When the Massachusetts men’s soccer team steps onto Rudd Field on Wednesday to take on Fairfield, it will do so in the midst of one of the longest losing streaks in head coach Sam Koch’s tenure.
Dropping its fifth straight game on Sunday to Dartmouth, UMass (0-5-1) matched the 2011 and 1998 Minutemen teams with the longest single-season losing streak since 1990.
The losing streak has certainly been frustrating for the Minutemen, but the team remains positive and focused on the bigger picture.
“I feel very good about their attitude and their resolve to get better each week,” Koch said. “And it’s with the idea that when we play against VCU at the start of the conference, that’s when our season really starts and that’s what the guys are gearing towards.”
And with the competitive Stags (1-1-1) team coming to Amherst, Koch believes that his team can take away many lessons from the loss to Dartmouth.
“I felt like the game could have gone either way,” Koch said. “As I felt the first 25 minutes, we had Dartmouth pinned in pretty well and we had chances, but we just didn’t finish them.”
Even if Koch and the team can find the silver linings in its latest loss, UMass still needs to change things if it wants to earn that elusive first win.
The Minutemen went over different tactics in practice on Tuesday and much of what they focused on was making sure they are protecting the ball better on the attack.
“The trouble with us having to defend all the time is because we give the ball away,” Koch said. “So we’re not as clean in our attacking play as we need to be to be able to continue on our attacks and get our opportunities.”
Unlike many other New England schools, the Minutemen and the Stags don’t have a longstanding history or rivalry. Wednesday’s game will only be their 12th meeting and the first since 2010, a game that saw both teams play to a goalless draw.
On top of that, this will be Fairfield’s fourth game of the season, making it a challenge for UMass to prepare for it.
“The tough thing is that they’ve only played three games,” Koch said. “So nobody knows a lot about them because they haven’t played a lot.”
And with their offensive woes still continuing—only scoring two goals in their first five games—the Minutemen don’t seem to be getting a break against the Stags.
Although Fairfield freshman goalkeeper Joe Martin was named the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Rookie of the Week last week after posting a 1-0 shutout over Yale to get his team its first win of the season, Koch still believes that, like in his team’s previous games, much of the onus lies heavily on his players to determine the outcome of the game.
“The focus going into tomorrow’s game isn’t Fairfield, it’s us,” Koch said. “It’s doing the things that I just talked about, making sure that we support each other better. Our support angles are better. The options that the player with the ball has are numerous versus limited. All of that will be taken care of by how well we play, focusing on us and focusing on the principles that we need to do well to be successful.”
Kickoff for Wednesday’s game is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. at Rudd Field.
Patrick Strohecker can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @MDC_Strohecker.