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UMass men’s soccer slips past Colgate 1-0

(Katherine Mayo / Daily Collegian)

It was another close one for the Massachusetts men’s soccer team on Saturday, as the Minutemen earned a 2-1 win over Colgate at Rudd Field.

Freshman Davis Smith’s first goal in a UMass shirt proved the difference that afternoon, as his 72nd minute winner lifted the Minutemen (4-2-1) to their fourth win of the season.

“Absolutely delighted with the result,” said UMass coach Fran O’Leary. “Colgate is well-coached and went to the NCAA tournament last year, and to put on a performance like this…they shaded the first half, and I felt we were on top in the second half.”

It was a real end-to-end affair, as UMass fired off 13 shots against Colgate’s (3-4-0) 16.

Junior Samuel Asamoah got the scoring started early, notching his first goal of the season in the 14th minute. Asamoah skipped past a defender moving past the penalty spot, and an excellent left-footed finish across his body settled in the side-netting from 12 yards out to put the Minutemen up 1-0.

It didn’t take long for the Raiders to fire back, as junior Oliver Harris produced a left-footed finish of his own, catching UMass goalkeeper Bardia Asefnia leaning the wrong way to knot things up at one-all after 21 minutes.

“We scored a really good goal, then gave up a poor goal,” O’Leary said, “and it took the wind out of our sails a little bit. We regrouped at the half, and came out strong in the second half.”

After being held to just four shots in the opening 45 minutes, the Minutemen launched nine more in the second half, and that output led to chances.

Senior Henry Steinkamp found himself a space in front of goal in the 58th, but a stellar save from Colgate keeper Peter Tappenden kept things level. The Minutemen were again denied just moments later, as a brilliant ball from Matthew Mooney put Asamoah through again, but Tappenden produced another fine save.

“He was very good,” O’Leary said of Tappenden, “Very good keeper. He made two or three point-blank saves, otherwise I think we could’ve put the game to bed a little quicker.”

The Raiders very nearly went ahead in the 64th, after Asefnia was caught roaming off his line, but junior Konrad Gorich was there to make a crucial goal-line clearance in support of his goalkeeper.

“Always when Bardia steps out, I try and back him up,” Gorich said. “That’s the philosophy we have, if someone doesn’t get to the ball or makes a mistake, someone backs him up, we work together.”

The breakthrough finally came in the 72nd, after junior Jack Fulton took the ball out of the air with a perfect touch in front of goal, beat a defender with some lovely close-control dribbling, before laying it off for Smith to finish well from a very tight angle. It was Smith’s first collegiate goal, after a score of great chances and near-finishes over the last couple of weeks.

“It felt good,” Smith said. “You know, I’ve had quite a few opportunities to put one in, so this one felt good. I saw Jack trying to get a shot off, got behind him, he laid it off to me and I took a touch and finished it.”

“I’m sure it will [give him confidence],” O’Leary said. “Center forwards always want goals, and that’s his first in college, and I think he’ll grow from this. His performance outside of scoring has been terrific all along, and I’m delighted for him today.”

Smith nearly doubled his performance to seal the game a few minutes later, but Tappenden came off his line quickly to deny him and clear the ball away.

A few late Colgate chances came to nothing, as the UMass back line stayed strong through the second half to seal the victory.

“I would say all in all it was a good game,” Gorich said. “We didn’t play as well in the first half, our back line wasn’t good enough, but we worked as a team in the second half and all in all I’d say we did pretty well.”

The Minutemen now have only a handful of fixtures remaining before the conference schedule kicks off at the end of the month, and they hope these tough matchups with NCAA tournament-caliber teams will elevate their play when the matches really count.

“The weaknesses we have exposed right now,” Gorich said, “we hopefully will not have happen again in the A-10. The progress we make right now is definitely going to help us [in conference].”

UMass will travel to Central Connecticut State on Tuesday, before a home matchup with Hartford on Saturday. A-10 play will begin with a trip to Saint Louis on September 30.

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

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