UMass men’s soccer shut out by UNH, 1-0, on Sunday

By Ross Gienieczko

(Araz Havan/Daily Collegian)
(Araz Havan/Daily Collegian)

As the game clock wound toward one minute left in the first half on Sunday afternoon, Massachusetts men’s soccer coach Devin O’Neill could be heard yelling to his team a warning of the time remaining and urging them to finish the half strong.

His message went unheard.

Seconds later, New Hampshire forward Duff Thomson slammed a pass from teammate Will Rasid into the back of the net, giving the Wildcats a 1-0 lead that would eventually hold up as the final score.

“The timing of that (goal) was really unfortunate, after a decent half of soccer,” O’Neill said. “That was too bad to give that one up there.”

The Minutemen (1-7) maintained a solid time of possession throughout the afternoon, but were consistently frustrated by a stout UNH backline. After the final-minute goal in the first half, the Wildcats (3-4-1) used good shape and structure to keep the ball in the midfield for much of the second half. UMass only mustered one shot on goal in the final frame as quality scoring chances were few and far between.

“I thought we did have some decent possession, but we didn’t create a ton of chances,” O’Neill said. “Credit to them, they defended well.”

Minutemen forward Josh Schwartz, the most effective offensive weapon for UMass thus far with a team-leading three goals this season, was stifled by the UNH defense. The senior managed only two shots for the game with neither of them coming on goal.

Sunday’s scoreless performance was a setback for an offense that looked like it was beginning to round into form. The Minutemen scored four goals in the two games leading up to Sunday’s contest after netting two in their first five games. The shutout was the fourth time UMass has been held scoreless this year.

In the final minute of the game, the Minutemen nearly scored a game-tying goal. After pinballing between several players near the six-yard box, the ball found its way toward the goal line and Wildcats goalkeeper Ryan Carpenter frantically pounced on it. The play was close enough that more than one UMass player thought the ball had crossed the line and pleaded their case to the referee. O’Neill said he didn’t get a clear view of the play and had no way of knowing if the ball was actually in.

A silver lining for the Minutemen was their defensive play, which was solid except for the breakdown at the end of the first half. Senior captain Matt Keys was active on both sides of the ball, forcing turnovers and pushing the ball out of the defensive zone.

“They’re playing pretty well. (Keys) is so aggressive in terms of breaking on the ball, he wins a lot of balls,” O’Neill said. “He’s an excellent defender both on the ground and in the air. I think (the rest of the defense) follows his lead.”

Sophomore Matt Pease was also a presence on the backline, playing all 90 minutes alongside Keys as a central defender. Goalkeeper Ryan Buckingham made three saves but fell to 1-6 as a starter for the season.

With about 20 minutes left in the game, the versatile Keys was moved up to forward to give UMass an offensive boost, a tactic that produced the game-tying goal in the Minutemen’s lone win of the season against Fairfield. Keys didn’t score, but came close on a header that sailed just over the crossbar with about 16 minutes remaining in the game. O’Neill said he doesn’t envision a permanent position change to forward – a move that was made last season.

“It’s something that if the situation is right, (we’ll) use it late in the game,” O’Neill said.

The loss marked the end of a winless weekend at home for the Minutemen, who lost on Friday to Harvard 3-2 in overtime. UMass will return to action next Saturday at 3 p.m. when they host Saint Joseph’s at Rudd Field in its Atlantic 10 opener.

Ross Gienieczko can be reached at @[email protected] and followed on Twitter @RossGien.