Rutgers eases back into conference play with road bout against No. 23 Michigan
Coming off of a tough loss, the Rutgers men’s soccer team will travel up north, where it will face off against its second straight Big Ten opponent.
The Scarlet Knights (2-8-1, 0-4-0) will travel up to Ann Arbor, Mich., this weekend to face No. 23 Michigan (6-3-2, 3-1-1) on Friday night at 7 p.m. Both teams are coming off matches against Big Ten opponents, with both games having the away team capturing victory on the road.
In Piscataway last Sunday, Rutgers hosted Wisconsin in a double header with the women’s soccer team. The Knights held a 1-0 lead going into the halftime locker room but were unable to hold to the lead, giving up 3 straight goals before ultimately running out of time in the 3-2 loss at Yurcak Field.
“We are going to get everyone at practice to get ready to fight as a team,” said junior forward Thomas Dovell, who scored the lone offensive goal in the loss. “We’ve got to have everyone fighting for each other because that is the only way we are going to succeed.”
The loss to the Badgers marked the sixth loss in the past seven matches for the Knights, who were riding a five-match losing streak before capturing a win on the road at Princeton.
Also playing last Sunday afternoon, the Wolverines traveled down to State College, where they had a tough battle with Penn State. With just 37 seconds left to play in the double overtime game, Michigan scored its second goal of the game, capturing a 2-1 win on the road.
“We are just going to train hard and do what we do,” said senior forward Ryan Peterson, who assisted Dovell on his goal against Wisconsin. “We don’t change our game plan often. We stick to strategy and that’s how we are going to do it.”
Friday night's matchup will be the fifth match between the two clubs in the past four years, with the Wolverines holding a slight 2-1-1 lead in the series since Rutgers joined the Big Ten.
Back in 2014, the Knights got a rude introduction to Michigan on their home field, suffering a 3-0 loss in what marked a third straight loss and first home game in three weeks for Rutgers at the time.
A year later, the Knights and Wolverines met in Ann Arbor, where Michigan entered with some confidence at home, while Rutgers was seeking vengeance. The Knights delivered on their revenge seeking outlook, escaping Ann Arbor with a 1-0 overtime victory over the Wolverines.
“We’ve just got to get everybody on the same page,” said head coach Dan Donigan. “We had some suspensions in Tuesday night’s game at Princeton and we had some more today. To me that divides the group sometimes.”
Last season, Michigan visited Rutgers at Yurcak Field once again, but this time both teams couldn’t get the edge on one another, ending the game in a 1-1 double overtime draw. This left the series even at 1-1-1, but they did not have to wait till the next season to compete again.
The Knights and Wolverines met in the first round of the Big Ten tournament last season. Michigan was able to take the victory and subsequently the series lead on a 2-1 win in College Park, Maryland. Then-junior forward Dante Perez netted the only goal for Rutgers, but it wasn’t enough to secure a win.
“Hopefully we get everybody back on the same page this week and go back on the road to face a very difficult Michigan,” Donigan said.
The Knights may feel more confident in Friday night’s game considering it is on the road. So far this season, Rutgers has gone 2-4-1 on the road, while going 0-4-0 at Yurcak Field.
The Knights have just six games left in the regular season, as they try to pick up some wins on the remaining schedule in hopes of securing a good ranking in the Big Ten tournament.
Rutgers will return to Yurcak Field next Wednesday to host NJIT in another inter-state battle.
“We’ve got the players to do it, we’ve got the team to do it, we’ve got the mentality to do it, so we are going to go up to Michigan and come back home with three points,” Peterson said.
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