In a double overtime, golden goal, winner-takes-all scenario, finishing a scoring chance means everything on the pitch.
Even though the Massachusetts men’s soccer team has scored more goals so far this year than it did in 2009, its lack of ability to finish off good-scoring chances leaves something to be desired.
“It’s obviously one of the parts of our game we need to work on,” UMass coach Sam Koch said. “If I knew the answer to [why we aren’t finishing], then we would be finishing.”
So far in 2010, the Minutemen (1-3-3) have scored eight goals off of 79 shots. However, 33 of these shots were on goal, leaving 25 missed opportunities.
“Our first objective is to create chances and we are creating chances,” Koch said. “Now we have to finish the chances we’re creating. We got half of it down and now we need the other half.”
Even more disheartening for UMass is that it has yet to score a goal in the four double overtime matches it has played in where a goal means a victory.
In the most recent match against New Hampshire last Saturday, UMass lost in the closing minutes of the second period of extra time. Many of these chances in the second period of overtime had the fans at Rudd Field on the edge of their seats, including defender Dominic Skrajewski’s header that nearly gave the Minutemen the victory towards the end of the first extra time period.
Skrajewski’s header was one of eight shots taken in the two overtime periods by the Minutemen, which was half of the shots taken during the entirety of the match for UMass.
“First half, second half, overtime. [The] bottom line is we’re not scoring goals so it doesn’t matter,” Koch said. “It doesn’t matter when we’re scoring goals as long as were scoring more than the other team.”
Following the match against the Wildcats (4-0-2), even goalkeeper Chris Piekos commented about the lack of finishing, claiming that the team needed to work on shooting drills at practice.
According to Koch, that’s exactly what the Minutemen worked on in shooting exercises during practice.
“We probably spent about 50 percent of our time on [shooting drills],” Koch said.
While Koch admits there is a problem in terms of UMass finishing its chances, he stated that there is a solution to aid the Maroon and White.
“There are two parts to the problem,” Koch said. “We’re doing better and better at creating opportunities. The second part is finishing and using the technique of putting the ball back into the net. It’s going to happen and we’re going to do it. The problem is the more pressure there is to finish the more pressure the players put on themselves. The players have to relax but also have that sense of urgency to finish on good chances.”
The Minutemen will get a chance to prove if the shooting drills have paid off when they take on Dartmouth Wednesday afternoon. The Big Green (4-2-0) has allowed seven goals all season, with one score coming in overtime.
Herb Scribner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.