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Rutgers takes break from conference play with formidable foe in Canisius

In search of some answers to its early season woes, the Rutgers men’s soccer team hopes to see things a little more clearly on Tuesday night.

Coming off their third straight loss and second straight shutout, the Scarlet Knights (1-5-1, 0-3-0) will look to bounce back against Canisius (5-1-0, 0-0-0). This will be the first meeting between the Knights and the Golden Griffins.

Rutgers has had a difficult time scoring so far this season, scoring 8 goals over the first seven games of the season. Although this averages to more than 1 goal per game, the Knights haven’t scored in their last two games, and 5 of their 8 goals were in the same game during their win against Oral Roberts.

“It’s still early, we’ve still got over half the season to go,” said head coach Dan Donigan. “But certainly, we’ve still got some significant challenges in front of us. The mindset of the team is still good, they are still going to work, they are still going to battle, because they know in reality, they have the toughest schedule in the country.”

The Knights faced off against Michigan State, Maryland and Ohio State in a three-game interconference frenzy, though Rutgers was unable to capitalize on its two opportunities at home and its one road game.

In the last game against the Buckeyes, the Knights went into their second straight halftime break tied at 0-0 and was still in good position to take a lead. After some aggressive play that led to a penalty kick in the goalie box, Rutgers could not hold on and fell to Ohio State, 1-0.

Senior midfield-forward Dante Perez picked up a red card toward the end of Sunday afternoon’s game, which will leave him suspended for the matchup versus Canisius. Senior forward Ryan Peterson picked up his fifth yellow card as well, so he will be left on the sidelines for Tuesday night’s game as well.

Their struggles can be partially attributed to their extremely tough Big Ten schedule. Rutgers has faced No. 4 Wake Forest, No. 8 North Carolina, and two ranked Big Ten foes, No. 3 Maryland and No. 13 Michigan State.

“Practice is really going to be about recovery,” Donigan said. “Every game is a little different, so I’m not too worried about us generating opportunities to score goals. I think we will do that against Canisius.”

The Griffins are red hot coming into Knight territory, as they are winners of five straight games after a season opening loss. Since losing 2-0 to Stony Brook, Canisius has outscored its five opponents 17-4, including three shutouts.

In their last game, the Griffins have faced a struggling Cornell team looking for a win. After both teams went into the locker room having notched a goal, Canisius scored a penalty kick in the 55th minute and rode that goal to another victory.

Junior goalkeeper Rafael Pereira has 36 saves so far this season, but has also seen 20 balls go past him into the back of the net. Fifth-year senior Ethan Vanacore-Decker still leads the Knights in most offensive categories, including goals, points, shots and assists, of which he is tied for first in with Perez and redshirt junior forward Miles Hackett.

“It’s really just a matter of eliminating those little mistakes that cause us problems at any point of the game,” Donigan said. “We’ve just got to clean some of those things up defensively, because I’m pretty confident we will generate the chances to score goals.”

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

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