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UMass plays Dartmouth Saturday, needs offensive production

After concluding an unsuccessful homestand, the Massachusetts men’s soccer team hits the road again for a battle with New England-foe, Dartmouth.

UMass (1-7-0) will look to snap its four-game losing streak when it plays the Big Green (1-3-2) in Hanover N.H., at 7 p.m. Saturday.

The four-game slide is not the first slump the Minutemen have found themselves in this season, but this one is particularly unsettling for the team considering that Atlantic 10 play begins very shortly.

UMass coach Sam Koch couldn’t pinpoint the exact reason for UMass’ struggles.

“It’s a combination of a lot of different things,” he said.. “Some guys [are] not sure of what their roles are. Some guys [are] playing out of their roles, trying to do more than they need to.”

The glaring problem that the Minutemen face right now is offensive execution.

UMass has two goals in eight games this season, and the offense clearly needs someone to step up, according to Koch, who also said that forward Bryant Craft needs to step up. Craft led the team last year with seven goals.

“He’s in a little bit of a slump,” Koch said about Craft, who has one goal in eight games.

During the losing streak, Craft has attempted 10 shots with a pair on goal.

“He hasn’t created as many opportunities as I think he can and we haven’t been able to help him create those opportunities,” said Koch.

Perhaps one of those teammates will be Brett Canepa, who will return to action against Dartmouth after sitting out versus Hartford for the red card he was issued the previous game.

Offensive production is not the only area on the field that must improve. Leadership and accountability are subtle aspects of the game that the Minutemen currently lack.

“That’s extremely hard to tell a teammate that he’s not doing his job. That’s easy for me to do, but it’s hard for a fellow player to do,” said Koch.

Shane Curran-Hays will likely be the goaltender for the Minutemen come Saturday. Despite his 1-5 record, Curran-Hays has played well in net, registering a 1.12 goals-against-average and .794 save percentage.

Dartmouth enters the match coming off of two losses. Like UMass, the Big Green have packed their non-conference schedule with games against impressive opponents such as Tulsa, Southern Methodist, South Florida, South Carolina and Boston College.

Big Green senior forward Lucky Mkosana has already accumulated three goals and one assist this season, and he’s enjoyed success in all four years of his career at Dartmouth.

In his career, Mkosana has produced gaudy numbers, scoring 64 points and 27 goals.

“He’s a force. He’s someone you have to be aware of. He’s a goal-scorer,” said Koch.

Noah Cohen starts in goal for Dartmouth and bring a 1.55 goals-against average and a .714 save percentage to Saturday’s match.

Last season the teams faced off for the first time since 2007 and played to a 1-1 draw.

“We need a result. We need to play well. We need to feel that the stuff is working,” said Koch.

Jackson Alexander can be reached at jtalexan@student.umass.edu.

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