The supposed strengths of the Massachusetts men’s soccer team were nowhere to be found as the Minutemen fell to New Hampshire, 1-0, in double-overtime on Saturday at Rudd Field.
UMass traditionally relies heavily on its defense and success at home to win games. Both factors, however, are currently working against the Minutemen, as they are 1-2-1 during their current eight-game homestand. With the loss, UMass falls to 1-3-3, while UNH remains undefeated at 4-0-2.
“I’m extremely disappointed. I’m not happy,” UMass coach Sam Koch said. “We’ve been making the same sort of mistakes we’ve been making. We’re getting caught and sometimes over-committing and giving them too much time and space.”
If not for goalkeeper Chris Piekos, the game could’ve been over much sooner. Piekos made six saves in the loss, several coming on breakaways in overtime. The game-winner came with 85 seconds left, when UNH’s Jon Harris ran in between two UMass defenders and caught up to a long pass. Piekos came out to challenge the breakaway, but was too late, as Harris cashed in on the open net.
The loss marks the halfway point of the Minutemen’s homestand, who still have four consecutive games to play at Rudd Field before they leave for Rhode Island on Oct. 16.
In seven games this year, UMass has surrendered 10 goals on 100 shots compared to its own eight goals on 79 shots. Piekos hopes his team can rectify its problems on both ends of the field before conference play begins on Oct. 8 against Xavier.
“What we have to do is play 90 minutes, we can’t just play 88,” Piekos said. “What we’ve got to work on is just our through balls and the defensive back four, tracking [opponents] down and playing the ball clean and better clearances and obviously finishing. We had a lot of great opportunities, [it could have been] two, three [to] nothing. We’ve got to get hungry and get on the ends of the balls and finish.”
Piekos is still confident the Minutemen can turn it around, and he expects this week’s practices to include a lot of shooting and finishing drills.
“Our finishing isn’t where it needs to be, but those are the things we come out [and work on] Monday and Tuesday,” Piekos said. “It’s coming…we have a great team and today’s performance just didn’t show it.”
The Minutemen are 0-1-3 in four overtime games this season and have been seriously outplayed in the second overtime period. UMass nearly lost to Vermont in double-overtime on Friday, when they narrowly escaped multiple scoring chances from the Catamounts. On Sunday, UMass was again ineffective in the second overtime stanza as the Wildcats outshot the Minutemen, 5-1.
“We didn’t defend very well at times, and sooner or later the other team is going to beat you down,” Koch said.
“We gave away too many breakaways,” Piekos said.
UNH goalkeeper Colin O’Donnell was not tested much by the Minutemen, recording three saves for the shutout win.
“We’ve got a lot of things to work on,” Koch said. “Today is an example of us not doing the things we talked about as far as playing simple and making sure we combine with other teammates offensively.”
UMass returns to action on Wednesday, when it hosts Dartmouth for a 3 p.m. game at Rudd Field.
Steve Levine can be reached at email@example.com.