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Momentum halted as UMass men’s soccer falls to Dartmouth

(Katherine Mayo / Daily Collegian)

The Massachusetts men’s soccer team could not keep its recent momentum going on Tuesday night, losing to Dartmouth 1-0 on the road.

The offense never truly got going in Hanover, as the University of Massachusetts (3-1-2) attack was rendered largely unthreatening all evening by the Big Green (2-2-0).

“It was a good contest against a very good Dartmouth side,” coach Fran O’Leary said. “I think our guys acquitted themselves well, but on one occasion we didn’t defend well from a set piece, which is usually our strength and that turned out to be the difference in the game. I think we defended very well against their potent attack, and limited them to few chances, but just once in the box they got the first contact and that was the game.”

The lone goal of the contest came midway through the first half, as the Minutemen got their set-piece defense all wrong.

In the 19th minute Dartmouth freshman Dawson McCartney swung in a free kick from the short corner, and senior Wyatt Omsberg came charging into the box unmarked to leap over everyone and head home the goal from six yards out.

UMass had its best chance of the evening just moments earlier, as freshman Davis Smith very nearly scored his first collegiate goal. However, his flying header only scraped the crossbar on its way over for a goal kick.

Smith has had several chances to open his goal scoring account for UMass, but hasn’t quite been able to put one away as of yet.

“Yeah, the goals will come for Davis,” said O’Leary. “He’s a very good player. That was a big chance in the first half, had we connected we’d be a goal up, and usually the team that scores first tends to get the result. While Dartmouth had the possession for the first 15-20 minutes, we created the best chance. Unfortunately, he narrowly missed the diving header, but for a freshman to come in, he’s had a big impact and the goals will definitely come.”

The Big Green continued to dominate possession throughout the match, but UMass was characteristically strong defensively, allowing only three shots on goal all evening.

“I feel defensively we held up collectively very well against a team in the top 20 [nationally] last season,” O’Leary said. “But soccer can be a cruel game, we gave a fantastic effort but if you switch off for a second, good teams tend to punish you, and we got punished.”

The Minutemen looked to have a chance to equalize in the dying minutes when junior Jack Fulton took a header on from Smith and appeared to be through on goal. But the whistle blew for offsides and the threat was squashed before it could materialize.

Aside from a handful of chances few and far between, it was a largely frustrating night for UMass offensively. A strong defensive performance was not enough to save an anemic attack that could not hold possession in the middle of the park.

“I think when you’re playing a top team like this on the road, you’re going to give up a lot of possession,” O’Leary said. “We had a lot of really good chances and failed to hit the target. We didn’t test the keeper enough tonight, and that’ll happen against tough teams. We’ll dust ourselves off, and get ready for the next one.”

Having faced teams like New Hampshire, a top-25 nationally ranked side, and Dartmouth, the three-time defending Ivy League champs and an NCAA tournament team from last season, O’Leary believes his team will find improvement from some very tough tests when conference play kicks up at the end of the month.

“We talk about playing good teams,” O’Leary said. “Getting our weaknesses exposed, and I think we’re a much better team coming into tonight as a result of the game against New Hampshire, and I feel we’ll be a much better team as a result of the experience tonight. We’ll pick the bones off the loss, see where we can get better, and we’ll be better on Saturday.”

Following the trip to Dartmouth, the Minutemen return home to host Colgate on Saturday, before hitting the road again to face Central Connecticut State. Conference play opens on Sept. 30, as UMass heads to Saint Louis for its first Atlantic 10 matchup of the fall.

Saturday’s kickoff is set for 1 p.m. at Rudd Field.

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

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