Rutgers drops close contest to Wisconsin with 2nd half collapse

The Rutgers men’s soccer team failed to capitalize on some mid-season momentum this weekend, remaining winless in the Big Ten.

The Scarlet Knights (2-8-1, 0-5-0) played at home this past Sunday afternoon, facing Wisconsin (6-2-2, 3-1-0) for the fifth time in four years. A 1-0 halftime lead was not enough for Rutgers to hold onto, as it fell behind in the second half and eventually fell, 3-2.

“We’re just disappointed,” said head coach Dan Donigan. “I thought we had a tremendous first half, but unfortunately the game got away from us in the second half.”

Sunday’s game was part of a double feature between both men’s and women’s soccer between the Knights and the Badgers. While the men’s team fell, the No. 16 women’s team prevailed over No. 12 Wisconsin 1-0 in overtime.

On the men's side, the Knights opened the game with some strong play, taking nine shots in the first half, compared to just five from the Badgers. Rutgers’ defense kept Wisconsin scoreless through the first half with some stellar defensive schemes.

In the 27th minute, junior forward Thomas Dovell scored the first goal of the game and the first goal of the season for the Moorestown, New Jersey native. Dovell’s goal was set up by senior forward Ryan Peterson, who collected the assist on the play.

“In the first half, we fought as a team, it was the best first half we’ve played all year,” Dovell said. “We could have easily put the game away then, but we tried to put away our chances and in the second half came out a little flat.”

The Knights went into the locker room up 1-0 at halftime, but things would soon change, as the Badgers came out of the locker room with a new energy.

Less than 10 minutes after the second half whistle blew, Wisconsin midfielder Mike Catalano scored the first goal of the game for the visiting team off a pass from fellow Badgers midfielder Chris Mueller.

Then in the 65th minute, Mueller and forward Tom Barlow assisted defender Elan Koenig on the second goal of the game for Wisconsin, giving the Badgers a 2-1 lead.

“It’s a tough loss,” Peterson said. “But, we’ve got to take positives away from it. We are playing really good football right now as a team and just have to tighten up some screws and little things here and there.”

Peterson and senior midfielder Erik Sa both picked up yellow cards in between the two Wisconsin goals, adding to another yellow card picked up in the first few minutes of the second half by senior midfielder Jack Young.

Mueller scored the final goal of the game for the Badgers on junior goalkeeper Rafael Pereira, a shot from 15 yards out, which gave them a 3-1 lead in the 80th minute. Mueller was assisted by forward Mark Segbers on the play.

“I think we were just a little bit too comfortable coming out (of the locker room),” Dovell said. “If we came out in the second half the same way we came out in the first half, I think we would have put this game away.”

About one minute later, Sa sent the ball into the box from the side, where it ricocheted off a Wisconsin defender and went into the back of the net. The goal was ruled an own goal by the Badgers, but the scoreboard showed 3-2 with less than 10 minutes to play.

Rutgers did not shoot the ball well in the second half compared to the first, getting off a measly three shot attempts, while seeing an explosion from Wisconsin on the offensive side of the ball, resulting in 14 second-half shots.

The Knights ran out of time on their attempt at a comeback, suffering a 3-2 loss and remaining winless at Yurcak Field this season.

“As a team, we shouldn’t be totally disappointed, but we should have easily won that game,” Peterson said.

Rutgers has now lost six of its last seven matches, with a combined scoring margin of 17-4. The Knights have just six matches left this season to try and improve their rough looking record.

Rutgers will play its second straight Big Ten game this upcoming Friday night, as it travels up to Michigan to face the Wolverines.

“Not that there is concern, but you have to ask, 'Can you do it for 90 minutes?'” Donigan said.

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

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