While it may not be obvious to the majority of fans, it should really come as no surprise that Matt Keys and Josh Schwartz have played with such successful coherence for the Massachusetts men’s soccer team this season.
To the outside observer, there might not be a more mismatched pair of players on the team. Keys, at 6-foot-4 inches tall, is a physically-imposing presence, while the 5-foot-6-inch Schwartz, is anything but. UMass assistant coach Devin O’Neill knows there’s more to this talented sophomore duo than meets the eye, however.
“I don’t know if (people) are aware, but they’re roommates,” O’Neill said, chuckling to himself. “They tag along together, and they’re like (famous comic strip pairing) Mutt and Jeff.”
While their physical appearances may be a study in contrast, the superb performances Keys and Schwartz have combined to put forth on the field this year have helped to keep a young, inexperienced Minutemen team afloat.
Schwartz, who nailed game winners against Vermont and Saint Joseph’s earlier this season, is first or second on the team in every significant offensive category, including goals (five), assists (two), points (12) and shots taken (25) through 14 games played.
Keys, whose defensive presence at center back limits his scoring opportunities, has still managed to follow up his roommate for second on the team with three goals (on nine shots) and six points.
No more apparent was the connection between the two players than during UMass’ most recent game, a 3-0 road win over George Washington on Sunday. Pressed to keep pace with a logjam of teams fighting for a seed in the upcoming Atlantic 10 tournament, Keys and Schwartz were responsible for all three of the Minutemen’s goals in the contest.
Schwartz helped kickstart victory by feeding his roommate down in front of the net – the second coming off a corner kick – for a pair of headers into the net.
“Matt’s goals were on restarts that Josh served to him,” O’Neill said. “Matt did a phenomenal job finishing them. They were very good balls in there that Josh served.”
Schwartz then completed the scoring flurry with a goal of his own, this time coming on a pass in traffic from Connor Devivo.
“He took (the pass from Devivo) really well off his chest,” O’Neill said. “It wasn’t easy and (he) just finished it really calmly.
“Wonderful, wonderful game for those two guys,” he said.
Though the 2012 season has been a rough, up-and-down affair, the expected production of the Keys and Schwartz odd-ball combination gives the coaching staff reason for future hope.
“They’re a funny pair,” O’Neill said. “They’re thick as thieves, they’re best friends and they’re playing both very well.
“We feel good that they’re going to have a few more years and are doing such a great job,” he said.
Frame recovering from leg injury
Goalkeeper Brian Frame has been a stalwart presence for UMass in 2012, recording five shutouts and playing in all but seven of the more than 1300 cumulative minutes played by the team this season. But a quadriceps injury suffered in the Minutemen’s 2-0 loss to Temple on Oct. 14 has slowed the senior goalkeeper of late.
Fortunately for the team’s tournament hopes, Frame is not expected to miss extended time with the ailment.
“It has not hampered his ability in shot stopping and dealing with crosses,” O’Neill said. “His mobility seems to be where it normally has been.”
O’Neill noted that the injury has forced Frame to make adjustments to his kicking game, however.
“Bob Kuzmeski, our athletic trainer, does a wonderful job,” O’Neill said. “So, we expect (Frame) to be hopefully back at full fitness real soon.”
If Frame’s quad injury does force him to the sidelines, fellow senior Kellen Rauch is slotted to take over in net.
Daniel Malone can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @Daniel_Malone.