The Minutemen (1-3-3) are underperforming as of late, going 0-2-1 in their last three games at home. They will have their hands full with Dartmouth (4-2-0), which is coming off a 1-0 victory against New Mexico.
The Big Green feature a high-powered, dynamic offense that possesses eight different goal-scorers on the young season. This could pose as a serious threat to the Minutemen defense, which has broken down lately during critical moments. Dartmouth defenders Bryan Giudicelli and Teo Larsson-Sax have given their positions surprising offense, as they share the team-lead with two goals apiece.
UMass coach Sam Koch isn’t as concerned with them as he is with two of their forwards: Lucky Mkosana and Daniel Keat, who were both elected to the All-Ivy First Team last year.
“They have two guys up top that are outstanding,” Koch said. “[Keat] can hit bombs from 30 yards out; he’s a special player. [Lucky] up top is extremely quick and he’s a handful. The two of them together up top are probably the best duo we will have faced so far. These guys are the real thing. They’re very good players.”
Keat made an impact on Dartmouth’s squad immediately as a freshman in 2006, leading the team with 13 points on six goals and one assist. His collegiate career was marred by injuries the proceeding two years, but he found his way back last season for an incredible campaign in which he started all 16 games, registering 22 points on eight goals and six assists.
Even with Keat’s impressive résumé, it is Mkosana’s track record that Koch is most worried about. As a freshman in 2008, Mkosana led the Ivy League with 24 points on 11 goals and two assists en route to his unanimous selections as Ivy League Rookie of the Year and as a member of the All-Ivy First Team. Mkosana picked up where he left off last year, ranking second on the team with eight goals and four assists.
Dartmouth has 11 goals on the season, four more than its opponents. The Big Green have a strong propensity to shoot, averaging more than six shots per game over their opponents. This could mean a busy day for UMass goalkeeper Chris Piekos, whose strong play lately has earned him the majority of starts over Shane Curran-Hays.
Piekos has been between the pipes for some tough-luck losses so far this season, compiling a record of 0-2-3 despite his 1.02 goals against average and.812 save percentage.
In order to keep up with Dartmouth, UMass will have to convert on its scoring chances. Koch is content with the amount of chances the Minutemen create, but is upset with his team’s ability to cash in when it counts. Over the past few weeks, UMass has seen far too many scoring opportunities go by the wayside. Koch hopes the team’s weekend practices fix this.
“We had Sunday off and on [Monday] we worked on possession, playing the ball quickly, one-touch and two-touch passing, as well as finishing,” he said.
UMass hopes it can gain momentum quickly and return to its traditional winning ways at home. The Minutemen play two more non-conference games at home before hosting Atlantic 10 rival Xavier on Oct. 8.
Steve Levine can be reached at email@example.com.