PISCATAWAY, N.J. – For the second-straight game, Rutgers junior Yannick Salmon (Westbury, N.Y.) helped lead the Scarlet Knights to victory, tallying a pair of goals in a 2-1 victory over Connecticut on Sunday evening. RU improved to 4-2 on the season and 2-0 in the BIG EAST Conference.
“I thought it was the best 90 minutes we’ve put together, I don’t think there was any doubt that we were the better team,” said head coach Bob Reasso
. “It’s a shame Jake [Grinkevich] got hurt but Adam Klink went in and played very well. I thought Yannick [Salmon], Ibrahim [Kamara] and Bryant Knibbs were fantastic tonight. I thought we deserved it.
“UConn plays soccer. You have to credit UConn, they’re a great team, great program and they look to play soccer. We’re better against teams that like to pass the ball and not just play aggressively. It’s big for us, two BIG EAST wins on the weekend and you have to win your BIG EAST home games. I’m very proud of our guys; I thought it was our best performance of the year so far.”
Connecticut took the early lead nearly 10 minutes into the game as Tony Cascio was able to slip past a Rutgers defender and loft a shot over the reach of freshman goalkeeper Jake Grinkevich (Manalapan, N.J.). Unfortunately for the Scarlet Knights, Grinkevich was injured on the play and had to leave the game, however, his replacement sophomore Adam Klink (Chesapeake, Va.) did his best to ensure that there was now drop off in goal. In the first action of his collegiate career, Klink made a pair of saves, one in each the first and second half to keep the Huskies off the scoreboard.
Facing a one-goal deficit following the intermission, Rutgers responded with a strong rally as Salmon scored two goals in a seven-minute span to give the Scarlet Knights the win.
“Yannick was fantastic tonight,” said Reasso. “He was the best player on the park, bar none.”
Rutgers was awarded a penalty kick in the 61st minute after a Connecticut foul in the penalty area, setting up its first score of the game. Salmon calmly addressed the ball and delivered a strike into the bottom left corner, tying the game at 1-1.
“I knew that they knew where I was going from the last PK I took [against Towson],” said Salmon. “They watched it on film and were calling it out so I just went to the other side.”
With the equalizer in hand, Rutgers continued its offensive pressure as Salmon again found the back of the net in the 68th minute, giving the Scarlet Knights their eventual game-winner. The junior won possession of a ball from 15 yards out and made a couple of moves past Connecticut defenders before blasting a shot past UConn goalkeeper Josh Ford to put RU ahead 2-1.
Primarily a defensive player in his first season with the Scarlet Knights, Salmon had not scored a collegiate goal until the season-opener against Towson (Sept. 1), however, this season he has moved into a bigger role in the attacking third and it has paid dividends for Rutgers. He has a team-best four goals on the year, including three in the past two games.
“The second goal, I tried to pick up a 50-50 ball and my instincts just took over and I went for it,” said Salmon. “When it’s that fast paced your instincts just take over, I used to play up top in club ball and my experience from then kicked in. I just do what I can for the team, if they need me [to switch positions] I will, it doesn’t matter.”
The Scarlet Knights earned valuable points in the BIG EAST standings with their wins over Providence and Connecticut. Entering Friday’s game against the Friars, Rutgers was 5-2-1 when playing its conference opener at home, improving that mark to 6-2-1 and 8-5-2 in overall BIG EAST openers.
“[The win] meant a lot to us,” said Salmon. “These are probably games we wouldn’t have won last year so it shows the maturity and experience we have and I think it’s just going to continue to grow.”
Rutgers will play a pair of road conference matches at Seton Hall on Friday, Sept. 25 and Georgetown on Sunday, Sept. 27, before returning to Yurcak Field against Syracuse on Friday, Oct. 2