Rutgers sets for second straight ranked opponent in No. 5 Maryland

For the second straight game, the Rutgers men’s soccer team will take on a Big Ten opponent, as the season starts to pick up speed in the coming weeks.

Coming off a loss to No. 13 Michigan State in the Big Ten opener last Friday, the Scarlet Knights (1-3-1, 0-1-0) will travel to College Park, Maryland to take on the No. 5 Terrapins (4-0-1, 0-0-1) at 8 p.m. this Tuesday night.

Rutgers fell to the Spartans last Friday night after both teams were scoreless at halftime, but the visitors put two balls in the goal in the second half, while the Knights could only find the back of the net once. This marked the third straight loss to Michigan State for Rutgers.

“It was good to get into Big Ten play, but it wasn’t the result we wanted,” said senior forward Ryan Peterson, who scored the lone goal for Rutgers on a penalty kick in the 82nd minute. “We were working hard, giving it everything we had but got pretty unlucky. They had a really good goalkeeper that was keeping them ahead in the game, but we never got rattled and fought for 90 minutes.”

The Knights haven’t fared any better against Maryland either in recent years, having lost all four games against the Terps since joining the Big Ten in 2014. Combining the four games, the Terrapins have outscored Rutgers, 10-4.

Back in 2014, the Knights and Maryland met twice in what would be Rutgers’ last three games of the season. First, Rutgers and the Terps finished the regular season at Yurcak Field, with the Terrapins getting a narrow 3-2 victory.

“Look, I think we are making progress,” said head coach Dan Donigan. “I think we’ve really grown and shown a lot of progress in the last couple of weekends. Last game we generated a good amount of offensive opportunities for ourselves, we just couldn’t get that finish that we needed.”

Then just four days later, the teams met again in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament, which coincidentally was played on Maryland’s home field. Rutgers couldn’t give as strong of a performance as just a few days before, surrendering its season in a 2-0 loss to Maryland.

A year later, the two squads met again for the regular season finale and again, the Terrapins took down the Knights in simple fashion, pulling in a 3-1 victory on their home field.

“We know each other very well,” Donigan said. “We know what they have. They are a very good, very dangerous, very athletic group on the field. So, we are going to have to try and disrupt them offensively and then pick and choose when we will get opportunities ourselves.”

Last year’s game gives Tuesday night some added flare to this conference rivalry. With the series returning to Piscataway, Rutgers and Maryland engaged in a heated battle that took two overtimes to settle.

Then junior midfield forward Dante Perez put in an equalizing goal after Maryland started things off. From then on, the two teams battled it out, each trying to take advantage and pull out with the victory. Ultimately, the Terps scored the golden goal in the second overtime period and stole a victory on the road.

“All three of our loses are against highly ranked teams, so that is something that could be expected, but we want to start knocking those kinds of teams off,” Donigan said.

Maryland is currently on a near-perfect start to the new season. After winning four straight games to start the season, including one against No. 15 UCLA, the No. 5 Terps received a visit from No. 4 Indiana last Friday.

Both teams battled hard and it was clear that the competition on both sides was fierce, as neither teams budged on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, ultimately finishing the game with 0-0 on the scoreboard after two overtime periods.

Like Indiana, who will face Penn State after Tuesday’s game, the Knights will play its third straight Big Ten game next Sunday against Ohio State.

“We’ve got this game coming up that we are very capable of winning and we are just going to go out and give it everything we’ve got,” Peterson said.

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

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