Rutgers falls to Drexel on 2nd half own goal

After picking up its first Big Ten win only three days ago against Ohio State, the Rutgers men's soccer team suffered a tight loss on its own turf against Drexel. 

The Scarlet Knights (2-7-1, 1-3) scored 2 goals in the first half, but conceded an own goal in the second half, as they fell 3-2 to the visiting Dragons (7-2-2, 1-2-1) in non conference play.

The match started off hot for both teams. Junior forward Jordan Hall put Rutgers on the board in the third minute. The Manchester, England native curled in a free kick past Drexel’s goalkeeper Stephen Kopsachilis. The goal was Hall’s 7th of the season, placing him first on the Big Ten scoring list.

It would only take the Dragons a few minutes to answer. Forward Kwesi Allen sent a direct shot from a far 25 yards past Knights senior goalkeeper Rafael Pereira. 

Three minutes later, they would gain their first lead, as forward Chris Donovan scored on a header from defender Michael McCarthy. Allen had several more opportunities to score, finishing with a game-high five shots, two of them on goal.

Rutgers would continue the back-and-forth scoring in the first half. Freshman midfielder Andrew Murray netted his 1st career goal, off a drop pass from fifth-year senior forward Miles Hackett. The goal was also Murray’s first shot of the season through eight matches. 

Heading into the second half, the Knights saw more offensive opportunities. Hall managed a tightly contested shot, easily saved by Kopsachilis. Then just 3 minutes later, Hackett broke through Drexel’s defense but had his shot blocked by the goalkeeper.

The Dragons capitalized off a Rutgers own goal in the 58th minute. A Drexel cross was sent deep into the box, but the ball was deflected off a Knights defender and skirted past Pereira. 

In the final 10 minutes of the match, the Dragons conceded five corner kicks, each attempted by midfielder Patrick Murphy. Several of Drexel’s shots off those inbound plays sailed high of the Rutgers goal.

The Dragons outshot the Knights 15-14, with eight of those shots on goal. Drexel was able to penetrate through the Rutgers defense by attacking Pereira on transition plays, and they finished with eight corner kicks.

The Knights played a gritty match, recording 20 fouls compared to their opponents’ seven. Four Rutgers players were issued a yellow card.

“We changed our formation (from the Ohio State game) to three in the back,” said head coach Dan Donigan on the formation changes from the team’s last match.

Sophomore forward Brendan Wall started his first match after an impressive performance against the Buckeyes, where he was highly involved in the Knights’ scoring chances. Wall finished with two shots and played 73 minutes. He also had several successful crosses that sparked some offensive chances.

Pereira made five saves in the match, two more than his Dragons counterpart, including a diving stop against Drexel’s Donovan midway through the first half. 

“We couldn’t defend set pieces,” Pereira said. “They figured out our system of playing guys out wide.”

Rutgers only managed five shots on goal in the second half, with the majority of their shots coming in the first half. Hackett was active on many of the Knights’ scoring chances. The Montclair, N.J. native finished with three shots, one of which was on goal. 

Hall, the first goal scorer, finished with a team leading four shots, a result of his ability to create open space through some tight defense by the Dragons.

“I think we had a lot of chances in the first and second half,” Murray said on Rutgers’ offensive performance. “Unfortunately, we did not score on them, but we have to bury them next time.”

The Knights will resume Big Ten play on Sunday, Oct. 7, as it prepares for an away match against Wisconsin (5-4-1, 2-1). The Badgers narrowly upset No. 5 Michigan State on the road, handing the Spartans’ their first loss of the season. 

The win was their third consecutive road win. Wisconsin midfielder Alex Alfaro scored off a deflection to put away the match in overtime. The Badgers host Milwaukee on Wednesday, before Rutgers travels to Madison. 

“I think we’re making progress,” Donigan said. “We just have to find a way to win close games against tough matches like this.”

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

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