The fifth-ranked Michigan State men’s soccer team (7-0-2, 1-0 in Big Ten) started off Big Ten play on a high note in what ended up being a gusty Friday evening at a packed DeMartin Soccer Stadium. The Spartans were able to fend off a late push by Rutgers (1-5-1, 0-2), to claim their first conference victory of the season by a score of 2-1.
“We had a good first half, unlucky probably not to get a goal or two,” said coach Damon Rensing after the game. “I thought Rutgers stepped up in the second half and made it a game that was very close. But that’s Big Ten soccer, teams don’t give up.”
The Spartan offense was able to apply pressure early on, as a shot just under two minutes into the game by senior forward DeJuan Jones was wide. However, Rutgers goalkeeper Rafael Pereira gave the Spartan offense fits in the first half, as the senior recorded four saves, denying the Spartans of any offense despite seven shots in the period. The two teams would go into the halftime scoreless.
It would be nearly 64 minutes into the game before the Spartans would eventually get one through the goalposts, as a foul called on the Scarlet Knights would set up a penalty kick for MSU. Senior forward Ryan Sierakowski was able to fake out Pereira, sending him the wrong way to convert on the penalty kick four his fourth goal of the season, giving the Spartans a 1-0 lead.
“I just wanted to keep my composure, send the keeper the wrong way, and I managed to score,” Sierakowski said.
Sixteen minutes later, the Spartans were able to add some cushion to their lead, as Sierakowski was able to sneak one past Pereira for the second time on the night, giving MSU a two-goal lead late in the game. For Sierakowski, he is now tied with Jones and Indiana's Andrew Gutman for the Big Ten lead in goals scored with five. Jones picked up his second assist of the season on the play.
“DeJuan played me through on a perfect ball,” Sierakowski said. “I got to it and hit the back post. So, happy with the result.”
Rutgers was able to strike back just over four minutes later, as forward Jordan Hall got one past Spartan goalkeeper Jimmy Hague to trim their deficit to one heading into the final minutes of the game. However, MSU was able to stave off the Rutgers offense for the remainder of the game, picking up their first conference win of the season, by a score of 2-1.
“We’ve got to do a better job at playing with a lead, being disciplined,” Rensing said. “It seems when the game is 0-0, we do a good job. But when we have a lead, we can get a little casual, and we’ve got to be a little sharper on that.”
The Spartans will return to action on Wednesday evening, as they will head to University Park to take on Penn State (2-4-1, 1-0-1 in Big Ten). Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Jeffrey Field.
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