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No. 22 Rutgers drops first game of season to Michigan State

The 2019 season had gotten off to a perfect start for the Rutgers men's soccer team. On an eight game unbeaten streak, the No. 22 Scarlet Knights (6-1-2, 0-1-1) found themselves ranked at No. 22 this week. It was their first season-opening eight game unbeaten streak since 1985.

The run finally came to an end Friday night, as Rutgers suffered a 3-0 loss to Michigan State at Yurcak Field.

"I think all the guys are disappointed with the result,” said head coach Jim McElderry. “We're in the Big Ten and teams are good.”

For the opening 20 minutes of action, the Knights came out with a decent foothold in the midfield, but struggled to generate shots on goal. 

The game turned in the 28th minute, when a bad giveaway allowed the Spartans' (1-5-2, 1-0-0) Gianni Ferri in on goal. Ferri slotted it past true freshman goalkeeper Oren Asher at the far post, and Michigan State took the lead.

From that point on, the Spartans took complete control of the run of play. In the 40th minute, Michigan State would double its lead when its own Olu Ogunwale put away a clinical finish off the end of a through ball from teammate Farai Mutatu. 

Heading into halftime, Rutgers was chasing the game, out-possessed, down 2 goals and having been outshot 7 to 3. 

Despite generating six shots in the second half, the Knights couldn’t capitalize on their opportunities and get back in the game. Another takeaway would be punished in the 86th minute, as Mutatu beat Asher one-on-one to seal the victory for the Spartans.

"All three goals were against the run of play and it's something that can't happen at this level especially against this competition,” said senior defender Jake Longo.

Even though the game ended in a lopsided defeat, the overall sense was Rutgers is in a good spot at 6-1-2 and still headed in the right direction.

“We got punished for a couple of mistakes tonight," McElderry said. “But the test for us is how do we bounce back, get after our next training session and prepare for our next opponent.”

That next opponent? Maryland, who is still searching for its first conference win of the season, even though the team is the defending NCAA Tournament champions.

For the Knights, the focus is entirely on putting the loss behind them and gearing up for a difficult Big Ten road match.

“At this point we just need to regroup, sharpen up and get ready for the national champions next week,” Longo said.

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

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