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Massachusetts men’s soccer can’t get offense going in loss to New Hampshire

(Robert Rigo / Daily Collegian)

The Massachusetts men’s soccer team suffered its first loss of the season Tuesday night, falling to the New Hampshire Wildcats 3-0.

The University of Massachusetts (2-1-1) entered the game on a good run of form, coming off a win over a St. Francis team that made an NCAA tournament appearance last fall, and a draw with co-Ivy League champion Columbia. The strong start to the season was halted in Durham, as the Minutemen were unable to put much pressure on the Wildcat goal.

UNH (4-0) entered Tuesday as the 24th ranked team in the country, largely due to its stellar  defense. That unit stood tall Tuesday, securing its fourth straight shutout to start the season.

UMass has struggled mightily against its border rival in recent years­—the teams have faced off each of the last five seasons, with the Wildcats winning four and the fifth played to a draw.

“They’re just a very good team,” UMass coach Fran O’Leary said post-game. “They have talented players all over their team. We had chances [to score] but we were unable to capitalize on them.”

The game was delayed 20 minutes due to lightning in the area, but UNH was still able to come out of the gate hot, as freshman midfielder Linus Fallberg found the back of the net in just the fourth minute off a pass from junior Otto Sahlen.

When playing a team that defends as well as the Wildcats, a one-goal lead that early in the contest can be demoralizing.

“It’s not a good situation to give up a goal early,” O’Leary said. “It then becomes a challenge to settle into the game. We settled in but we were behind the eight ball.”

The Minutemen were held to just eight shots on the game, forcing Wildcat goalie Andrew Pesci into making five saves. UMass was only able to generate one shot on goal in the second half.

O’Leary hopes his team can learn from the slow start and assure it doesn’t happen again.

“It was the first time this season we started slow,” he said. “It’s not usual for the team. Hopefully it was an anomaly.”

While the UNH defense was the story of the game, the back unit for the Minutemen fought hard and kept the game close for 80 minutes. They held the Wildcats to 12 shots, and the team as a whole came together and played a much better second half.

While UMass pushed its attackers forward in an attempt to tie the game late, the Wildcats were able to sneak in two late goals on the counterattack.

Will Rasid ended any shot of a UMass comeback in the 85th minute, putting a one timer past Minutemen keeper Bardia Asefnia. Junior Chris Arling added on another goal in the 88th minute as he was able to blast a shot into the bottom right corner of the net to seal it.

Despite the score, O’Leary knows his team is not far away from beating ranked teams like UNH.

“In the second half, I feel we dominated,” O’Leary said. “They broke late and got a couple [of goals]. I think it was a much improved second half. We’ll learn a lot from the experience. We have to come out quicker against tough teams.”

UMass will look to get back in the win column Saturday, as they travel back to Amherst to take on Boston University.

Thomas Johnston can be reached at tjohnston@umass.edu and followed on twitter @TJ__Johnston.

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