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May 8, 2017

Minutemen fail to capitalize on fouls in loss to the Rams

Nobody following the Massachusetts men’s soccer team or Fordham would’ve expected a physical game on Saturday, but that’s exactly what happened this weekend with 29 combined fouls and three yellow cards.

Inclement weather made for slippery conditions, especially in the first half, where it rained heavily on the field and played a part in a few injuries.

However, neither coach thought much of the heavy contact that went on during the Rams’ 1-0 victory over the Minutemen (3-2-3).

“There’s a wet field so there will be some late tackles, but I don’t think there was anything malicious,” UMass coach Sam Koch said. “They’re a clean, hard-working team, but I don’t think we’re a dirty team. Did they have a couple late tackles? Yeah, but we also had a couple late tackles.”

Fordham (3-5-1) scored its only goal early in the game, but coach Jim McElderry stayed uneasy for much of the game because of the Minutemen’s recent success and his team’s recent struggling.

Even with the Rams controlling UMass’ scoring, despite its recent offensive explosion of five goals in the previous two matches, McElderry barked out to his players not to foul despite having a lead.

“Once we got ahead, 1-0, we tried to just grind the result out,” McElderry said of why he thought there was so much contact during the game. “I think we’re really not an overly physical team.”

Both sides complained over the foul calls (and also lack of calls) throughout the game, but McElderry said he doesn’t consider the Minutemen to be a physical team in general. In fact, if there was anything he was upset about, it was the amount of penalty kicks midfielder Ben Arikian took because of the Rams’ fouling.

Arikian had six shots during the game, three of which, were on goal.

Although Arikian never scored off of penalty kicks, he got very close a few times. His best opportunity came nearly half-way through the first period when Arikian had a penalty kick just outside the 18-yard box in the middle of the field.

The Fordham defense created a wall in front of Arikian to prevent him from having a straight shot, but he countered by trying to bend the shot around the defenders and ultimately had his attempt go off the right post.

“I think we fouled too many times,” McElderry said of the Rams’ 14 fouls. “And with Arikian taking free kicks, they’re dangerous every time. I think [having Arikian take penalty kicks] is a real asset for the UMass team. It’s a way they can beat a lot of different teams.”

Koch knows what foul trouble can do for a team. In the 2-0 loss to Hartford on Sept. 5, the Minutemen gave up eight chances around the 18-yard box.

On Saturday, the Maroon and White didn’t have that same luck that the Hawks had earlier in the season, despite fouls playing a factor in the UMass out-shooting Fordham, 12-6.

The Sept. 5 game was the only one until Saturday where the Minutemen picked up multiple yellow cards (three) throughout the game. Against Fordham, UMass had two.

One came against forward Chris Roswess, who picked up his third yellow card of the season near the end of the first half and was promptly taken out for freshman Brodie Steigerwald. However, Koch said the move had nothing to do with Roswess’s foul.

“[Roswess] was tired and I was going to pull him anyhow, it just happened to be after he got the yellow card,” Koch said.

As frustrating as the game was physically, Koch found playing a conference opponent to be useful for when the Minutemen actually start Atlantic 10 play next weekend against Xavier and Dayton. He hopes that this game can be used as a wake-up call for the preparation UMass needs against the conference in the upcoming weeks.    

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

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