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Streaking UMass men’s soccer stares down final non-conference team

Katherine Mayo/ Daily Collegian)

The Massachusetts men’s soccer team is just 180 minutes away from Atlantic 10 play, with a Tuesday evening meeting with Central Connecticut State (3-3-0) and a Saturday afternoon matchup with Hartford (2-3-2) up next.

Fresh off a 2-1 win against Colgate over the weekend, the Minutemen now sit at 4-2-1, a far better start than last year’s 0-5-1 record through six games.

“I think it’s a couple of things,” University of Massachusetts coach Fran O’Leary said. “We returned a lot of players, so they’ve been through it before. I think all the credit is due to the guys; they’ve really committed themselves over the summer. A lot of your wins are gained with your work over the summer and early in the season.”

UMass will head to New Britain on Tuesday night to take on the Blue Devils, and it’ll be a far better prepared squad than the one CCSU saw a year ago.

“Our conditioning level now is second-to-none,” O’Leary said. “The way they look after themselves – we’ve practically no soft-tissue injuries, a credit to our trainer – and to the way the players look after themselves. We’re fitter, we’re stronger, we’re more mature and these are all good things that factor into the good start to the season.”

A-10 play kicks off on Sept. 30, when the Minutemen head to Saint Louis for the opener, but O’Leary and his charges aren’t getting ahead of themselves. As for how O’Leary expects his team to compete in conference play, things are still a mystery.

“I have no idea,” O’Leary said with a laugh, “because I haven’t seen anyone else. All we want to do right now is get a result against Central Connecticut. We’re not thinking really beyond Central right now, because every game brings up our confidence, gets our weaknesses exposed—which we try and fix—and then we’ll build up our confidence if we have a good performance and a good result.”

Those final 180 minutes before conference play are the last that O’Leary will have to see his team in a somewhat lower-stakes environment. There’s still plenty of room to tinker with minutes and the makeup of the starting 11, something O’Leary says isn’t truly up to him.

“The players will tell me,” he said. “They’ll tell me by their performances. We always say, most of our team meetings take place during games and practices, so the players do their talking on the field. It’s what I like about our team, they’re a team that does a lot of good talking on the field, rather than sitting in offices and telling me how good they are.”

“They show us time in, time out, every day they show us how committed they are, how strong and tough they are, by the type of performances they put in, so in terms of the minutes, that will be determined by how the players talk to me over the coming couple of games.”

Kickoff on Tuesday night is set for 7 p.m., and Saturday’s return to Rudd Field is set for 1 p.m.

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

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