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April 30, 2016

Minutemen settle for another draw against Big Green

Maxwell Sparr/Daily Collegian

The Massachusetts men’s soccer team salvaged a point Wednesday afternoon after a tough battle with Dartmouth, tying the Big Green 1-1 in a double overtime match.

“It means another tie to our record,” UMass coach Sam Koch said. “We played better. We created chances and we had opportunities. We defended better as a team. We still broke down at times, we still got stretched, which is really what we talked about, because that’s when we get stretched it’s really easy to move the ball on us.”

From the opening whistle, the Big Green (4-2-1) proved to be the better squad with a higher amount of possession and swift passing. The Minutemen (1-3-4) struggled to find the right passes and relied on scrappy counterattacks to push up the field.

The game opened up towards the end of the first half. Off a David Key throw-in, Chris Roswess headed the ball down to the pitch where freshman Tyler Cleverdon nailed a shot into the back of the net for his second goal of the season.
UMass’ celebration was short-lived however, as senior Andrew Olsen found the ball just inside the box where he sent in a screamer past goalkeeper Chris Piekos that rested nicely in the back corner of the goal for the Big Green.

The remainder of the first half was dominated by Dartmouth possession with few attacks from the Minutemen. Piekos proved his worth again by getting a hand to New Zealand native Daniel Keat’s shot opportunity which was on its way into the netting.

In the second half, the UMass offense ignited for 10 shots. Ben Arikian and Roswess were key players on offense in the second half, with both nearly scoring off chip-shots that barely missed the upper 90 of the goal posts.

“We had a few offensive chances that I think we could have finished,” defender Dominic Skrajewski said.

Arikian had the crowd on the edge of its seat continuously throughout the second half. A missed header with four minutes left was just one of Arikian’s offensive opportunities on the day, which included seven shots with one on goal.

“Well, it’s quite clear that the grounds people need to move the goals, because if he has seven shots and only one on goal, that means the goal is in the wrong place,” Koch said.

All jokes aside, Koch admitted that Arikian is indeed a workhorse player and a threat to the opposition.

“He’s got so much energy,” Koch said. “He’s a threat against any team that he goes against. They’re definitely worried about him and they need to be. I think some of his passes were a little off today, where if we can tighten that up then he’s going to start scoring a lot of goals, so we’re looking forward to that.”

While Arikian dominated the offensive side of the pitch, Skrajewski was the defensive savior late in the game. With just about two minutes left, Skrajewski blocked a shot opportunity with his shins. He also held off Lucky Mkosana in the final minute, which pushed the game to extra time.

“When we’re compact as a group I think we’re difficult to play against,” Koch said. “Against a team like this, which [Mkosana] and [Keat] are two very good players, we can’t let them have time and space to serve balls to them which they were able to do at times. I think the back four did a really good job of holding them. I just don’t think they were as effect when we’re able to stop those two guys.”

In similar fashion as the rest of its performances this season, UMass allowed the Big Green to keep possession in the first period of extra time. Piekos came up big again for the Minutemen, stretching out on two occasions to block off close shots and force the game into a second overtime period.

“Piekos came up huge twice and we really owed Piekos a win today. I think overall we’re going in the right direction,” Skrajewski said.

The second overtime period saw shared possession between the two teams, with both defenses calming the offensive fire. Neither could break respective defensive units and the game ended in a draw.

Herb Scribner can be reached at hscribne@student.umass.edu.

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