There are plenty of reasons to be hopeful that head coach Jim McElderry’s third season at Rutgers will result in the biggest step forward in his tenure so far. After finishing in fifth place in the Big Ten with a 4-4-1 record overall in a spring shortened season due to COVID-19, the program is primed to make more progress this fall.
The Scarlet Knights return leading scorer Ritchie Barry, who was named Second Team All-Big Ten last season, as well as Jackson Temple, who has scored 7 goals over his first two seasons. In addition, veteran leaders Vince Borden, Pablo Avila and Nick Cruz, key defenders Thomas DeVizio and Hugo Le Guennec, as well as standout goalkeeper Oren Asher all return for this fall’s campaign.
Barry is a top flight goal scorer and Temple can create offensive opportunities for himself and his teammates. Borden and Avila have been the backbone on the pitch in recent seasons. Asher emerged as one of the best keepers in the Big Ten last season and has a chance to solidify that status with another strong performance this fall.
McElderry has added nine newcomers to the roster to a team that equaled the program’s most wins in Big Ten play since joining the league in 2014. The additions include two sophomore transfers in midfielder Jason Bouregy (American University) and Jace Orvos (Penn State), who can play in defense or the midfield. Both are New Jersey natives and of the seven incoming freshmen, five are from the garden state. They include three coming from the New York Red Bulls Academy system in forward Nico Rosamilia, midfielder Matthew Acosta and defender Joey Zalinsky. Another local defender, Bryan Keating, is a legacy as both his parents were track and field student-athletes program at Rutgers.
“The moment we arrived here, we knew we wanted to recruit the best players in the state of New Jersey,” said McElderry. “We know these players inside and out, and we’re really impressed with this group coming in. The major theme this year was to bring in players that have a high level of talent that can help us win immediately, while also having a high ceiling to help us improve down the line”
The competition on the roster has increased significantly since McElderry arrived in 2018. and conditioning has been a big focus as well. While Rutgers was far from the most talented team in the Big Ten last spring, they arguably played the hardest. They defeated national power Maryland for the first time as conference foes and had close defeats to top half finishers Penn State and Michigan. Having added more skill to the team while maintaining the high intensity effort that’s been a staple under McElderry is a formula that will lead to future success.
The Scarlet Knights will play ten home contests across a 16 game regular season schedule this fall, as well as three home exhibitions against St. John’s, Fordham and Syracuse. The non-conference schedule is intriguing with several local opponents including facing longtime rival Princeton for the first time in four years. A trio of Philadelphia teams are also on the schedule with Temple, St. Joseph’s and Penn all visiting Yurcak Field.
Regarding the fall slate, McElderry said recently, “Our Big Ten schedule will be extremely challenging as usual, but we are confident after a good Spring season against these top teams. Our out-of-conference schedule sees us playing a few similar teams from 2019, but also adding a few new opponents as well in Delaware, UConn and Princeton. It is great to have Princeton back on our schedule as we hope to be able to keep this game against Jimmy Barlow’s team for many years to come.”
Embracing the rivalry with Princeton is just another sign that McElderry gets it and is the right fit at Rutgers.
It’s clear coach McElderry has a plan on how to build his program after having unprecedented success at Fordham previously. Rutgers has shown signs in each of his first two seasons that progress is occurring. The state of the roster heading into the fall should give hope that the men’s soccer team is ready to take another step forward. The last time the Scarlet Knights had a winning season was 2015, which also marked the last time the program earned an NCAA Tournament berth. While the goal should always be to make the postseason, a winning campaign should be the expectation and would mark solid progress this fall.