Rutgers remains winless in Big Ten after loss to Maryland

After the time of the match was rescheduled for a noon kickoff due to the potential inclement weather at night, the Rutgers men's soccer team had difficulties controlling offensive possessions against Maryland, as the Scarlet Knights (1-6-1, 0-3-0) fell 2-0 to the Terrapins (3-3-2, 2-1-0) at Yurcak Field on Wednesday.

The opening 10 minutes of the first half featured a surge of offense for Rutgers. Junior forward Brian Hawkins led several offensive opportunities for the Knights in the first half. Hawkins had the match’s first shot in the second minute on a breakaway that aired wide of Maryland’s goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair. 

Hawkins finished the match with three shots, placing him first on the team with 20 total shots on the season.

Also in the first 10 minutes, junior forward Jordan Hall had a chance to score inside the Terrapins’ box off a short pass from sophomore midfielder Kyle Galloway, but the shot was deflected off St. Clair. Hall finished the match with two shots, each of them on goal. 

“The first half, we were a little bit creative and more hardworking,” Hall said. “We got a few chances, but didn’t take them in the second half.”

Maryland struck first in the 13th minute of the first half, as forward Eric Matzelevich headed across from the left of the box past senior goalkeeper Rafael Pereira. It was the sophomore’s first goal of the season.

Scoring opportunities were few for the Knights in the second half. Sophomore midfielder Vincenzo Pugliese had Rutgers’ best scoring chance when he sent a lead pass to fifth-year senior forward Miles Hackett, who headed the ball above St. Clair. Pugliese also made several steals that created some offensive opportunities in the first half.

The Knights looked more fatigued as the match transitioned into the second half, as they were outshot 16-9 overall — four of which came in the second half. Rutgers had two corner kick opportunities the entire match and throw-in opportunities were present, but the Knights did not capitalize on them.

“We need to do a better job of sustaining possession and building up our attack,” said head coach Dan Donigan after the match. “That will allow us to get the rest we need to defend in spurts.”

Hackett was highly involved in the offense. He finished the match with two shots, including his missed header midway through the second half.

The Terrapins would add to their lead in the 77th minute. Midfielder William James Herve curled a pass to midfielder Amar Sejdic, who drilled a shot past Pereira. It was Sejdic’s 2nd goal of the season, tying him with Herve for the team lead. 

“I thought we started off a little slow in the second half,” Hackett said on the Rutgers offense. “We put in a good effort in the last 25, 30 minutes.”

Pereira made four saves between the pipes in the game, including a diving save in the second half, in front of a sea of Maryland forwards. His counterpart, St. Clair, also finished with four saves. 

The Knights lineup against Maryland featured several players that had not played lengthy minutes in recent matches. 

Freshman midfielder Nick Cruz started his first match of the season against the Terrapins. Donigan rotated in freshman defender Seth Turner, sophomore forward Brendan Wall and freshman forward Dominik Demcak, as well. Turner defended his man well and cleaned up a few missed Maryland scoring surges. 

“A lot of guys have gotten some chances,” Donigan said. “They have to make good on their chances when they get them.”

Rutgers continues its Big Ten slate this weekend, as they travel to Columbus, Ohio for a match against Ohio State on Sunday, Sept. 30, with a noon kickoff. 

The Buckeyes (1-6-2, 0-2-1) struggled against No. 19 Michigan, losing 3-1 in a match where Ohio State only managed five shots. In that match, midfielder Michael Prosuk scored with 5 minutes remaining in the match for his 1st goal of the season. 

“Both (of Maryland’s) goals, for me, are preventable,” Donigan said. “That’s the difference between teams in the Big Ten and where we are and where need to get to."

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