The Massachusetts men’s soccer team started the week of practice thinking it had until Tuesday night before its next game. But, UMass has added an exhibition game to its schedule.
The Minutemen will challenge the Winstars Soccer Academy from Woodbridge, Ontario, on Saturday afternoon. By adding a foreign team to the schedule a team is allowed to play an extra game.
The Minutemen added this game because UMass coach Sam Koch thought it was important for his team to play one more game before they travel south to play No. 1 Wake Forest on Tuesday night. If the match wasn’t on the schedule, they would have gone nine days without a match, which isn’t bad, but not something Koch wanted to do.
“This is just one way of helping us to be better prepared before we go down to Wake Forest,” Koch said. “It also gives the opportunity for guys that haven’t played that much to get game time.”
The Minutemen try to play a mid-season exhibition game every year because it gives the reserves a chance to play when they wouldn’t normally.
Winstars Soccer Academy “focuses on professionally-centered soccer development, preparing elite players for U.S.-Collegiate and worldwide pro-league competitions,” according to its Web site. The team has eight players that have been recruited by top Division I programs.
“If we do our job, it will give us an opportunity to see where we are and to have improved on what we wanted to work on this week,” Koch said. “The main thing is for us to take care of our business, and we’ve got a good opponent that if we don’t they can punish us.”
In practice the Minutemen continue to work on keeping possession of the ball – a combination of passing decisions and creating passing options, making better decisions when they get the ball and finishing on their shots.
“We’ve worked a lot on finishing in the last two days. That’s obviously something we haven’t been doing as well as we need to,” Koch said.
UMass continues to also work on its defense. This week the focus was on individual defending, to limit stabbing for the ball. Koch worked with his team to be patient when they defend and not over committing, because when they over commit that is when the opponent gets past the back line.
“We’re getting better [at defending individually] but continue to work on that, especially when conference games are coming up,” Koch said.
The Minutemen have two big games coming up, Tuesday against Wake Forest (defending NCAA College Cup Champions) and Oct. 12 against Rhode Island (the Minutemen’s first Atlantic 10 game). But for now, the Minutemen are focusing on the Winstars.
“First we have a game on Saturday; we can’t worry about Wake Forest right now. We can’t be thinking about Wake Forest. We have to play well on Saturday and then we can worry about Wake Forest,” Koch said.
The Minutemen are expecting a good game on Saturday as one of the last opportunities to prepare for A-10 play.
Melissa Turtinen can be reached at [email protected]