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Knights host Northwestern as both teams limp to finish line of regular season

<p>Head coach Dan Donigan said this has been his toughest season of his career as a coach.</p>

Head coach Dan Donigan said this has been his toughest season of his career as a coach.

The Rutgers men’s soccer team looks to bounce back after Tuesday’s loss to in-state rival Princeton as Big Ten play continues, hosting Northwestern (2-9-1) Friday.

The Scarlet Knights' (0-9-2) match up is with a team that is almost identical to their own. The Wildcats and Knights are the two teams in the Big Ten with the least shots per game, goals per game, total goals and total points.

Northwestern has only eight goals out of its 107 shots attempted. Rutgers, on the other hand, has nine goals to counter its 105 shots. The Knights also lead the Wildcats in goals scored per game but have allowed more goals allowed per contest.

Northwestern goalkeeper Francisco Tomasino garners a 1.89 goal-against-average, which is good for eighth in a competitive Big Ten conference.

Rutgers only scored three goals in its past three games and its record is still the worst in the Big Ten. But head coach Dan Donigan expects his team to only focus on the task at hand.

“Very important, crucial game within the conference so we just gotta focus on that and not worry about that we haven’t won a game yet,” Donigan said. “We just gotta think about Friday right now.”

During Tuesday’s game against Princeton, senior Tyler Morris re-aggravated a shoulder injury and junior forward Dante Perez sustained an injury after scoring the lone goal.

Donigan said after Tuesday’s contest that the two players have been playing hurt and he hopes they can return back for Friday’s game.

“Not good, not good,” Donigan said when asked about the health of Morris and Perez. “I mean it is what it is, those guys have given a lot this season. This season's taking a lot out of a lot of our guys, but those two guys have given everything they can right now. Hopefully both of those guys can bounce back for Friday, but certainly they’re not 100 percent.”

Also after the Princeton loss, Donigan voiced his concern with how his players are dealing with the tough season. He said that his players are young and still developing, and how his guys handle the losses will be crucial to how they will bounce back.

“They’re young players, they're still their developing, still learning,” Donigan said. “Nobody wants to ever experience what we're kinda going through right now. How you handle that psychologically and mentally is gonna be very important (on) how you perform the next game.”

The Wildcats match is the second to last Big Ten game left for the Knights this season, and the game against Northwestern Friday is a big one.

“I’ve been through a lot of seasons. This is obviously probably the most difficult season in my coaching career, hopefully will be the most difficult season," Donigan said. "But we just gotta move on and live for the next day and live for the next chance and that’s Friday.”

For updates on the Rutgers men's soccer team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

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