Spotlight Knight - Oren Asher
Coming into this season, the Rutgers men's soccer team found itself with a freshman-heavy roster and several crucial holes to fill. One of the big questions heading into the 2019 season was who would win the starting goalkeeper job, and how they would perform once the season got underway.
In late August, we got our answer to the first question when Israeli true freshman goalkeeper Oren Asher was named the starter ahead of the season opener against Temple. With no collegiate experience, there were questions as to whether he could succeed at the Division 1 level.
But, Asher has risen to the occasion, posting a 0.75 goals against average and two shutouts while leading the Scarlet Knights' defense to a 4-0 start to this season.
A big part of why he has been able to succeed right out of the gate is his background. Asher spent his youth career in the academy of his hometown club, Maccabi Herzliya, training every day in a professional environment against some of the best youth prospects in Israel.
His professional academy experience isn’t the only contributing factor to his success. While Asher is a freshman, he didn’t enroll until he was 21 years old due to military service obligations in his native Israel. He arrived at Rutgers after having spent two years and eight months serving in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).
Asher’s time in the Israeli military completely changed his trajectory, as he had to put his career on hold, undergo military training and spend time on active duty. His service in the IDF took him away from the high level of training that he had with Maccabi Herzilya, and he faced conforming to a challenging military environment.
“It really matures you as a person, mainly because you have to deal with people that tell you what to do, (and) if you don’t (take orders) you just get punished. And you don’t want to mess up with your career as a soccer player, so you just mature and learn how to adjust with new situations you get into,” Asher said.
Surprisingly, Asher hasn’t found too much of a problem with coming to the Banks. The main difficulty has been adjusting from the rigid, discipline-oriented life in the IDF to the independence and academic challenges that come with life as a college student.
“Because I was in the army, I was never studying or in a classroom for the last two-and-a-half years. I think I can manage (the adjustment), it's not that difficult,” Asher said.
The season is still young, but Asher is one of many freshmen on this Knights team that has stepped up and played a major role through the opening four games. If Asher can maintain this level of performance through the rest of his time at Rutgers and live up to his potential, he’ll have the chance to establish himself as one of the best goalkeepers in the history of the Knights.
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