Defensive blunder costs Minutemen

By Jackson Alexander

Maria Uminski/Collegian

The lack of scoring for the Massachusetts men’s soccer team wasn’t the only reason behind the Minutemen’s most recent loss on Wednesday afternoon. A key defensive miscue led to a Hartford goal and ultimately cost the team the game.

 

The Hawks scored the game’s only goal when Atobra Ampadu streaked through the Minutemen defense untouched and crossed the ball to an open David Bernhardsson for an easy goal.

“We got caught flat and stretched,” said UMass coach Sam Koch. “When you’re stretched and flat and you’re spread out and you give a guy an easy service you’re going to give up chances like that every single time.”

Bernhardsson’s goal was the highlight of a first half in which Hartford bombarded UMass goalie Shane Curran-Hays. Curran-Hays faced 10 shots in the half, five of which were on goal.

“They had a couple of other opportunities and we were fortunate we were able to get back and cover well,” said Koch. “On the goal that they scored we didn’t get enough people back.”

One of those opportunities occurred when Bernhardsson made a nice run to the goal and was tripped up by a UMass defender right in front of Curran-Hays. Bernhardsson was awarded a penalty kick but he rung the shot off of the crossbar and couldn’t score off the rebound.

Between the missed penalty kick and the other opportunities for Hartford, the Minutemen were fortunate to allow just one goal on the Hawks’ 13 shots.

Koch attributed the shaky defense to poor marking by his defenders.

“We need to do a better job of putting pressure on the passer,” said Koch. “It’s kind of like a quarterback, if you give Tom Brady 10 minutes to throw a pass, he’s going to throw a touchdown every time.”

The Minutemen’s defensive struggles at home started last game against Boston University when they blew a 1-0 lead.

In that game, the Terriers tallied a pair of second half goals that were both a result of miscues by the defense. Koch was frustrated with his team’s inability to clear the ball in their defensive zone.

On Wednesday, he saw some improvement in the area.

“I think we had a couple times we did a very good job of clearing it and a couple times we put it right back into danger,” said Koch.

But ultimately, he still regards clearances as a team weakness.

“It’s something we need to work on, we’re not good at clearing the ball,” said Koch.

The back four was an area Koch raved about in the offseason. Senior David Key and junior Dominic Skrajewski are veterans in the defense that have plenty of experience. Combine that with the talent of sophomore Nigel Negm and freshman Matt Keys, and the defense appeared to be a strength for the Minutemen.

With the lackluster play of the offense, the defense must step up.

Fortunately for the Minutemen, they have not begun conference play which is when the games will really matter.

The Minutemen have two remaining games before A-10 play begins, against Dartmouth and Bradley, respectively. It is critical that UMass finds consistency on its back line if it hopes to succeed in the A-10 this season.

Jackson Alexander can be reached at [email protected]