Rutgers prepares for upcoming season with training scrimmages
When the final whistle of the 2018 season blew in Madison, Wisconsin, the Rutgers men's soccer team found itself in a familiar position on the wrong end of a 6-3 scoreline against Wisconsin. The loss eliminated them from the Big Ten Tournament, putting the final nail in an abysmal 4-13-1 campaign.
The Scarlet Knights were once considered one of the best programs in college soccer, jumpstarting the careers of U.S. World Cup Rutgers alumni like Peter Vermes and Alexi Lalas.
But recapturing that magic proved a challenge for former head coach Dan Donigan, who had losing records for the final three years of his career. Two days after the season ended, the program announced that Donigan would not return to coach the team next season.
A month later, athletics director Pat Hobbs introduced former Fordham head coach Jim McElderry, who will take over Donigan's position. McElderry stood out due to his resume as a program builder, having taken the Rams to the last three NCAA Tournaments.
"(McElderry) brings a great vision for the future of our program and has strong recruiting ties both regionally and internationally,” Hobbs said.
The first step for McElderry was putting together his assistant coaching staff. As many coaches do when taking a new job, he brought long-time assistant Gavin Wyse with him. In addition to having nine years of experience working with McElderry, Wyse is expected to play a heavy role in recruiting efforts on the Banks.
"Gavin has a great ability to connect with people (and) build relationships,” McElderry said. “Because of this, he is an excellent recruiter.”
Five months into his Rutgers tenure, McElderry is starting to get the first recruits committed to the Knights.
The main priority was finding a long-term replacement for last year’s starting goalkeeper, senior Rafael Pereira. After transferring as a junior from Marshalltown Community College, Pereira was one of the few bright spots last year, starting every game and posting a 2.46 goals against average.
McElderry’s staff wasted no time finding a replacement, announcing the addition of James Teal, a rising junior transfer from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Teal was a rock for the Blazers last season, posting a 1.08 goals against average in his redshirt sophomore season.
"He has had a very good youth career and now has two years as a starting Division I keeper,” McElderry said. “That experience will be a huge asset to our team."
Another key addition for Rutgers is defender Chris Tiao of Randolph, New Jersey. Tiao is coming to the Knights with a loaded resume, right out of a Red Bulls Academy that has produced national team talents like Matt Miazga and Tyler Adams in recent years.
Rutgers will also be adding three-star midfielder Randy Arronis to the 2019 freshman class. Arronis spent his high school career honing his skills at the elite Players Development Academy team in Somerset, New Jersey and will serve as a much needed infusion of youth in the Knights' midfield.
As closed-door spring scrimmages get underway, the next step for McElderry is to live up to his reputation as a program-builder. When the upcoming season gets underway this fall, the key for Rutgers will be to focus on player development in search of its first winning season since 2015.
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