UMass men’s soccer travels to Rhode Island Wednesday
The Massachusetts men’s soccer team looks to extend its unbeaten streak to six straight matches on Wednesday when UMass hits the road to face Atlantic 10 rival Rhode Island.
While the Minutemen have been playing better soccer as of late with a 3-0-2 record over their past five games, most of that success has come at the friendly confines of Rudd Field.
The only road victory of the season for UMass came in a 3-2 win in overtime at Hartford that started the Minutemen’s run of improved play.
UMass (4-6-3, 1-0-2 A-10) coach Fran O’Leary believes URI (4-9-1, 1-3 A-10) will provide another difficult road test and the Minutemen can’t be fooled by the Rams’ record.
“URI is a far better team than their record indicates right now,” O’Leary said. “I think they’re one of the most talented teams in the conference and it’s going to be a big test for us.”
URI enters the game coming off three straight losses, but two have come against Saint Louis and Saint Joseph, who are currently sitting atop the A-10 standings. The third loss came against La Salle who, despite the early struggles in conference play, still holds the fourth best overall record in the conference.
The increased goal scoring UMass had displayed at the beginning of the stretch has not carried through to the past few games. The Minutemen have scored just a single goal in each of the past three games while relying on the defense to post a shutout, earning victories in two of them.
UMass has had nine players score a goal this season, and only senior midfielder Ty Goncalves has scored more than twice, but O’Leary sees this balance as a positive.
“I think one of the most positive things about our team [is] teams don’t get to focus on one guy because we spread the scoring load out amongst the entire squad,” O’Leary said. “So it will be fun to see who will be the main man for us tomorrow night.”
UMass has been relying on clean sheets as of late, but that will be easier said than done against the Rams, who have only been shut out twice this season. However, one shutout did come in their most recent match against Saint Louis.
Defensively, the Minutemen will need to keep track of midfielder/forward Stavros Zarokostas. The freshman from Covington, R.I. leads the Rams in goals with four and is tied for the team lead in assists with three.
“He’s a handful, he’s a handful,” O’Leary said. “We’ll have to be on our guard. It will take a collective effort to shut down their forwards. They’re good in one-on-one situations, so we’ll need support around the ball when any of their strikers are in possession.”
The conference match also holds playoff implications for UMass, who currently teeters on the edge of a conference tournament berth.
The Minutemen enter the match against the Rams in the eighth spot in the conference, the final A-10 tournament-bound team if the season ended today.
“It’s a big match for us. It really is a swing of momentum in our season if we can get another win. It would be eight points in four games and we’re really looking to have a high seed coming in to playoffs,” junior forward Alex DeSantis said.
Wednesday’s opening kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Jamie Cushman can be reached at email@example.com.