Rutgers gets ready for qualifying match in Big Ten Tournament

The yearly Big Ten Tournament has finally arrived and the Rutgers men’s soccer team will play in the opening round qualifying match for a spot to face the top seed No. 12 Michigan in the quarterfinals.

The Scarlet Knights (4-12-1, 0-8-0) will face off against Northwestern (6-11-0, 1-7-0) for a chance to advance into the playing rounds of the 2017 Big Ten Tournament, something Rutgers has not done since 2015 when the Knights won their opening round matchup but fell in the semifinals to the No. 1 seeded Ohio State.

The 2017 Big Ten Tournament will be hosted by the top-seed Wolverines in Ann Arbor.

With a win, Rutgers could begin to erase the rough season it just endured, in which it lost 12 games and went winless in the Big Ten. The same could be said for the Wildcats, losers of 11 games, but the big difference for Northwestern is that one conference win, which came at the hands of the Knights.

Just two short weeks ago, Rutgers traveled up to Evanston, Illinois for a crucial game with the Wildcats. Northwestern got the best of the Knights in the battle of two of the worst teams in the conference, easily defeating Rutgers 3-0.

Both teams got off 13 shots in the game, six in the first half and seven in the second, but the Knights could not connect, while Northwestern scored all of its goals in the first 25 minutes of the game.

Junior goalkeeper Rafael Pereira did manage to save six shots from getting past him but unfortunately, could not stop the 3 first-half goals.

Freshman defender Vincent Borden led Rutgers with four shots in the game, with two being on goal but neither hitting the back of the net.

The Knights enter the qualifying game losers of two straight home games. First, the embarrassing 6-2 loss to Penn State, the other remaining the winless team in the conference, in which the Nittany Lions scored 3 straight goals in less than 15 minutes.

Then just three days later, Columbia came into Piscataway and shut out Rutgers 2-0, handing the Knights their sixth shutout of the season, a terrible way to enter a qualifying game for a tournament.

On the other side of the ball, the Wildcats come into Friday’s qualifying match winners of four of their last six games, including their only Big Ten win of the season over Rutgers.

Last time out, Northwestern and Penn State went at it for 90 minutes with the victor claiming the No. 7 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. The Lions out-dueled the Wildcats at home and secured a 2-1 victory and an automatic spot in the tournament.

No matter the victor of the qualifying match, the team that moves on will have a tough battle against No. 1 seed Michigan, who went through the season and came out 6-1-1 in the Big Ten, claiming the Big Ten regular season title.

The Knights and Wolverines faced off nearly a month ago when Rutgers traveled to Ann Arbor, Michigan and fell on the road, 3-1. Northwestern also saw action against Michigan this season and had the exact same result as the Knights did in Ann Arbor, falling 3-1.

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

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