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Rutgers draws Michigan after weather suspends play

The last time the Rutgers men's soccer team played a Big Ten game, it was playing out the string of a four-win season with a loss to Penn State. 

Ten months later, the No. 24 Scarlet Knights (5-0-2) opened conference play as a top-25 team.

"Another good performance from the boys,” said head coach Jim McElderry. “We conceded early, but never let that affect the rest of the game.”

And Rutgers played like one too, earning a hard-fought 1-1 draw against Michigan in Ann Arbor. It was an unusual draw, as play was stopped in the 71st minute due to lighting. After a 44-minute delay, the match was called.

The Wolverines (3-2-2) got on the board in the 3rd minute when their own Christian Pulselli found Nebojsa Popovic at the edge of the six, beating true freshman goalkeeper Oren Asher from close range.

The Knights would draw a penalty kick in the 25th minute after a foul was called off a corner kick. True freshman midfielder Jørgen Wisth Lie converted from the spot, placing a powerful shot just inside the right goalpost. The goal makes him a perfect 3-for-3 on penalty kicks in his freshman season.

“I thought we were good in the first half for long periods of time,” McElderry said. “Michigan has quality players so we knew it would not be easy.”

Michigan continued to threaten, with a one-timer from its own Derick Broche going wide of the left post in the 44th minute.

The Wolverines would have their biggest chance to retake the lead in the 50th minute. Michigan's Kevin Buca’s first shot from the top of the 18 was blocked by junior defender Vincent Borden, and the Wolverines' Umar Farouk Osman’s shot on the rebound was saved by Asher.

That would be the end of the action, with the game being called 20 minutes later. The draw extends the undefeated streak to seven for Rutgers — its first since 1987. 

It’s another big step forward for this program, which has exceeded expectations at every step of the way this season. Seven games in, the Knights find themselves in a position they haven't been in since Bob Reasso led the team to multiple Final Four appearances in the late '80s and early '90s — teams that featured World Cup veterans such as Peter Vermes and Alexi Lalas.

With the non-conference slate set to conclude on Tuesday night against St. Peters, Rutgers can now focus its attention solely on winning conference games. Given that it finished last in the Big Ten last year, it’s possible that the rest of the conference slate will show a major improvement for the Knights.

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

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