When the Rutgers men's soccer team headed into the Big Ten play with a freshman-heavy roster, some growing pains were expected.
And growing pains were what we saw again Friday night, as the Scarlet Knights (7-5-3, 1-5-1) suffered a 3-0 defeat to No. 10 Indiana in Bloomington.
Defensively, Rutgers started strong, blanking the Hoosiers' (10-2-3, 5-1-0) offense for the entire first half. The shutout was no small feat, as Indiana dominated with a 9-0 shot differential leading into the break.
Much of the credit has to go to sensational true freshman goalkeeper Oren Asher, who came up with two outstanding saves.
In the 20th minute, Asher faced a powerful volley from inside the six, but was able to come up with the stop. Approximately 12 minutes later, a big rebound from the save led to a rocket from the top of the box, but Asher’s quick reflexes came to the rescue again.
The Knights also got lucky, as the Hoosiers hit the crossbar in the final minute of the first half.
But, their luck ran out in the second half, as Indiana blew the game open with 3 goals in a span of 25 minutes. The first came in the 52nd minute, as a free kick from its own Aidan Morris found the head of teammate Joris Ahlinvi.
In the 72nd minute, the Hoosiers doubled their lead with a wonder-goal. Indiana's Joe Schmidt found the inside of the right goalpost. Then, 7 minutes later, Morris would get himself on the score sheet with a tap in off a big rebound from Asher.
Rutgers got its only real dangerous chance in the 86th minute, when sophomore midfielder Pablo Ávila had a free kick from the top of the box. He got off a bending shot that found the right upper 90, but Roman Celentano was able to make the stop.
“We executed our plan well tonight, but the game shifted when they scored their first goal on a set piece,” said head coach Jim McElderry.
The Knights knew they were coming into a difficult challenge in this game, as the Hoosiers were the only ranked opponent of the season for Rutgers.
With two games left in the regular season, the Knights will look to get back in the win column tomorrow, when they travel to Bethlehem to play Lehigh in their non-conference finale.
Rutgers is undefeated through their first nine out-of-conference matches, and a win would preserve its unbeaten streak.
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