Perhaps last season’s scoring troubles are not quite behind the Massachusetts men’s soccer team just yet.
This became perfectly clear in Saturday’s 1-0 double-overtime loss to a less-than-stellar Adelphi team that won its first game in its final season as a member of Division I, handing the Minutemen (2-1-1) their first loss of the season.
UMass may have outshot the Panthers, 14-12, in the contest, but were outshot 4-2 in the overtime periods and only earned two corner kicks to Adelphi’s seven. What’s arguably even more frustrating for the Minutemen is the fact that they failed to score on struggling Adelphi (1-4) sophomore goalkeeper Ahmad Salamah, who came into the game with a 2.25 goals against average and a .735 save percentage in his first season as a starter.
“We just didn’t finish,” UMass coach Sam Koch said. “We had chances: (Connor) DeVivo had a breakaway that he didn’t finish, Josh Schwartz had a beautiful chip that just went wide, we had one that went off the crossbar and the goalkeeper made good saves.
“Unfortunately we had opportunities but we just didn’t put them away.”
One could argue that the Minutemen’s three goals through four games is quite an improvement when compared to last season. UMass was shut out 11 times while being held to nine goals in 2011. But the inability to break the one-goal barrier, or score at all in Saturday’s case, is proof that there is still plenty of room for improvement for the Minutemen.
“I think we definitely have to improve (offensively),” Koch said. “It’s not like we’re scoring three goals a game. We’ve scored three goals this year compared to (nine) all last year so we’re doing better.
“Is it an issue? It’s not like we’ve completely solved the problem,” Koch continued. “We’ve got to keep working at it. We have better finishers this year and we’ve had great chances, but we haven’t been able to finish.”
Though it has only been four games, UMass is, once again, in the bottom half of the conference rankings in goals — where it finished last in the Atlantic 10 in 2011 — and shots, proving that there are still plenty of improvements to be made to get over last year’s scoring troubles.
Other than their inability to finish on opportunities, Koch also pointed to the need to be more effective and get more chances on set pieces — the Minutemen have only had 17 corner kicks as opposed to 26 for their opponents — and play more aggressive in the midfield as ways to improve the offense.
“We need to battle to get on the end of (our set pieces),” Koch said. “We need a little more commitment to get to the end of the loose balls and any 50-50 chances. tI think that will result in a lot more chances and a lot more goals. We have to do a better job in our midfield defensively.”
Just by looking at the results of their first four games, it appears the Minutemen were much more comfortable playing on the grass at Rudd Field as opposed to the artificial surface at Motamed Field at Adelphi.
And while Koch won’t make any excuses, he acknowledged that the different atmosphere had an effect on the team’s poor performance on Saturday.
“It was the first time this team has played on the road when it counted,” Koch said. “When you’re on the road it’s a little different than playing at home.
“(Playing on the road) isn’t the reason why we didn’t win on Saturday but it certainly didn’t help us.”
UMass won’t be relieved of that discomfort anytime soon, however, as the final three affairs of its four-game road swing will also take place on a similar surface, starting with Hartford on Wednesday night.
“When you change surfaces it certainly has an effect,” Koch said, “and it’s different from what we’re used to.”
Koch addressed this issue by having the Minutemen practice on the artificial surface at McGuirk Stadium in order to get them more acclimated to the unfamiliar field conditions.
And with that first road game out of the way, Koch believes there’s no excuse for the Minutemen to not be prepared for the Hawks (3-3) come 7 p.m. on Wednesday.
“Now that we got that first one behind us, being on the road shouldn’t be an issue when we play on Wednesday,” he said.
Nick Canelas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @MDC_Canelas.