UMass men’s soccer hosts St. Bonaventure Wednesday at Rudd Field
A matchup between two teams with only five combined victories over the last 23 games may not seem appealing on the surface, but the recent form of the Massachusetts men’s soccer team and St. Bonaventure makes Wednesday’s Atlantic 10 matchup quite compelling.
UMass (3-6-2, 0-0-1 A-10) enters the game with a 3-1-1 record over its past five games, racking up three clean sheets and improving its scoring output, averaging 1.6 goals per game compared to the previous 0.67 goals per game.
Meanwhile, the Bonnies (2-8-2, 1-1-1 A-10) have shown improvements in conference play, including nearly doubling their goal total in their previous game, a 3-2 win over Davidson.
“I think it’s going to be a difficult one,” UMass coach Fran O’Leary said. “They’re coming off a terrific win against a much improved side at Davidson and a tie against Duquesne who has the best out of conference record in the league, so they’re obviously an American side.”
St. Bonaventure will be entering the game with more momentum as those two key results for the Bonnies both occurred more recently than the Minutemen’s last game.
Poor weather conditions resulted in the postponement of Sunday’s match against Fordham, meaning UMass has not played a game since Oct. 4, a 1-0 win over Central Connecticut in the final nonconference game of the season.
As the schedule currently stands, these seven days will be UMass’ longest layoff between games all season.
“We’re going to come out looking either rested or rusty and I think the result will have a large say,” O’Leary said. “If we come out and we’re on the front foot, we can look back and say we were well-rested. If we come out and they’re dominating us, we’ll end up saying we’re rusty, so obviously our goal is to come out on the front foot and start the game strongly.”
Previously, the longest layoff the Minutemen have had this year was six days rest before the A-10 opener against Dayton, a 0-0 draw.
The UMass defense has powered the Minutemen’s improved play, allowing just five goals over the past five games and earning three clean sheets. UMass has a chance to secure another shutout on Wednesday as St. Bonaventure has been held without a goal in seven of its 12 matches.
The biggest offensive threat on the Bonnies so far this season is midfielder Kieran Toland. The junior has tallied four goals coming into Wednesday, which is half of St. Bonaventure’s season total.
Last year Toland tallied two goals and two assists when the Bonnies had only eight goals for the whole season.
“I think they’ve got several dangerous players, including Kieran,” O’Leary said. “We’ve just got to really take care of our game, dictate the tempo of the game, be on the front foot and deny their forwards first.”
Offensively the Minutemen have also seen some improvements recently. After failing to earn a multi-goal game in its first six attempts, UMass has done it three times over the past five matches.
Professional hockey player Wayne Gretzky’s adage, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take,” seems to be proving true for the Minutemen, as UMass has upped its shot total from 8.33 shots per game to 12.2 shots per game over its five game run of improved play.
The offensive plan on Wednesday is pretty simple: score more goals than St. Bonaventure.
“We just want to score more goals than they do and get three points, simple as that,” O’Leary said.
Last year UMass defeated St. Bonaventure 2-1 thanks to a pair of goals from now-sophomore forward Kevin Boino.
Opening kickoff for Wednesday’s match is set for 4 p.m. at Rudd Field.
Jamie Cushman can be reached at email@example.com.