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Minutemen square off with Fordham Saturday at Rudd Field

mSocAMassachsuetts men’s soccer coach Sam Koch is arguably one of the most successful coaches in program history.

On Tuesday, Koch got his 200th win at the helm of the Minutemen, and riding a three game winning streak, UMass will face a familiar opponent in unfamiliar circumstances.

The Minutemen (3-1-3) face Fordham Saturday at 1 p.m., a usual Atlantic 10 opponent, but because of scheduling, the game doesn’t count as a conference match-up for UMass.

“They’re very organized,” Koch said. “They will get players behind the ball, they will defend very well as a group, their goalkeeping is good, and their back four is pretty good.”

The Minutemen have been impressive as of late, outscoring opponents 6-0 in its past four games, while holding opponents to the A-10 best goals against average (0.60).

UMass defeated Colgate 3-0, Tuesday afternoon, as the offense scored all three tallies in the first half alone, and the defense allowed just eight total shots and three corner kicks. Goalkeeper Chris Piekos was not really challenged in the match, but holds the nation’s best save percentage with .955. He and redshirt sophomore Shane Curran-Hays have been impressive, alternating games, as Curran-Hays will likely face the Rams on Saturday.

Regardless of the outcome on Tuesday, Koch was not impressed by how his team came out in the second half against the Raiders on Tuesday.

“We were upset we didn’t do some things better in the second half, and so we talk about each week, trying to get better, and I felt in the second half, we didn’t get better,” Koch said. “So, we look at the game Saturday as another opportunity to move the ball better then we did today, to work a little bit better off the ball better than we did today, and continue to defend better.”

The Rams (2-5-1) have won just two games this season, against Marist and Manhattan, and recently tied Columbia Tuesday, 1-1.

Fordham leads the A-10 in offsides calls, registering a 2.71 average per game, and are third to last in the conference overall standings.

“They’re a team that just makes it difficult for you to play, and they’re not going to make glaring mistakes or give you goals,” Koch said. “You have to beat them, and the longer they stay in the game, the more they believe they can beat you, and if you make a mistake and give them an opportunity, they’re pretty good at pouncing on you.”

Much like the Minutemen, the Rams have had freshmen make an impact, as forward Veer Lakhan-Joseph has two goals on four shots so far this season. Along with Lakhan-Joseph, Tim Richardson and Marcus Axelsson have helped offensively, but the Rams have been outscored 13-4 in 2009.

“They’re a good team to play because it’s a good test,” Koch said. “They’re tough to play because they aren’t going to give you anything, so we need to come out and play a little bit better to beat them.”

Last season, in the midst of a six game unbeaten streak, UMass defeated the Rams on the road, 2-1, as redshirt sophomore Sam DeNormandie scored the game winning goal and his first career goal as a member of the Minutemen. DeNormandie has played in five games so far this season, scoring one goal while helping a defense that is in the A-10. After its two game homestand, UMass will head to Ohio to open its conference schedule against Xavier on Oct. 9 before taking on Dayton Oct. 11.

David Brinch can be reached at dbrinch@student.umass.edu.

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