Rutgers looks to extend winning streak against Manhattan
Before the game against Elon last weekend, head coach Jim McElderry was cautiously optimistic about where his team was at through the first two games. The Rutgers men's soccer team grinded its way to two wins against Drexel and Temple on the road, but felt as if its performance still had plenty of room for improvement.
“I think we’re only in the beginning stages of where we want to be as a group,” McElderry said. “But I’m happy with how competitive the group has been, (even though) we haven’t really played well at all moments in those (first two) matches.”
A week later, and the Scarlet Knights (4-0) find themselves in a position that no one could have expected them to be in before the season. After finishing the road trip with a 1-0 win over the Phoenix, Rutgers exploded with a 3-goal first half to defeat Binghamton 3-2 and improve to 4-0 — a record the Knights haven't had since 1996.
While the team's still in the relatively easy part of the schedule — it opens up Big Ten play at Michigan next week — Rutgers is currently atop the Big Ten standings through four games, with the blue blood Indiana as the only other unbeaten team.
Their hot start is finally starting to get the attention of the rest of the country. The latest rankings currently have the Knights receiving votes and just three spots outside of the top 25.
While all of this indicates an encouraging start for McElderry’s Rutgers team, Saturday’s game at home against Manhattan won’t be a cakewalk. The Jaspers (0-2) haven’t gotten off to an ideal start, as their last game was a 3-0 shutout on the road against St John’s.
In fact, they won’t just be looking for their first win of the season — they’ll be looking for their first goal.
The Knights can’t allow this to become a trap game. Manhattan isn’t as weak as the start makes it look. The Jaspers are coming off a 12-6 season in 2018, and demonstrated that they can handle any matchup on a good day.
For its historic streak to stay alive, Rutgers will have to focus on weaknesses, especially in terms of keeping their concentration defensively and maintaining possession under pressure. But from talking to McElderry, it doesn’t seem as though complacency is an issue.
“I'm really happy with how our guys competed in the second half, which seems to be a common theme for us right now,” McElderry said. “Can they really grind out results and so far, so good, (but) we need to play better if we want to be a top team."
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