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Rutgers to compete in U.S. College Development Program in spring

New head coach Jim McElderry will get a feel for the Rutgers men’s soccer team this spring, as it will compete in the 13-team U.S. Soccer College Development Program from March 30 to April 20. 

The Scarlet Knights will compete against Boston College, UConn, Monmouth, Providence and Syracuse throughout the spring season in preparation for McElderry’s first season on the Banks in the fall.

The program is in its second year, and is a crossover between U.S. Soccer and several NCAA programs. The goal of the partnership is to increase player development and help incorporate international players into the collegiate and professional setting of soccer.

The 13 teams this season will be split into two divisions: North and South. The Eagles, the Hawks and the Huskies will all make the trip to Piscataway this spring.

Rutgers will enter the preseason event without last season’s Big Ten leading scorer, former junior forward Jordan Hall, who was elected to transfer to UConn’s program after leading the team in points (30).

Hall, a Manchester, England native, will face his former teammates when UConn faces the Knights at Yurcak Field on April 14. 

Aside from Hall, Rutgers will be without fifth-year senior forward Miles Hackett, who placed second on the team in goals (3) after scoring them throughout the final five games of the season. Hackett finished his last year on the Banks with 10 points.

The Knights also lost senior goalkeeper Rafael Pereira, who averaged 3.90 saves per game and placed No. 2 in the Big Ten. The team captain finished with a 2.70 goals against average in 18 games started last season. 

Rutgers has added sophomore goalkeeper James Teal to the team in hopes of filling Pereira’s spot between the pipes. Teal, a Chattanooga, Tennessee native, spent the last two seasons with the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) where he played in 31 games and recorded 112 saves.

In 2017, Teal was among the top freshmen netminders in the country, ranking fourth in the NCAA with a .776 save percentage. He averaged 4.13 saves per game, placing sixth in the nation, and finished 13th with 1.13 goals against average.

In his final season with the Blazers, he improved his goals against average to 1.02 per game. 

"We are looking forward to (Teal) joining us in a few weeks," McElderry said, according to scarletknights.com. "He has had a very good youth career and now has two years as a starting Division I keeper. That experience will be a huge asset to our team."

In addition to Teal, the Knights are returning junior goalkeeper Joe Bruno, who only saw action in three games last season with Pereira being the designated No. 1 netminder. Bruno played a total of 48 minutes, and was first inserted into the lineup when Rutgers lost its first home game of last season to Elon, 8-1.

After last year, when the Knights finished 4-13-1 overall and 2-6 in the Big Ten, it will be interesting to see how the defense, specifically, improves under McElderry. The defense, in 2018, gave up 45 total goals to opposing teams, averaging 2.50 goals scored per game.

Since his hiring on the Banks, McElderry has brought over Gavin Wyse from his former Fordham coaching staff to serve as his assistant coach at Rutgers. McElderry and Wyse coached the Rams to three NCAA Tournaments and two Atlantic 10 titles.

Wyse was named one of the top assistant coaches in the NCAA by College Soccer News, two years ago.

The Knights will start the season on March 30 in Providence, Rhode Island, when they go up against the Friars. Rutgers will return back to the pitch in the preseason against the Eagles on April 6 at Yurcak Field.

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

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