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Preseason serves as opportunity for young UMass men’s soccer players

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/ Daily Collegian)

After a long offseason, the Massachusetts men’s soccer team got its first taste of live action on Sunday, falling to Northeastern 2-0 in the first preseason exhibition of the fall.

Though they dominated possession for a majority of the afternoon, the Minutemen could never find the final ball in the attacking third, while the Huskies took their chances in front of goal.

Despite the loss, UMass coach Fran O’Leary liked what he saw.

“I felt it was a very good outing,” O’Leary said. “We’re not too concerned about the results in pre-season. We’re trying to get everyone minutes, and come through unscathed, without any injuries, and we’ve done that today.”

Several new Minutemen saw their first minutes in a maroon shirt on Sunday, as O’Leary rotated in plenty of his youngest charges to get them time in real competition.

“Young guys came in, showed a great attitude,” says O’Leary. “They’re still learning the system, still trying to get up to match fitness, but the time is a very valuable thing.

“I thought they all did well. The first thing you look for is, are they afraid? Do they have the mentality to play? None of them showed any fear, none of them showed any nerves, they all came out and did a pretty good job.”

After a scoreless first half Northeastern came out firing, as senior forward Harry Swartz found some space in the box and fired home to open the scoring in the 53rd minute.

Husky forward Dante Morrissette found himself in a nearly identical spot a half-hour later and he too found the back of the net to double Northeastern’s advantage.

In the end, UMass’ chances were few and far between and strong midfield play never translated into major scoring opportunities.

Preseason exhibitions don’t count for much, but they do give coaching staffs a chance to see their players in a live environment, and give players a chance to prove themselves and earn a spot on the field. For the Minutemen, less than two weeks from kicking off the regular season against St. Francis, the ink on the team sheet is far from dry.”

“[The team] is not set,” said O’Leary. “You think you have an idea now, but every year–and you tell the guys this at the first game–the starting 11, by the time you get into conference play, three or four guys are no longer in the team.”

UMass will play one more exhibition this preseason, hosting Assumption on Aug. 19. The Minutemen will open the regular season with a three-game home stand, taking on St. Francis on Aug. 25, Sacred Heart on Aug. 27, and Columbia on Sep. 1, all at Rudd Field in Amherst.

Amin Touri can be reached at atouri@umass.edu and on Twitter @Amin_Touri.

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