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Men’s soccer earns first win of the season over Brown 2-0

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Ty Goncalves keeps the ball away from his opponents on Saturday. (Katherine Mayo/Daily Collegian)

The Massachusetts men’s soccer team achieved a number of firsts on Saturday with its first multi-goal game and first shutout, resulting in the team’s first victory of the year in a 2-0 win over Brown at Rudd Field.

UMass (1-5-1) finally turned its improved play into a win thanks to two goals coming off set pieces. It was an area that cost them in the previous loss to Albany when the Minutemen gave up the game-winning goal with 30 seconds left off a set piece.

“It’s obviously a relief,” UMass coach Fran O’Leary said. “I think we played well the last couple of games. We were very good against Albany and BU, but set pieces cost us those games and set pieces won us the game today.”

The Minutemen opened the scoring in the 23rd minute when junior midfielder Henry Steinkamp picked up his first goal of the season following a corner kick. Six minutes later UMass extended its lead when forward and fellow junior Alex DeSantis converted his second goal of the season after a free kick.

The Bears  (3-2-0) tallied 10 shots in the first half—including five on goal—but were unable to convert on any of them.

Scoring chances for both teams were limited in the second half. Brown tallied seven shots to the Minutemen’s four, while UMass goalkeeper Jorge Becerra was forced to make just one save and the Bear’s goalkeeper Erik Hanson didn’t need to make any.

The Bears’ best scoring chance of the half—and probably the entire game—came with 12 minutes remaining when forward Tyler Long drilled a shot off the crossbar, but UMass was able to clear away the danger.

Becerra tallied six saves on the way to his first clean sheet of the season. The back four of Konrad Gorich, Josh Jess, Casey Hamill, and Brandon Merklin played all 90 minutes and limited Brown’s scoring chances.

“I thought our goalkeeper today, Jorge, was terrific,” O’Leary said. “The back four stood up. They won their headers, they got the blocks in, they did a terrific job and we really earned the shutout.”

While it’s easier said than done, the Minutemen were finally able to achieve their goal of keeping the opposition off the scoreboard for the entire game.

“We always try to get a shutout every game,” Becerra said. “We always say if we don’t get scored on we can’t lose, so today we came out, we worked our butts off defensively, kept fighting for one another, and we got the shutout.”

Becerra credited the UMass defenders with helping him secure his first clean sheet of the season.

“I think the back four is solid,” Becerra said. “They’re always solid, they always put in so much effort every game, so it makes my job a lot easier at times, and if they have one play off it just makes me want to fight for them because they’re always fighting for me.”

O’Leary believes this first win was the only thing missing from the team’s improved play over the past few games.

“I think we’ve played well without getting the results we’ve maybe deserved,” O’Leary said. “The only thing we needed now to put a deposit of confidence in the bank was a win, and that’s a huge deposit of confidence. Now everyone’s looking forward to the next game and really excited about the next game.”

The Minutemen hit the road next week, travelling to Vermont on Wednesday and Hartford on Saturday. Wednesday’s opening kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Jamie Cushman can be reached at jrcushman@umass.edu.

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