Rutgers looks to end skid against Howard

The Rutgers men's soccer team played its fifth Big Ten game of the season against a talented Wisconsin team that upset No. 5 Michigan State the week before. But, the Scarlet Knights (2-8-1, 1-4-0) were dominated, 4-2, by the Badgers (6-4-2, 3-1-0) last Sunday in Madison.

Junior forward Jordan Hall netted the 2 goals for Rutgers, scoring 1 in each half. The Manchester, England native has scored 5 goals in the last three matches, giving him a 3-goal advantage for the Big Ten’s top scorer.

Wisconsin took a 1-0 lead 6 minutes into the match, as defender Robin Olofsson netted a short header near the goal line past the Knights' senior goalkeeper Rafael Pereira, for his 1st goal of the season. The Badgers would add to their lead in the 23rd minute, as forward Noah Melick scored his first of 2 goals of the match, from 25 yards out.

Although the first half was primarily controlled by Wisconsin, Rutgers had several offensive opportunities. The Knights were awarded three corner kicks in the first half, one more than the Badgers were given. 

Rutgers’ first chance to score came in the 11th minute. Fifth-year senior forward Miles Hackett’s shot off freshman defender Thomas DeVizio’s corner kick was saved by Wisconsin goalkeeper Dean Cowdroy. 

The team finally came away with a goal in the 32nd minute, when Hackett assisted the ball to Hall who drained it in the back of the net to make it 2-1.

After the second half started, the Badgers jumped out to another 2-goal lead, 4 minutes in. Melick netted his 2nd goal of the game and assisted on Wisconsin's last goal, scored 3 minutes later off a shot from forward Andrew Akindele. He finished the match tied for the team lead in shots (three), with the Badgers’ other scorer, Melick. 

Hall capitalized on a Wisconsin defensive-lapse in the 84th minute, leading to his 2nd goal of the match. He led the match with five shots, three of which were on goal. 

Pereira made five saves between the pipes for the Knights, two more than his counterpart on the opposite field. 

“Most goals were given up in the first 5 minutes or the last 5 minutes of the half,” said head coach Dan Donigan. “Costly mistakes proved to be the difference in the game.”

Donigan went with a different starting group and rotated in several substitutes. Sophomore midfielder Aaron Acloque played in place of freshman midfielder Nick Cruz, who started the previous three matches. Acloque played a lengthy 80 minutes in his seventh start of the season.

Sophomore forward Brendan Wall made his second straight start for Rutgers. The forward played 19 minutes. 

One of the substitutes who made his debut was freshman defender Seth Turner, who played a season-high 19 minutes and had his first shot of the season blocked late in the second half. 

“(Wisconsin) was really good in the midfield,” Hall said on the Badgers’ offensive chances. “They were able to play some passes from behind.”

The Knights shift their attention for their second non-conference match in between their Big Ten schedule, as they will host Howard, a member of the Sun Belt Conference for men’s soccer, tonight. 

The match will be Rutgers’ first of two home matches that it will play at Yurcak Field this week. The Knights will host Northwestern on Friday, Oct. 12, as well.

The Bisons (1-5-3, 0-1-0) have not won a decision since their first match in late August, against Bryant. Last week, Howard dropped its conference opener to Georgia Southern, 2-1. 

In that match, the Bisons outshot their opponent 13-10 and had several opportunities to tie the match. Forward Victor Guirma scored the lone goal in the first half and led the match with three shots. Guirma is second in the Sun Belt Conference with 11 points. 

In its last five matches, Rutgers has only managed one win against Ohio State, with a Hall golden goal. A win against Howard could be a momentum booster for the Knights, who are still searching for their first Yurcak Field win. 

“We made our own bed in the sense that we gave up those early goals in each half,” Donigan said. “We couldn’t do enough to get ourselves back into (the match).”

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

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