Rutgers goes back on road to face Wisconsin

After its match against Drexel was decided on an own goal, the Rutgers men's soccer team looks to rebound in Madison, Wis. against a familiar Big Ten opponent. 

The Scarlet Knights (2-7-1, 1-3-0) resume conference play, as they face the Wisconsin Badgers (5-4-2, 2-1-0) on Sunday, Oct. 7, for an afternoon matinee. 

In its last match, Rutgers had a good showing offensively in the first half. Junior forward Jordan Hall netted the first goal 3 minutes into the match, off of a free kick from 19 yards out. 

The goal catapulted the Manchester, England native to first place on the Big Ten scorer’s list. Hall also had a team-high four shots, two of which were on goal.

Freshman midfielder Andrew Murray had started each match for the Knights since their first win against Mount St. Mary’s at the end of August. In those seven matches, the Scotch Plains, N.J. native had not scored a goal. 

That changed on Tuesday. Murray drilled an equalizer goal off a pass from fifth-year senior forward Miles Hackett, in the 20th minute. 

The second half was one of fatigue for Rutgers. It managed only five shots that half, but finished with a minus-1 differential in total shots. 

The Dragons pressured senior goalkeeper Rafael Pereira in the last 10 minutes. Drexel was awarded five corner kicks and broke through the Knights' defensive front in the box for a header that was saved by Pereira. 

Hackett has been more involved in Rutgers’ offense the past several matches. Against the Dragons, he started his sixth match of the season, this time, playing role of the attacking midfielder, while defending his man tightly. 

His drop pass in the 20th minute enabled Murray to find the back of the netting to tie the match. Hackett finished the match with three shots. 

After starting in the Knights' overtime thriller against Ohio State last Sunday, sophomore defender Federico Gutierrez provided some quality offense off the bench against Drexel. The Montevideo, Uruguay native finished with two shots and sparked several transition plays off the Dragons’ turnovers. 

Pereira finished the match with five saves. Although he is tied for second on the Big Ten save’s list with 35, Pereira’s saves have been high-caliber saves. 

The Lisbon, Portugal native made a diving stop in the first half against an advancing Drexel front line. After the loss, Pereira noticed that Rutgers had difficulty challenging the Dragons’ set pieces, or in-bounds plays such as corner kicks and throw-ins. 

“We have been struggling defending set pieces throughout the season,” Pereira said. “The first 2 goals (Drexel) scored were off set pieces.”

The Knights face a Wisconsin team that played to a 1-1 stalemate against university rival Wisconsin-Milwaukee, a member of the Big Central Soccer Conference. 

The Badgers’ only goal came early in the first half from a header by forward Isaac Schlenker. Milwaukee would use a corner kick play to tie the match with 1 minute remaining until regulation ended. 

The match progressed into two overtime periods, where Wisconsin’s offense played nonchalant, managing one shot through the two overtime periods.

Last Sunday, the Badgers narrowly upset then-No. 5 Michigan State in an overtime decision on the Spartans’ home turf. Midfielder Alex Alfaro netted in the golden goal in the 97th minute past Michigan State’s goalkeeper Jimmy Hague, who leads the Big Ten Conference with an 81.6 save percentage. 

In that match, the Badgers were also outshot 10-6. It does not not pressure the net often, but, Wisconsin takes advantage of limited opportunities. 

The Badgers are not a high scoring team. They rank seventh in the Big Ten with 10 total goals, averaging 0.91 goals per match. But, the stats are not indicative of how hot they can start. They scored 6 minutes in against Milwaukee, who held Wisconsin to five shots the first half. 

Badgers goalkeeper Dean Cowdroy leads the Big Ten in saves (38) averaging 3.5 per match. Rutgers can use Hall’s speed in attacking him in the first half. 

“I don’t think we’re far off,” said head coach Dan Donigan on the progress of the Knights. 

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

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