Rutgers beats Temple behind baby Knights
The Jim McElderry era got underway in Philadelphia with a win tonight, as the Rutgers men's soccer team weathered a persistent Temple attack in the second half to defeat the Owls (0-1) 1-0 in the 2019 season opener.
The first half was mostly defined by sloppy, stagnant play. Neither side really took control of the game, with the Scarlet Knights (1-0) getting the only shot on goal of the half in the 19th minute, when junior midfielder Vincenzo Pugliese sent a cross to the far post to junior midfielder Kyle Galloway, who hit it right into the hands of Temple's Simon Lefebvre.
The game would open up in the 50th minute, when Rutgers earned a penalty kick. Freshman midfielder Jørgen Wisth Lie converted from the spot to get the Knights a crucial second half lead.
Rutgers would focus its efforts on the defensive side of the ball for the remaining 39 minutes of play, facing 12 shots in the second half. The Knights were able to maintain their shape defensively, forcing the Owls to get opportunities mainly through crosses and set pieces.
Temple got a golden opportunity to tie in the 87th minute, as the Owl's Mickael Borger fired a curling shot from the edge of the 18 that was parried away by Asher. Asher would come up with the biggest save in the final minute of play, stopping Temple's Leandros Lillis at point blank range from the penalty spot to preserve the shutout.
It’s safe to say that Asher is the man of the match, having five critical saves in a match that saw Rutgers outshot by a 15 to 6 margin. The defense did a good job of forcing low-percentage opportunities, but Asher was able to come up with the save whenever they got on target.
The Knights relied heavily on freshmen to get the win tonight, as McElderry started six freshmen against the Owls. In addition to Lie and Asher, freshmen defenders Hugo Le Guennec and Chris Tiao and midfielders Jackson Temple and Randy Arronis got the nod. Two more freshmen midfielders came off the bench, as Anthony O’Donnell and Keegan Vedder earned minutes in reserve duty for Rutgers.
The win marks a nice confidence boost for a rebuilding a Knights team that saw 11 freshmen join at the start of the season. The main task at this point for McElderry is to try and integrate these young and inexperienced players into a team that has to compete in one of the most challenging conferences in college soccer.
At this point, the major question is how much success can this staff get out of a program that's coming off a cellar-dwelling four-win campaign in 2018.
For updates on the Rutgers men's soccer team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.
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