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Minutemen drop 1-0 game to Rhode Island, despite strong defense

mSocAThe Massachusetts men’s soccer team executed the way they always have on Saturday afternoon.

In rainy conditions, the Minutemen (5-5-3, 2-3-0 Atlantic 10), used a strong defensive game plan in order to keep an offensive-minded team from generating multiple goals. Unfortunately for UMass, its offense got off to a slow start, and couldn’t capitalize on a number of opportunities in the second half, as the Minutemen fell to Rhode Island, 1-0, at Rudd Field.

“In the second half, we had the opportunities, [but] we let down for that one moment in the first half and it cost us, and that’s the difference in the game,” UMass coach Sam Koch said.

In the 12th minute of play, URI forward Eric Lindroos headed home what proved to be the winning goal of the match on a feed from Andrew Ruiz that was played in on a free kick from Erkko Puranen.

“I don’t know if we thought the ball was going out, but the bottom line is that we didn’t challenge for the header, and it was on the back post,” Koch said. “For a moment we relaxed, and we can’t, and I don’t know if the guys that were on the back post when they crossed it back thought it was out of play, but it doesn’t matter. We just turned off for that split second, and that’s all it took.”

After the Rams scored, the Minutemen tightened up on defense, allowing no corner kicks in the first half and just one in the second half.

Midfielder Bryant Kraft gave the Minutemen their best opportunity to score, registering two shots along with forward Chris Roswess, who had two shots, one on goal.

However, URI out shot UMass 13-8, including seven in the second half.

“Give them credit, they put us under pressure a lot, they didn’t let us play, but I thought we had good chances behind their backs, especially in the second half,” Koch said.

In the 84th minute, the Minutemen earned back-to-back corner kicks, and looked as if they were going to score. Koch substituted defender Dominic Skrajewski in for Chris Roswess in order to get more of his players forward to potentially tie the game. But UMass was unable to capitalize on either try, and even continued putting more shots in the box, but nothing could come of it.

“We’re trying to get guys that are going to make things happen up top, and you’ve got to work off of the ball,” Koch said. “Their back four was very high, so we had to get runs in behind them and we felt that we needed to get fresh legs in there, and that’s what we tried to do.”

Senior forward Mark DeSantis did not see action in the game because of an illness. Koch tried to make up for his leading scorer’s absence by putting some fresh faces on the attack.

Freshman Brodie Steigerwald and Morgan Brandso saw substantial time with DeSantis out on Saturday, as Koch wanted to find a combination that could generate offense.

“We aren’t scoring a lot of goals, so we are trying to get some guys in there,” Koch said. “I think Morgan had a good opportunity and with Mark out, unfortunately, it’s like going through preseason again. We are trying to find that combination that’s going to work, and unfortunately, we didn’t get that today. It’s out there, its just not working yet.”

The Minutemen will host Duquesne noon this Friday at Rudd Field.

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

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