After falling 2-0 to Penn State at home on Tuesday, the Rutgers men’s soccer team has a chance to respond and earn its first home conference win of the season against Michigan State on Sunday.
The Scarlet Knights (7-2-2, 1-2-1) have not scored a goal in the last three games they’ve played, with their only points in the standings coming from last week’s 0-0 double-overtime draw with Maryland. They’ve only scored 2 goals in 4 games of Big Ten play this season, both coming in the team’s signature win over the then-No. 11 Indiana in September.
Rutgers has maintained a strong defense, allowing just 5 goals in Big Ten play so far this season. Junior goalkeeper Oren Asher has maintained a 0.57 goals against average on the season, earning his third Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week award of 2021 last week.
“We have to remain confident,” said head coach Jim McElderry. “You know, we’ve played 11 games now, and we’ve lost 2 games out of our first 11, so I think this is a good group.”
As for the Spartans (4-5-2, 0-2-2), they enter this matchup in the middle of a three-game road trip, coming to Piscataway on the heels of a 2-2 double overtime draw against Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
“Nothing ever disappoints in this derby,” Michigan State head coach Damon Rensing said after the game. “This is one of the greatest rivalries not just in the Big Ten, but in all of college soccer … coming into this hostile environment, I thought our guys were good.”
Offensively, the Spartans are led heavily by Farai Mutatu — in his first 11 games this season, he’s led the team by far with 6 goals and two assists. In Michigan State’s last four games, Mutatu has 2 goals and one assist. In terms of scoring goals, Jack Beck has been instrumental with 7 assists in 11 games.
On the defensive side, the Spartans haven’t been able to match the Knights. Through 11 games, Michigan State has allowed an average of 1.82 goals per game. Hunter Morse has allowed an average of 1.34 goals per game, with just 1 shutout on the season.
The Spartans are coming to Yurcak Field in search of their first Big Ten win, having dropped games to Indiana and Penn State before the Michigan draw. Their only other point in conference play came on Sept. 17, when they drew Wisconsin 1-1 in Madison, Wisconsin.
“It’ll be a totally different game,” McElderry said. “Every game in the Big Ten is so different — Michigan State (is) a good team — well-coached super organized.”
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