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December 28, 2016

Missed opportunities plague UMass men’s soccer in another loss

 

Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian

The frustration is becoming more and more apparent on the faces of the Massachusetts men’s soccer team.

After being shutout for the sixth time in seven games in a 2-0 loss to Fairfield on Wednesday, UMass is still searching for answers to its offensive woes.

“We were doing the right things today, but we just couldn’t buy a goal,” UMass coach Sam Koch said.

The loss to Fairfield was the sixth in a row for the Minutemen, but it hasn’t been for a lack of trying. Rather, it’s been an inability to convert on their offensive opportunities.

“When you’re 0-6 and you haven’t scored too many goals, that goal gets smaller and smaller and smaller,” Koch said. “And you get tighter and tighter and tighter in those kinds of situations and there’s a lot of pressure on those guys.”

Wednesday’s loss was a prime example of the inability to finish that has plagued the Minutemen all year.

UMass fired 19 shots at the Fairfield goal, with many coming from inside the 18-yard box. The Minutemen held an 11-7 shot advantage at the half, but still found themselves tied because they couldn’t find the net.

Despite the shots advantage, UMass only managed to put seven on target, which isn’t enough, according to junior defenseman Matt Keys.

“I think, maybe, more chances because at this rate, getting a lot isn’t doing it,” he said. “So the only thing you can do is get more. So, I mean honestly, we just need to find a way to find the back of the net because getting a lot of opportunities and still not producing goals, it’s just frustrating.”

There were glaring question marks entering the season about where the offensive production would come from. This year’s club features 14 freshmen, so inexperience is certainly factoring into the low production.

But the offense has gone dry with the upperclassmen as well. Junior Josh Schwartz, last year’s leading scorer, only has one goal on the season and missed a couple of close opportunities Wednesday that would’ve put the Minutemen on the board.

With the growing anticipation about when that next goal will come, it’s hard to overlook the pressure that is building with UMass.

“I think it’s partly the pressure, and just the notion that we want to score so bad and are frustrated in not scoring,” Keys said. “When the opportunity arises, we’re just like, ‘Ohhh,’ and I don’t know, we just can’t finish.”

Even with only two goals scored in the first seven games, one bright spot offensively has been the play of freshman attacker Matt Bolduc.

Bolduc entered the season like many of the freshmen, not knowing what his role on the team would be, but has stepped up for Koch. He has worked his way into the starting attack and has seen his role and minutes drastically increase as of late.

“I wasn’t expecting it, but I was hoping it,” he said. “So, I’m glad that what I hoped came true.”

In Wednesday’s loss, Bolduc was arguably the Minutemen’s best offensive weapon, making strong runs up the wing and delivering great balls into the box, setting up opportunities for his teammates.

“I mean, he had a great game,” Koch said of Bolduc. “He got down their side, pretty much at will and created a lot of great scoring chances for us. I mean he had a very good game. Very pleased with his effort.”

As for finishing on opportunities in the future, Koch knows better results are very close.

“We’re going to get better. I promise you that.”

Patrick Strohecker can be reached at pstrohec@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @MDC_Strohecker.

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