Rutgers Men’s Soccer is well underway at this point. They are readying for the 2018 season, which kicks off Sunday, August 19 with an exhibition match against the Cadets of West Point at home on Yurcak Field at 1:00 PM. The match against Army is their only exhibition of the season, which starts in earnest with a trio of away games in Maryland beginning on August 24 against Loyola (MD).
There are many positive signs moving into the coming season, not the least of which was the announcement on Wednesday that three of the squad were recognized for Preseason Honors by the Big Ten. They included senior goalkeeper Rafael Periera, and sophomore defenders Bryce Washington and Zeno Mazzucato.
Periera, a native of Lisbon, Portugal, lead the conference in saves per game and for the season with 5.39 and 97, respectively. Those heady numbers also placed Rafael 4th in total saves nationally, and 8th nationally for saves per game.
Washington, who hails from Atlanta, GA, came in as a freshman and started every game in the 2017 season for the Scarlet Knights, and ended the season being named to the All-Big Ten Freshman Team. Bryce scored his first collegiate goal late in the season at home in a 4-1 victory over Lafayette.
Mazzucato, the only New Jersey native of the trio, started in every game he played last season, a total of 17 of the 18 games.
That’s not the only honors received by team members this summer. Incoming Junior Jordan Hall, a Manchester, England native, finished up two seasons playing at Mississippi Gulf Coast College, scoring 57 goals with 24 assists, named a National Soccer Coaches Association of America NJCAA Division I All-American First Team, All-South Region First Team, NJCAA Division I All-American Second Team and All-Region 23 Team as a freshman. As a sophomore, Jordan scored 29 goals while being named NJCAA First Team and USC Second Team All-American honors as well as playing in the MACJC All-Star Game. This summer, Hall played for Port City FC of the Gulf Coast Premier League and snagged two honors.
Port City's #11, Jordan Hall, has been awarded the 2018 Attacking MVP! pic.twitter.com/DkvAqcvB48— Port City FC (@PortCityFC) August 14, 2018
In addition to being named the 2018 Attacking MVP, the Port City striker was also named the Young Player of the Season.
Jordan Hall picks up his second award of the year, this time being given the Young Player of the Season! pic.twitter.com/MgDOEhJiPY— Port City FC (@PortCityFC) August 16, 2018
All of these point to a squad that is experienced as well as relatively young. Of the 33 members of the 2018 squad, there are only seven seniors this year, one of whom is goalkeeper Raphael Periera.
A disappointing 4-13 season in 2017, with no conference wins is now in the rear-view mirror. As they move toward the new season, the knowledge that of the nine conference losses in 2017, four were losses by only one goal is heartening. That, in addition to the recognition players have received this summer are very positive signs about the growth of this squad. However, Scarlet Knight fútbol is still chosen to come in last for the 2018 season, with Indiana the unanimous pick to win the conference again this year.
For those of you who have never visited, Yurcak Field is a great venue to watch soccer. While the only scheduled telecast for this season for men’s soccer is the meeting with Ohio State on Sunday, September 30, there are 10 games played at Yurcak in addition to the away match with Ohio State.
As we gear up to begin the out-of-conference portion of the schedule beginning with the Army exhibition on Sunday, let’s finish with a great mic’ed up session with redshirt junior Brian Hawkins. Hawkins, a Chesterfield, NJ native who played high school soccer for Notre Dame HS in Lawrenceville, was a starter for the final 11 games of the 2017 season after having to sit out his sophomore year with an injury.
Before heading out to Sunday's exhibition game with Army West Point - take an inside at training with redshirt junior Brian Hawkins. https://t.co/Mj2WR5vbVu— Rutgers Men's Soccer (@RUMensSoccer) August 17, 2018
Head Coach Dan Donigan and his staff plan to use the added growth and experience of the squad to confound preseason predictions for this season.
To listed to our podcast interview with coach Donigan, click here.