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May 13, 2017

Chris Piekos should be the goalkeeper for the UMass men's soccer team

Massachusetts men’s soccer coach Sam Koch still doesn’t know who his starting goalkeeper will be for the rest of the season. But after the win over Northeastern, junior Chris Piekos showed that he clearly deserves that honor and the competition should close immediately.

His numbers are far better than the other candidate, Shane Curran-Hays, in every aspect, and he is showing consistency with two shut-outs in three games.

If the first five games are any indicator for the offense, goals aren’t going to come regularly this season. UMass is having its worst offensive start (three goals) since 1998 when it went 4-12-2.

That makes Piekos’ 0.29 goals-against average (first in the Atlantic 10) that much more important to the Minutemen’s hopes of making the tournament.

While numbers don’t tell the whole story, it’s hard to argue against what Piekos has done on the field. He is currently in a six-way tie for shut-outs, but almost everyone else he’s tied with has played twice as many games as Piekos.

He also leads the league in save percentage (.947), with an average of six saves per game (second in the A-10).

That’s not to say Curran-Hays doesn’t have a case for winning the job.

He is more comfortable controlling the defense and is more aggressive, especially on crosses.

He also had several offers to start for a Division I soccer team, but instead, chose to play for Koch’s team with the hopes of beating out alumni Zack Simmons for the goalkeeping job.

Simmons won and Curran-Hays sat on the bench for two years without a complaint. This season should’ve been his year, but a summer knee injury opened the job up to Piekos, so Koch is definitely right to say that Curran-Hays deserves his casino online shot, especially now that he’s healthy.

But at some point there comes a time when getting it right becomes more important than being fair. Unlike last year, the Minutemen aren’t playing a schedule that will largely help their hopes of an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, so the non-conference schedule isn’t that significant.

However, there are only three more games until the start of the A-10 schedule. Unless Koch has already made up his mind, Curran-Hays will get what could be his last shot at starting against Siena on Sept. 26.

If he manages to impress Koch enough to win the starting job in that game, then at least he will have three straight starts to help him adjust to being the starter before UMass opens up the conference schedule against Xavier and Dayton.

If Koch does go with Piekos, he’ll have 10 days of being out of the lineup before he sees action again. The Minutemen will only have two games with their keeper before being thrust into the hectic A-10 scheduling.

Closing the competition before the Siena game would essentially give him four straight starts dating back to the win over Northeastern, which would give Piekos time to adjust controlling the defense, which Koch believes Curran-Hays is better at anyway.

That competition should’ve been over by opening day, but the canceled exhibition game against Connecticut hurt the Minutemen by preventing Curran-Hays from starting until Sept. 5 against Hartford.

With the results inconclusive, Koch gave both of his candidates another shot in Vermont against the Catamounts and New Hampshire. Both games ended in a tie, but Curran-Hays gave up his third goal of the season against Vermont in his second game while Piekos had a shut-out.

It might be cliché to use the saying, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” but when it comes down to who gives the Minutemen the best shot of clinching the A-10 title, it’s generally better to go with the one who has kept opponents out of the net.

Adam Miller can be reached at amiller@dailycollegian.com.

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