Rutgers downs Binghamton in home opener, stays undefeated
The first year of the head coach Jim McElderry era had gotten off to an unexpected start. Despite boasting a large freshman class and a grueling three-game road trip, the Rutgers men's soccer team came into its home opener against Binghamton last night on a three-game winning streak — its first in 23 years.
The Scarlet Knights (4-0) kept the historic streak alive tonight, taking down the Bearcats (1-3) 3-2 at Yurcak Field last night for their fourth win of the season.
This was a unique matchup for Rutgers, as there are several similarities between the two teams. Both boasted inexperienced lineups and freshman goalkeepers, and neither side had demonstrated a prolific attacking side. The Knights had 2 goals from penalties, while Haris Brkovic was Binghamton’s leading scorer in 2018 with just 3 goals.
“I think we deserve this, we’ve been working hard,” said true freshman midfielder Jackson Temple. “I think the hard work is really paying off.”
Rutgers opened up the scoring in the second minute, when a corner kick from sophomore defender Thomas DeVizio was flicked in at the near post by junior midfielder and co-captain Vincent Borden.
The Knights kept control of the play for much of the first half, as the Bearcats employed a five-man backline and looked to burn Rutgers on the counter.
The Knights would pay the price in the 22nd minute, when Binghamton's Noah Luescher fired a shot from the edge of the 18-yard box. It curled into the lower left corner, and the Bearcats were level at 1.
It only took 7 minutes for Rutgers to answer back, as true freshman defender Chris Tiao played a through ball from the right wing into the box. Temple got on the end of it, and slotted it home to put the Knights up 2-1.
Binghamton responded in the 31st minute, as its own Dan Mansfield collected a saved shot at the edge of the box and fired it into the upper shelf for the second equalizer of the night.
The game winner would come in the closing seconds of the first half. After the ball bounced around the box, sophomore midfielder Pablo Avila got a volley from the corner of the area, and slotted it in the upper 90.
“After my injury, it’s good to score,” Avila said. “(But) we conceded 2 (goals), and we have to improve.”
It got choppy in the second half, as the Bearcats upped the press in the midfield to disrupt Rutgers. Neither side created any serious opportunities, as Binghamton used the offside trap to neutralize the long ball and kept the Knights off the score sheet until the final whistle.
The win is another major step forward for this program, as they now match their win total from last year and remain undefeated. It’s well past what expectations were heading into the season, and this young group Rutgers players are starting to make a name for themselves as we approach the start of Big Ten play.
“We thought the game was going to be a lot easier than it actually was,” McElderry said. “I thought Binghamton actually did a good job coming back from us scoring early and made the game really tough for us.”
What made this game such a change of pace from the first three was the attack. All 3 goals came in the opening half of play, and the Knights easily had opportunities to score more.
Rutgers will look to keep its historic streak alive at Yurcak Field on Saturday, when it hosts a Manhattan team that is 0-2 and has yet to score a goal, with shutout losses against St. John's and Lehigh.
“I thought we played with urgency, and we had some guys really playing out there with some good pace,” McElderry said. “We’ve got to do a better job of balancing the play. We got 3 goals, but we also conceded 2, so we’ve got some work to do.”
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