The Rutgers men’s soccer team will be without its top offensive weapon next season.
Jason Wright, the top goalscorer for the Scarlet Knights in all three of his seasons on the Banks, has left the program, head coach Dan Donigan told to the Daily Targum, though where he will land is still up in the air.
The decision was a mutual one between the player and his coach.
In a standard end of season meeting, the two discussed his options with Wright expressing his desire to pursue his dream of playing professionally, one Donigan knew of when the Jamaican signed on to be a Knight.
While Donigan was supportive of his decision to weigh his options, he warned that it would mark the end of his spell with Rutgers, making it clear that he and the Knights wouldn't be left in limbo.
"I kind of communicated to him ‘hey, do what you want, we wish you the very best in whatever you end up doing, it’ll hopefully be in your best interest but we need to move forward as well. So if you get a professional contract, great, we’ll be happy for you. If you don’t, then obviously you’re going to need to find another place," Donigan said of the conversation. "We need to make difficult decisions all the time and I think it was a mutual decision."
Donigan is unsure of Wright's current status and whether he's signed a professional contract or is shopping other Division I programs, saying he hasn't communicated with him recently. The only thing that's certain is that Wright will no longer don a Rutgers jersey at Yurcak Field.
Wright leaves Piscataway with 29 goals and 13 assists in 57 appearances across his three seasons on the Banks. He came up one point shy (71) of entering the top-10 in the category in program history.
His best season on both an individual and collective level came in 2015. Then a sophomore, Wright was named Unanimous Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and a first team all-Big Ten selection after leading the conference in goals with 13 and points with 31.
As a team, Rutgers finished the regular season tied for third in the Big Ten standings before falling in the conference tournament semi-finals and reaching the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011.
But a combination of multiple injuries to key players in nearly every position, heavy losses to graduation and one of the most grueling schedules in the country would doom the Knights to lose all that progress the following year.
They would finish with just one win, which came in its regular season finale against Bradley. Before it came some close calls, like bringing then-No. 4 Maryland to the brink before falling in double-overtime and nearly completing a miraculous 5-goal comeback in a wild 6-5 loss to then-No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast.
Wright scored three goals against the Eagles for his second career hat-trick, but it was an anomaly rather than the norm for him last season.
Constantly bombarded by the opposing defense whenever he touched the ball due to being the focal point of a team lacking options in attack, Wright mustered just 6 goals and three assists in 17 appearances, failing to reach double-digits in scoring for the first time of his collegiate career.
"He, from day 1, wanted to come in and get to the next level," Donigan said. "Obviously, with the season he had, with the season we had (in 2016), it didn’t put him in the best of positions to get an opportunity (professionally) … he had difficulty kind of dealing with that, I think, from a psychological standpoint and he just kind of wanted to explore his opportunities to try to go pro."
Wright wasn't the only Jamaican whose name was missing on the team's spring roster from the fall season. Midfielder Sheldon McKoy was also absent from the roster, signifying the end of his tenure with the Knights as well.
"Sometimes you gotta make tough decisions," Donigan said. "It is what it is, but there’s other guys that aren’t on that roster from last semester too, all for different reasons, but just like anything, there’s going to be turnover, there’s going to be change and there’s going to be new players coming in, so I’m very happy with where we are with everything, and no one player is going to make or break us, that’s for sure."