After a six-game undefeated streak in non-conference play to begin the season, the Rutgers men’s soccer team opens up conference play on the road. The Scarlet Knights (5-0-1, 0-0-0) are taking on No. 11 Indiana on Friday night in search of the first ranked win of the head men's soccer coach Jim McElderry era.
Rutgers has won all but one of their early-season non-conference matchups, their only dropped points coming from a late August scoreless draw to Temple. Defensively, 4 of their first 6 games ended in shutouts. Junior goalkeeper Oren Asher currently sports a 0.48 goals against average, having won two Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week awards in the opening three weeks of the season.
From a goal-scoring perspective, several Knights have found the back of the net in the early part of the season. Both freshman forward Nico Rosamilia and senior midfielder Pablo Avila lead the team with 2 goals each. The offense has been spread around in the early part of the season, with seven different players finding the back of the net so far.
“We have a lot of depth on our team — we thought we would, and that’s proven to be true,” McElderry said after Monday’s win over St. Joe’s. “We have a lot of guys playing and adding goals — a bunch of different guys have scored in the first six games. I think we’re not relying on one guy, and that’s a really good sign for our team.”
In the chance-creation department, senior defender Thomas DeVizio and sophomore forward Ola Maeland both lead Rutgers with three assists on the season. DeVizio has played a large role on both sides of the field, creating chances by regularly going forward on overlapping runs. Maeland has played a “super sub” role, frequently coming off the bench to offer fresh legs to run at tired defenses.
As for the Hoosiers (4-1-1, 0-0-0), they’re coming off a 1-1 double-overtime draw against No. 16 Akron last Friday. Indiana started the season as the No. 2 team in the country but started to drop in the rankings after a 3-0 home upset loss to Creighton on Sept. 3. The Hoosiers have won three straight Big Ten championships and are coming off a College Cup appearance in the spring.
“We know Indiana is one of the best teams in the country, and on the road, it’s gonna be a big challenge for us, but it’s an exciting period,” McElderry said. “I think that’s why guys want to come into the Big Ten, to play against the best players and the best teams.”
The Knights have improved to No. 5 in the Big Ten in 2020, finishing with a 4-4 record in a pandemic-shortened Big Ten only season. After their game against the Hoosiers, the Knights will return to Yurcak Field for a Monday night game against UPenn and resume Big Ten play Sept. 24 against Wisconsin.
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