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Rutgers men's soccer challenges Princeton on Friday night

The Rutgers men's soccer team will play in-state rival Princeton after four years of not facing each other.  – Photo by RU Mens Soccer / Twitter

The Rutgers men’s soccer team aims to remain unbeaten on Friday at 7 p.m. when they hit the road to take on local rivals, Princeton.

For the Scarlet Knights (1-0-1, 0-0-0), this is the renewal of a historic in-state matchup. The rivalry between the two programs dates back to 1951, but the two sides haven’t met since a 1-0 Rutgers win in 2017.

The Tigers did not play a 2020 season due to the Ivy League’s decision to shut down all athletics last year. In 2019, Princeton finished with a 10-4-3 record.

As for the Knights, they’re coming off a scoreless overtime draw against Temple on Monday night that saw them forced to play the entire second half and overtime down to 10 men after a 45th-minute red card was issued to junior midfielder Jackson Temple. He will miss the match with the Tigers as a result.

While the season is only two games in, one area of improvement that head soccer coach Jim McElderry is looking for would be in how Rutgers plays in the attacking third of the field.

“I thought we were just a little off again in the final third,” McElderry said in the Temple postgame interview. “There was a couple of moments where I thought maybe one extra pass or one maybe quicker release to get a shot off [could’ve helped].”

McElderry gave credit to veteran defenders like senior center back Vincent Borden for their efforts, particularly in the game against the Owls.

“I think we needed a little bit of leadership tonight when you’re down,” McElderry said. “I think someone like (Borden) at the back really stepped up a little bit, trying to talk a little bit more.”

One aspect of the game that the Knights have started the season off strong in has been defense. Junior goalkeeper Oren Asher was awarded Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week for the first week of the season, as he’s just 1 of 5 goalkeepers nationwide who have yet to concede a goal after more than 200 minutes of play.

“We’re excited to play Princeton. We haven’t played them in a while now, so we’re excited to play that kind of a rivalry-type game,” McElderry said after the Temple game. “That’s something that I think we should be doing every year and we know it’s going to be a good game, a tough game, but it’s something that we should be playing. Rutgers should be playing Princeton every year in men’s soccer."

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

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