The Rutgers men’s soccer team, who entered the national rankings this week for the first time in four years, played its fourth road game of the season Tuesday night in a familiar city. They traveled to Philadelphia for the third time in less than a month, this time taking on Penn (2-1-1). The Scarlet Knights left the city of Brotherly Love with it’s undefeated record intact, settling for a 1-1 draw in overtime with the Quakers.
Rutgers took an early lead in the game when freshman Chris Tiao drew a foul inside the box. That led to sophomore Pablo Avila scoring on a penalty kick in the 9th minute, his second goal of the season.
It was a back and forth contest the rest of the way, but the Scarlet Knights held the lead for most of the night. However, Penn broke through off a corner kick in the 69th minute. Alex Touche headed in a cross from Brandon Bartel to even the score at 1-1.
Both teams picked up the urgency from there and Penn came close to taking the lead, as a shot from Joey Bhangdia hit the crossbar in the 74th minute. The game ultimately went in the extra session. Both teams had shots on goal with each goalkeeper making a save with less than 30 seconds to play. The final result was a double overtime draw.
Penn held a 14-11 shot advantage in the contest, while Rutgers had a 4-2 edge in corner kicks.
Oren Asher continued his excellent freshman campaign in the net with five saves, while Quakers keeper Dane Jacomen made three saves.
Head coach Jim McElderry said afterwards, “I think it’s a good sign after the game that our guys felt like they lost the game. That’s a good sign of the standards we are trying to set here. It’s always disappointing when you are ahead and then not win the game, but I thought it was a tight game that could have gone either way. There were a couple of moments in the second half that we looked a little down, but the overall effort was good in blocking shots. That’s going to happen when you play good teams. They are going to get on top of you at moments, but can you survive those moments and not concede a goal. The effort is something our guys have shown since day one and I’m pleased with that, but they are disappointed they didn’t win.”
While Rutgers (5-0-1) still have three non-conference games remaining, they’ll open Big Ten play this Saturday at 3 p.m. ET at Michigan (3-2-1). It’s a big opportunity for the Scarlet Knights to prove this team is for real. The Wolverines were picked to finish third in the Big Ten preseason coaches poll, while RU was selected to finish ninth, last in the conference.
Senior captain Jake Longo commented on Tuesday’s draw and on what is ahead, saying “we’re disappointed we tied this match and for not playing our best, but the season is young. We showed glimpses of really good stuff and now we prepare for the biggest match of the season so far in opening up Big Ten play at Michigan. We need to think about the things may have done wrong or what we can do better and get ready for our next game.”
The change in culture has been significant in McElderry’s first season and it will be fun to see if Rutgers can continue its strong start to become the surprise of the Big Ten when it’s all said and done.