UMass still seeking first win against Fairfield

By Herb Scribner

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The Massachusetts men’s soccer team may have found the confidence boost it needs, after going winless in its two openers, when it faces Fairfield this Saturday.

The Minutemen (0-1-1) will head to the home of the Stags (1-1-1) after suffering a loss to Harvard this past Monday in a game that featured odious fouls and late-game theatrics.

“There were a lot of positives, but bottom-line is we lost and no one likes losing. So we’ve got to get back to work and get ready for Saturday’s game,” UMass coach Sam Koch said.

Historically speaking, Saturday’s game looks to be in the favor of the Minutemen who boast an 8-1-1 all-time record over Fairfield. Many things have changed since their last meeting however, as the two sides haven’t faced off since 1993.

Instead of looking to the past for answers on what to do next, Koch is looking as recent as this past Monday’s game against the Crimson.

“Well I mean, [we’re going to work on] sort of the same things we’ve been talking about. Our ball movement needs to be quicker,” Koch said. “We get caught with the ball at our feet; we didn’t switch the field as well as we could. We attacked the flanks really well in the second half [against Harvard], created a lot of chances; we need to keep doing that until teams stop us.”

But don’t sell Fairfield short just yet. The Stags are riding into the game against the Minutemen after a late-game comeback against Yale in their third game of the season.

Trailing 1-0 towards the end of the game, Fairfield turned up the heat offensively and put the ball in the back of the net with 20 minutes remaining with Erik Ilisije getting the goal. Ilisije proved to be the difference maker for the entire game, as in the 101st minute, he scored again to put the lead in favor of the Stags.

So with the Stags entering into the match with that heavy amount of confidence, and a streaking hot player in Ilisije, Koch and Co. are looking for other ways to improve their game.

“We stop ourselves, and we’ve got to believe in the things that are successful,” Koch said. “I think when we do that, we’re going to win a lot of games. Defensively, we’ve got to make sure we keep the shape and we don’t get caught. We call it the Helter Skelton situation, and we get into those situations we lose our shape and when we lose our shape we’re just not good enough. And teams can get through us pretty easily and so we’ve got to make sure we’re helping each other.”

Koch will likely be looking towards seniors Bryant Craft and Ben Arikian to aid the offensive side of the game. Craft has had a lucky streak lately, scoring two goals in two games already this season, while Arikian has yet to produce offensively thus far in the campaign.

Koch hopes to open up the game a little more on the offensive side, which has been a goal for the Maroon and White throughout the summer and opening games.

“We couldn’t get the extra runner in the box today, but when we do that we’ll score a lot more goals,” Koch said after the loss to Harvard.

“It’s a team sport, and for us it’s more important that we stay together as a whole team and we stay compact both offensively and defensively. When we do that, we’re going to be very hard to beat and I think it will create a lot of chances.”

Herb Scribner can be reached at [email protected]