Sometimes only a single mistake or play can change the complexity of a game. For the Massachusetts men’s soccer team, 2013 has been an ongoing struggle to find its way onto the correct side of those outcomes.
UMass (0-5-1) fell to Dartmouth 2-0 on Sunday afternoon, allowing two goals to junior phenom Alex Adelabu in a 14-minute span. Adelabu, who was named first-team All-Ivy League a season ago, commanded constant attention throughout the game. He currently leads the Big Green (2-0-2) with five points this season.
Adelabu’s first goal came in the 43rd minute of the game when he beat Minutemen goalkeeper Nick Ruiz to his right side after receiving a through-ball from Collin Heffron. Adelabu then followed it up in the 57th minute, cleaning up a loose header in the box from teammate Stefan Defregger.
“[Adelabu’s] a good player,” UMass coach Sam Koch said. “You gotta stay on him tight and not let him turn; he’s a man among boys. He’s a good, solid player and we let him get free. When you do that, he’s gonna hurt you.”
Koch noted the difference in the game came down to two defensive lapses, something that has plagued the Minutemen so far this season, and especially can’t happen against a player that he believes can play at the next level.
“It’s very tough on the players, they know they pretty much have to play perfectly in order to get a shutout and that’s tough to do,” Koch said.
“Because we’re not scoring goals, I think that puts more of a pressure on them,” Koch continued. “Is it frustrating? There’s no question it’s frustrating. Are we slowly but surely getting better? There’s no question they are.”
Offensively, UMass yet again made strides, creating 10 shots against a team that garnered national attention heading into the season. Josh Schwartz led the Minutemen with three shots while Peter Alvarenga managed two on net.
“I thought in the first half we could’ve been up 2-0 and we had a goal called back in the second-half,” Koch said. “We showed at times we’re getting better, unfortunately we didn’t finish our chances and we gotta finish them.”
UMass did not lack opportunity Sunday, attempting five corner kicks. The Minutemen have attempted 20 corners on the season but have failed to convert on any.
“At times we look really good and at times we don’t, it’s one of those things where you have to keep working at it until we get it down,” Koch said. “We’re certainly, I think, a lot better at it and we’re scoring a lot more on our set pieces in training.”
Still, UMass’ offensive output has been minimal. The team’s scored two goals this season, both coming against Vermont in a 3-2 loss. Five times the Minutemen have been shutout, a disappointing figure for the young team.
“[The team] isn’t happy, I don’t think anybody’s happy when you work as hard as you do and you don’t get [results],” Koch said. “We’re frustrated; we’ve got our heads down a little bit. We talked about it after the game, the only tragedy in this loss is if we don’t learn from it and become a better team.”
Koch hopes Sunday’s performance against Adelabu can be treated as a learning tool as the team prepares to faces similar types of players in Atlantic-10 action.
“When we go against players like that, we have to make sure we track them better because when we go against the St. Louis’ and the VCU’s and the George Mason’s, they’re gonna have players like that and we have to be able to handle those kinds of players.”
Mark Chiarelli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @Mark_Chiarelli.