didn’t have the drive to close out what should have been their game to win.
“I’m going to be honest, the fight, that little extra energy to win, I didn’t think we showed it particularly well with two minutes to go,” Wright said. “A team that hasn’t won a game, two minutes to go, that inner gut, that fire, that does everything to win, I think we didn’t show that in the last two minutes in the game when it needed to be (present).”
Both teams then took the field for the first overtime, but it wouldn’t be long before a visiting Wildcat team that was contained for the majority of the game, exploded in excitement as Tomasino put the ball into the back of the net to lift Northwestern to victory.
Donigan said goals given up in the first five minutes and last five minutes are the most common goals to score and his team must manage the game better.
“I give credit to Northwestern for continuing to battle,” Donigan said. “We're so thin, our depth isn’t there. Guys get a little tired, guys get fatigued and that’s the game of soccer, you give up late goals ... So those are things that you have to manage, you have to get through. We can make all the excuses that we want but at the end of the day, we didn’t do the job again.”
With the loss Friday night, the Knights remained winless as their record droped to 0-10-2. NJIT will visit the banks on Tuesday, and Rutgers must remain positive and keep pushing for its first win.
“As coach says, ‘its been our season’ just unfortunate,” Wright said. “Out of luck and I don’t know, I don’t know to be honest we’re just having a tough time. We just have to keep grinding and keep working.”
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