Rutgers looks to bounce back against Princeton

Riding a rough five-match losing streak, the Rutgers men’s soccer team hopes to shake off its rough start to the season in the upcoming interstate matchup.

The Scarlet Knights (1-7-1, 0-4-0) will take a short travel down south on Tuesday night, where they will face fellow New Jersey team, Princeton (1-3-2, 0-0-0), to kick off the second half of the season.

The 7 p.m. start time will kick off the third meeting in four years between Rutgers and the Tigers.

“With Princeton, we’ve always had some pretty heated and physical games,” said head coach Dan Donigan. “We are going to be prepared to go down there and play a great interstate rivalry game."

Rutgers currently trails the all-time series, with a record of 20-29-9 against Princeton, making this one of the biggest rivalries in New Jersey.

Going back to 2014, when the Knights first joined the Big Ten, Rutgers again traveled down to face Princeton, but the Tigers got the upper hand and defeated the Knights, 5-2. Former Rutgers forward Jason Wright scored both goals for the Knights, but Rutgers alumnus goalkeeper David Greczek let five balls pass him by for scores, resulting in the loss.

Last season, the Knights hosted the Tigers in Piscataway, but Princeton brought the fight to Rutgers, defeating it 4-1 and increasing its lead in the heated rivalry. Then-junior forward Dante Perez scored the lone goal for the Knights in the tough loss.

“The one thing we are looking forward to is getting the win,” Perez said. “We need to get back on the winning streak.

Rutgers is currently finishing up an extremely tough part of its schedule, which saw the team face five ranked teams. Added to its current five-match losing streak are three shutouts in five games.

In their last game, the Knights took on No. 2 Indiana on the road and suffered one of their worst losses of the season, losing 5-0 after not getting a single shot off in the first half, while ending up with just six for the game.

“This part of the season is very crucial for us because of our record, so we need to make a comeback,” Perez said.

Junior goalkeeper Rafael Pereira did manage to rack up a season-high seven saves in the loss to the Hoosiers, giving him 49 saves on the season to 27 goals allowed. Rutgers seems to have a harder time controlling the game once it comes out of the locker room at halftime, giving up 18 goals in the second period compared to just 8 in the first.

So far this season, the Knights have taken 102 shot attempts, with 41 of them being on goal. Rutgers opponents have gotten 150 shots off this season, with 79 being on target with the goal, showing something the team needs to improve on shutting down with its defense.

The Tigers are coming into Tuesday’s matchup with some needed confidence. Princeton won its first game of the season last weekend, defeating No. 21 Fairleigh Dickinson on the road.

“They’ve had a tough start just as we have, but they are coming off a very good win against Fairleigh Dickinson this weekend, while we are coming off a tough road loss,” Donigan said. “So, we can’t feel sorry for ourselves and we got to just get ready for battle.”

The Tigers had lost three of their first five games of the season, while the other two games resulted in draws.

With a win Tuesday night, or a win any night for that matter, the Knights would officially post a better record than they did a year ago, in what was an extremely rough 1-14-2 season.

Rutgers will return home next Sunday for another Big Ten matchup with Wisconsin at 3:30 p.m.

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

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