UM soccer head to Ohio for A-10 opener
Playing on the road is a tough feat for any team that strives on getting better each game and making the postseason.
Just ask the Massachusetts men’s soccer team.
The Minutemen have won just one game on the road so far this season, a 2-0 effort over Siena on Sept. 26. With Atlantic 10 play beginning this weekend, the Minutemen hope to get off on the right foot. On their quest to return to the conference finals, the Minutemen head to Ohio this weekend to face Xavier Friday and Dayton Sunday.
“It’s all a part of it, you have to travel, you have home field for the opponent, you have the fans, and you have the referees who can certainly be influenced by the hometown fans, so it is a lot harder,” UMass coach Sam Koch said.
“But, in order to get to the A-10 tournament, you’ve got to win a couple games on the road, and we hope to do that on Friday. Is it a little bit harder? Yeah, it’s a little bit harder, but I still think we can do it.”
UMass fell to conference opponent Fordham last Saturday, 3-0, seeing its three-game winning streak come to a close after back-to-back wins against the Saints and Colgate. Even though the Minutemen could not come up with the victory, the game does not count towards the A-10 standings.
“I think we didn’t get better last weekend against Fordham, we certainly played better in the second half, we just went away from everything we had been doing really well, and we got punished for it,” Koch said.
UMass should have an easier time against the Musketeers (1-5-1), who have won just one game so far in 2009 and average less than one goal a game (0.86). The Minutemen lead the A-10 in goals against average (0.58), goals allowed (five), and are second in shutouts with four. Part of the reason is goalkeeper Chris Piekos, who will start in goal against the Musketeers on Friday. Piekos tops the conference in goals against average (0.22) and save percentage (.955), and is third in saves per game (5.25).
While the defense has never really been a question, UMass’ offense struggled Saturday, and will need to generate offense against both the Musketeers and the Flyers.
“I think with taking a step backwards, we took a step forward, and we will find out Friday,” Koch said. “I am hoping that the players realize we have to play this way, simple, one or two touch, and we have to work hard off the ball to support each other, we’ve got to play the flanks and we have to play the ball quickly.”
The Minutemen will look to midfielder Ben Arikian and forward Mark DeSantis to find the back of the net against a Musketeer team that is coming off a 2-1 overtime defeat at the hands of Cincinnati on Sept. 30. Even though their record does not back it up, Koch knows that Xavier is a team that cannot be taken lightly, like the Rams last Saturday.
“Xavier is a very solid team; they have a good center midfielder, a good center back, a front runner that is certainly dangerous, an outside midfielder that’s dangerous, but the bottom line is that we have to take care of our own business. We need to make sure we do the things that we need to do to play well,” Koch said.
The Flyers are in the midst of a five game winning streak, and are tops in the A-10 in almost every offensive statistical category.
As for the A-10 schedule beginning, Koch knows how important it is for him and his team.
“It’s huge, it’s big, it’s the start, it’s what we’ve been waiting for and we’re looking forward to it.”
David Brinch can be reached at email@example.com.