Rutgers crosses Hudson River to face Columbia on Tuesday

After falling to Indiana, 1-0, last weekend, the Rutgers men’s soccer team travels across the Hudson River to face Columbia in its last non-conference game of the season, Tuesday evening.

The Scarlet Knights (4-10-1, 2-5) are looking for their third win in four matches and their third non-conference victory against the Lions (6-4-1).

The two local schools have played against each other dating all the way back to 1957, with the Ivy League school leading the all-time series 13-10-3. Columbia has won 7 of the previous 8 meetings.

Rutgers played the New York school in its senior night match last season, falling 2-0 to the then-No. 14 visiting Lions.

The Knights have an edge over Columbia this year heading into Tuesday’s match. Junior forward Jordan Hall, who was not on the team last season, is a Big Ten leading scorer with 12 goals, averaging 0.8 per game.

Hall also leads the conference with 26 points and is second in shots (49). In Rutgers’ last game against the Hoosiers, he led the team with three shot attempts.

The Lions are currently tied with Cornell for second place in the Ivy League standings, while Princeton sits in first place following an undefeated season in the conference. 

Columbia has only played three games at its home of Rocco B. Commisso Soccer Stadium. Starting with their home match against the Knights, the Lions will alternate home and away matches to end the regular season. 

Their schedule has featured two ranked opponents — then-No. 11 Butler and then-No. 25 Fordham. The Ivy League school upset the Bulldogs, 2-1, in double overtime fashion on a penalty kick, but, against the in-state rival Rams, the Lions fell, 1-0, but held a 15-5 shots advantage. 

Columbia’s defense is one of the best in the conference. It has allowed a conference-best 8 goals, bolstering a 0.70 goals against average.

Goalkeeper Dylan Castanheira is a force between the pipes for the Lions. His .814 save percentage is second in the conference.

Castanheira became Columbia’s all-time leader in shutouts, as it defeated Dartmouth, 1-0, on midfielder Sebastian Gunbeyi’s golden goal in overtime. The netminder also earned his 24th career shutout.

Offensively, the Lions rank third in the Ivy League with 14 total goals on the season. Forward Kynan Rocks leads the team with 3 goals and 19 shot attempts.

Senior goalkeeper Rafael Pereira tied a career-high nine saves against Indiana last Friday. Pereira made numerous quality stops, including a kick saving midfielder Justin Rennicks’s shot in the 22nd minute. 

Rutgers had one of its best defensive matches against the Hoosiers, holding its opponent to 26 shots, before midfielder Trevor Swartz scored the game’s only goal in the 84th minute. 

The Knights played a very aggressive 90 minutes. The team was issued four yellow cards and tightly defended Indiana’s top scorer defender Andrew Gutman on transition plays.

“I don’t pay attention to the stats as much as I pay attention to giving yourself a chance to win a game,” said head coach Dan Donigan. “At the end of the day, it takes one chance to win a game.”

Rutgers was outshot 26-7, managing one shot on goal and was not awarded any corner kicks over the 90 minutes.

Fifth-year senior forward Miles Hackett has been more of a factor offensively. He had two shots against the Hooisers, and scored 2 goals against Lafayette several weeks ago.

Columbia outshot the Big Green, 16-11, and had five attempts from the corner. Dartmouth was shut down offensively, a testament to its opponents’ tight defense. 

The Knights have rotated several players in their starting 11 and have inserted some new faces at kickoff. Sophomore midfielder Tyejae Burchall made his first start against Indiana and played a fast defensive game. 

Junior defender Jake Longo made his third consecutive start last Friday and cleared out several possessions. He played the majority of the match.

A key to a Rutgers win would be to attack Castanheira with the forwards and midfielders. The pair of Hall and sophomore forward Brendan Wall led the team with a combined four shots against the Hoosiers. 

The Lions are not a fast-scoring offensive but use odd-man rushes and transition plays to score goals. The Knights’ defense faces a different offense that is one of the best in the Ivy League. 

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

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