After getting its first win in three weeks on Sunday, the Rutgers men’s soccer team has a chance to move up the Big Ten standings on Friday, as it hits the road yet again to play Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
The Scarlet Knights (8-3-2, 2-3-1) beat Northwestern 2-1 last Friday, snapping a four-game winless streak. They got into an offensive rhythm against the Wildcats (5-7-2, 1-5-0), outshooting Northwestern 12-6 and getting their highest scoring output since their upset over Indiana in September.
Defensively, Rutgers has been backstopped by junior goalkeeper Oren Asher, who is posting a career-best goals against average of 0.71 through 12 starts. Asher has been the first choice goalkeeper since he joined the program in 2019, and has won three Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week awards in 2021.
The Knights have shown promise on the attacking side of the ball as well, with freshman forward Nico Rosamilia and junior midfielder Jackson Temple sharing the goalscoring lead with 3 goals each. Temple’s last 2 goals have come in Rutgers’ two Big Ten wins — as he found the net against Northwestern and Indiana.
The Wolverines (6-5-3, 3-2-1) won their previous Big Ten matchup 1-0 over Wisconsin last Friday before drawing Akron 0-0 in double overtime earlier this week. Michigan is coming off a spring campaign that saw them finish 6-4-1, reaching the Big Ten Tournament semi-finals before falling to Penn State.
Offensively, the Wolverines rely on three key players to make the bulk of their offense. Kevin Buca is their leading scorer with 4 goals on the season, with Marc Ybarra and Derick Broche trailing them with 3 goals each. Buca, Ybarra and Broche have combined to score 10 of Michigan’s 17 goals on the season.
The Knights are currently 7th in the Big Ten standings — just 3 points behind the Wolverines, who are in a three-way tie for 3rd place. A win would put Rutgers right in the mix for a top-four seed ahead of its final Big Ten game — giving it a chance to host a quarterfinal in the Big Ten Tournament.
A 4th place finish would also be the highest since the arrival of head coach Jim McElderry in 2019 — the Knights finished 5th in the conference during the spring season.
Rutgers has already achieved several milestones this season — its win over the Wildcats in Evanston, Illinois last Friday gave the program its highest win total since 2015. That 2015 season was also the last time the Knights made an appearance in the NCAA Tournament, which is the next goal for a program that has improved substantially in McElderry’s three years on the Banks.
It’s a critical juncture for Rutgers, who has just two Big Ten games left on the schedule. After getting 4 points in their previous five matches, the Knights have an opportunity in the final stretch of the regular season to move further up the standings and potentially cement a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
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