Men’s Soccer: Roster Breakdown

By Melissa Turtinen, Collegian Staff

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After a record-setting 2007 season, expectations are high with eight of 11 starters returning for the Massachusetts men’s soccer team. With more television cameras at practices and an increase in publicity for the team, the Minutemen have to stay focused on what’s happening on the field.

Since the majority of the starters returning, the Minutemen will be a step ahead because they already know the system and what is expected of them.

The Minutemen aren’t as strong as they were at the end of last year and are working to strengthen their weaknesses earlier in the season.

The incoming freshman class is energetic and excited to help move the team forward this season. They have worked hard and want to prove to the rest of the team that they can contribute and compete for a starting job.

“That’s what you want, two people fighting for a spot on the field, and this freshman class will do that,” UMass coach Sam Koch said.


UMass’ greatest strength this season is All-American goalkeeper Zack Simmons. After a record-setting 2007 season, the Minutemen look to the redshirt senior to be one of the strongest leaders, vocally and physically.

Simmons had a 84.9 save percentage from last season and earned many honors, including being named 2007 UMBRO National Player of the Year, Atlantic 10 Tournament MVP and NSCAA/adidas All-American Third-Team.

But Simmons is only as good as the players in front of him.

If they do make a mistake Simmons is very good at covering for them. Losing defenders Kenny Cook and Doug Rappaport to graduation has created one of the biggest weaknesses on the team. The team needs to make sure they defend as a whole unit and stay compact so they don’t give the opposing team scoring opportunities. The Minutemen will continue to play a 4-4-2 formation. This will maintain their strength in the defensive end of the field.

“Everyone has an invested interest in making sure Simmons is our strongest member,” Koch said. “If they all do their jobs well then Simmons will have an easy job.”

This year the defense will be challenged to maintain their level of performance from seasons past. Stuart Thompson, who will replace Cook, and senior Tony Bassett, taking Rappaport’s spot, will have to step up. Returning for UMass is redshirt senior Chris Brown and junior Dan Lepone. Brown will be the anchor at defense for the Minutemen.

Although leadership is a group effort, Simmons, Brown and Thompson make a big impact on the team. They, along with center midfielder Mike DeSantis, are the key players and team leaders because of their positions on the field. They’re able to see everything that is happening on the field, which gives them a certain advantage.


The Minutemen’s strengths are in its midfield with senior DeSantis leading the way. DeSantis’ quiet leadership plays a big part on the field.

“His performance speaks for him,” Koch said. “You really notice when he’s not there. He does so many things that don’t show up on the score sheet.”

DeSantis is a two-way player, contributing on both the offensive and defensive ends of the field. His ability to keep the team organized on the field makes the Maroon and White much harder to play against and his teammates respect that.

Sophomore Ben Arikian is also a strong force in the midfield. In a preseason exhibition game against Brown on Aug. 23, the opposition concentrated on containing Arikian. With more attention on Arikian, his teammates have a better opportunity of spreading themselves on the field while creating better passing lanes.

Sophomore Chris Vaccaro is replacing Greg Cirillo in the right midfield spot. Vaccaro began to show his ball handling and shooting skills in the preseason after he scored the first goal in the exhibition game against Brown.


The Minutemen are more dangerous in the attack than Koch might have expected. Six of the top seven scorers return from last season and the new players in the lineup, freshmen Bryant Craft and Chris Roswess, are giving UMass a spark that they haven’t seen in awhile.

Returning offensive starters juniors Mark DeSantis and Bryan Hogan will again lead the team. Hogan was the leading scorer from last season with eight goals; Mark DeSantis contributed to the team with four goals. In 2007, it seemed as though the UMass offense took off once Koch paired Hogan and DeSantis together at the front of his 4-4-2.

“This year’s team is a solid group, solid core returning from last year,” Koch said. “We had a tremendous experience last year that will only make them better.”

The one thing the Minutemen don’t know going into this season is how prepared other teams are going to be for them.

Melissa Turtinen can be reached at [email protected]