The Massachusetts men’s soccer team scored two goals on Saturday. One got it the lead, the other got it the victory.
On Sunday afternoon, the Minutemen team concluded non-conference play with a 2-1 upset of No. 19 Bradley University at Rudd Field.
With under six minutes remaining, Canepa broke a 1-1 tie with a goal that stirred up plenty of controversy and ultimately resulted in the second UMass (2-8-0) victory of the season.
The play began with a low-line drive sent in from senior co-captain David Key. As Bradley goalkeeper Brian Billings went for a sprawling save to his right, the ball trickled away to Canepa, who collected the rebound and booted the ball into the netting.
“Coach told us before the game to follow every shot. Dave [Key] hit a nice ball, it came out and I just put one away,” said Canepa.
The goal infuriated Bradley’s coaching staff as coach Jim DeRose was convinced that his team was in the middle of substitutions when Key took the free kick, making them shorthanded on the play.
“To be honest with you I don’t really know if it was a substitution situation, I didn’t see it so I can’t really say,” said UMass coach Sam Koch.
The Braves were particularly disturbed with the outcome of the game because losing to UMass, an unranked squad, now severely jeopardizes its chances of earning an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament.
Although the goal was controversial, UMass held possession well in the first half which maintained the fiery Braves side that ignited in the second half.
UMass kicked off the scoring in the 38th minute when senior defender Andrew Henshaw lofted a ball on net from about 30 yards out. The ball was directed right at Billings, but with a plethora of bodies in front of the goal, the goalie was unable to attack the ball aggressively.
The ball sailed over the head of a cutting Canepa and bounced on the ground just in front of Billings, but the ball skipped past the goalkeeper and into the back of the net.
The Minutemen created plenty of other opportunities in the first half but were unable to capitalize. They unleashed 10 first-half shots compared to Bradley’s six.
The offensive attack was particularly impressive considering that senior co-captain Bryant Craft, was on the bench. Last year’s leading goal scorer was unable to participate in the match due to an injury and is questionable for their next game.
For the most part, UMass spent the majority of the first half in the Braves’ defensive zone, but whenever Bradley did create chances, the Minutemen defense and goalkeeper Shane Curran-Hays stood their ground, according to Koch.
“Matt Keys, I thought, did a great job clearing a lot of balls with his head, Dominic [Skrajewski] cleared a lot of ball, and I thought Shane [Curran-Hays] punched a lot of balls away,” said Koch.
Bradley finally got on the board when a streaking Christian Meza snuck in past the UMass defense and Marcus Schademann found Meza on the left post for the goal.
“We made one mistake and the guy came in the back post and that’s how they scored,” said Koch.
Someone who did not sneak into the back was Bradley scoring threat Bryan Gaul. Gaul, a senior forward out of Naperville, Ill., leads the team in goals this season with six.
Bradley earned its No. 19 ranking because of two signature non-conference victories. The first came in its season opener when it defeated No. 21 Butler, the second was a 2-1 victory versus No. 8 South Florida.
“It’s huge, absolutely huge,” said Canepa, “It’s a UMass win.”
Jackson Alexander can be reached at email@example.com.