Rutgers falls 2-1 to No. 5 Michigan State

The Rutgers men's soccer team had several chances to take the lead against No. 5 Michigan State on its home field, where the team could have caused the upset and flipped the switch on its season.

Fifth-year senior forward Miles Hackett’s equalizer header was called offsides with several minutes remaining in the second half, and the Scarlet Knights (1-5-1, 0-2) lost their second Big Ten match of the season to the undefeated Spartans (7-0-2, 1-0), 2-1. 

Rutgers’ trend of attacking in the second half continued in this match. The team’s offense managed three shots in the first half. 

The Knights played an aggressive game, totaling 10 fouls alone in that half, finishing with 17 fouls compared to Michigan State’s 7.

The Spartans scored the 1st goal of the match in the 64th minute, off a penalty shot from Ryan Sierakowski. Senior goalkeeper Rafael Pereira guessed the forward would shoot to his left, but Sierakowski drilled a stutter step shot to his right. 

He was awarded the penalty kick after a handball in the goalkeepers' box. Sierakowski also led Michigan State's first real offensive chance in the 19th minute and connected with the crossbar in the final minutes of the first half.

Sierakowski would score his 2nd goal of the game in the 80th minute. Forward DeJuan Jones sent a long lead pass that Sierakowski booted past Pereira from 8 yards out. 

That was his 5th goal of the season, putting him first in points for the Spartans. He finished the match with a game-leading eight shots, contributing to his team's total of 15 shots on the night.

Rutgers would find the net in the 83rd minute, when junior forward Jordan Hall drilled a shot from 7 yards out off a pass from Hackett for his 4th goal of the season. That was the Manchester, England native’s only shot of the game, a result of the tight Michigan State defensive coverage. 

“I thought we showed a lot of character and resilience (throughout the match)” said head coach Dan Donigan after the match. “Unfortunately, we just came up short.”

Spartan goalkeeper Jimmy Hague made only one save on the day, facing 10 shots. Pereira made three saves for the Knights, including a diving save against Sierakowski in the 19th minute. 

He was worked more in the first half, where Michigan State was awarded four corner kicks. The Spartans finished with seven as opposed to Rutgers’ three for the match.

“In the second half, they did not have a lot of chances,” Pereira said, reflecting on the match. “(Michigan State) had the PK, an unfortunate call and a missed play (that caused the 2nd goal).”

Junior forward Brian Hawkins led multiple Knights offensive chances, tallying a team high five shots, half of Rutgers' 10 total shots for the night. 

Hawkins had the majority of his shots in the second half, when the Knights were only outshot 8-7.

“Changes at halftime were able to create chances for (the team),” Hawkins said on creating offensive scoring opportunities in the second half. “That made me do what I do off the ball because they could get on the ball.”

Rutgers defended the Michigan State midfield particularly well. It held midfielder Giuseppe Barone, usually a setup man, to one shot the entire match. His older brother, forward Hunter Barone, was held to one shot as well. 

Forward Farai Mutatu, who scored the game winning goal against No. 8 Notre Dame in the Spartans’ prior match, did not start against the Knights. He had a quiet match, as he did not attempt a shot or play the majority of the match. 

Rutgers, still searching for its first home and Big Ten win, will head back to Yurcak Field for a midweek match against Maryland on Wednesday, Sept. 26, at 7 p.m. 

The Terrapins (2-3-2) travel to the Banks from a tough 2-1 home overtime loss against Wisconsin. The Badgers scored 2 unanswered goals to snap a Maryland two-match win streak. 

“I think we learned a lot about ourselves, going on the road against one of the best teams in the country,” Donigan said. 

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

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