Rutgers earns come-from-behind win over Drexel

The Rutgers men's soccer team played the second game in a three-game road trip Monday night, defeating Drexel 2-1 in Philadelphia.

The Dragons (0-2) came into this one with something to prove, having suffered a gut-wrenching 2-1 overtime defeat at the hands of Binghamton last Friday.

Drexel capitalized on the first major opportunity of the game in the 14th minute, when their own Chris Donovan slotted a pass from teammate Pat Murphy into the left corner to take an early 1-0 lead.

The Scarlet Knights (2-0) had a golden opportunity to equalize in the 34th minute, when sophomore midfielder Valentino Ambrosio fired true freshman defender Chris Tiao’s cross over the crossbar from the edge of the 6-yard box. 

That would end up as the only shot of the half for Rutgers, who have struggled to create opportunities from the run of play so far this season. 

Ambrosio would miss another great chance in the 50th minute, firing a cross from Tiao over the right post. The Dragons would start an attack off the goal kick, but Kwesi Allen’s shot from the edge of the 18 was parried away by freshman goalkeeper Oren Asher.

The Knights would earn a second half penalty for the second straight game, and true freshman midfielder Jørgen Wisth Lie would convert from the spot to draw Rutgers' level in the 60th minute.

Asher would come up with a clutch save in the 75th minute, diving to the right post to stop a well-placed shot from Drexel's Elliott Swigert.

The Knights would get the go-ahead goal in the 77th minute. After the Dragons' keeper Stephen Kopsachilis came off his line, Ambrosio laid it off for true freshman midfielder Jackson Temple, who capitalized on the space to put Rutgers ahead.

"I saw all the guys running towards Val (Ambrosio) because he had a good chance. I was trying to read the second ball. It popped out to me and I was ready for it. I saw the keeper diving low, so I hit it high," Temple said. "We believed in ourselves even though we were down a goal."

In the season opener against Temple, head coach Jim McElderry set up defensively with a five-man backline, emphasizing a compact defensive shape over a prolific attack. The Knights maintained this defensive shape yet again, relying on players like Tiao and Ambrosio to jumpstart Rutgers on the counterattacks.

Asher continued his impressive form in goal for the Knights, as the freshman had four saves against Drexel. Despite conceding possession for much of live action, Asher’s defense has only allowed just one goal in its opening two games. While Rutgers has yet to take on ranked opponents, it's growing increasingly apparent that the bunker-and-counter will be the go-to strategy for McElderry’s first year on the Banks.

The Knights will wrap up their opening road trip on Saturday night, as they head to North Carolina to take on Elon in search of their third straight win. 

"I thought they outplayed us in the first half. It wasn't that our guys weren't trying hard, it was just that they played a little bit better. Second half, our guys started to be a hair more competitive," McElderry said. "They got after it a little bit more and not think so much, just react and make plays. We had guys all over the field that stepped up and made plays."

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

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