Men’s soccer set to welcome URI to Rudd Field on Sunday

By Patrick Strohecker

Nicole Evangelista/Daily Collegian

After dropping both games in its opening weekend of Atlantic 10 play, the Massachusetts men’s soccer team looks to right the ship this weekend when it takes on Rhode Island on Sunday at Rudd Field.

UMass opened up conference play with two of the tougher opponents that the A-10 has to offer, dropping a 4-0 decision to Virginia Commonwealth last Friday and then falling to George Mason 2-1 on Sunday.

Even with the sour taste still fresh in their mouths, the Minutemen (1-10-1, 0-2 A-10) are keeping a positive approach and know that there is plenty of soccer left to play.

“They’ve been tremendous,” UMass coach Sam Koch said of his team. “At practice on Monday, it was excellent. I just feel like this group really cares for each other, they work hard together as a group, they support each other.”

Sunday’s test against the Rams (2-7, 0-1 A-10) is a chance for the Minutemen to put the previous results behind them and set the stage for the rest of conference play.

Both UMass and URI enter the contest trying to find any bit of momentum to turn its seasons around. Much like the Minutemen, the Rams are plagued by the inability to score goals and it has shown in their record.

URI enters the contest having scored only seven goals in nine games, a slightly better mark than UMass, who has scored just nine times in 12 matches.

“I think they’re capable of beating anybody,” Koch said. “They have a few foreign guys, a new coach and their record is not very good, but, you know, they’re certainly capable of beating you if you’re not ready to play.”

The Rams are also looking for a spark to their season. They struggled through their non-conference schedule and were supposed to open up conference play against George Mason and VCU just like the Minutemen did.

But URI’s match against the Patriots was postponed due to heavy rain, and it followed that up with a 3-1 loss to VCU, which was its fifth loss in six games.

For UMass, Sunday’s matchup means a lot more than just a shot at its first conference win of the season.

The Minutemen are 2-12 against the Rams since 2000, and haven’t beaten them since the 2010 season. But, with both teams facing similar struggles this season, Sunday’s contest is a chance for UMass to avenge the previous losses.

“We know they’re a hard-working team and that it’s going to be a battle every time we play them,” junior Matt Keys said. “They’re kind of like our rivalry, I guess, in the A-10 because of distance where we are from each other. We played them in the spring and beat them 1-0, I believe, so we know some of their players. We got a lot of new guys, so hopefully matching up, we’re a better team this year.”

In order for the Minutemen to find success on Sunday, they will need to find a balanced attack, something that has plagued them all season.

UMass only has four different goal scorers on the year and only five different players have recorded points. Junior forward Josh Schwartz, who has found his scoring touch as of late, leads the team in goals (four), assists (three) and points (11). But, when he hasn’t been on the field, goals and offensive chances have been hard to come by for the Minutemen.

“A goal is a goal, no matter who scores it,” Keys said. “But, it’s definitely good to get some other guys scoring goals because, you know, it gives them the confidence they need going into the next game.”

Sunday’s game is scheduled for a 1 p.m. kickoff at Rudd Field.

Patrick Strohecker can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MDC_Strohecker.