UMass men’s soccer holds on late to capture first win of 2015 against Hartford

By Ryan Donovan

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)
(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

It took until the seventh game of the year, but the Massachusetts men’s soccer team have finally reached the win column.

Despite facing an early 1-0 deficit against Hartford, UMass showed resilience, mounting a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over the Hawks Wednesday afternoon at Rudd Field.

In a close battle with Boston University on Sunday that resulted in a 2-1 loss, the Minutemen (1-6) put in a solid performance that coach Fran O’Leary said translated into Wednesday’s affair. Although UMass entered the matchup against the Hawks (1-3-2) without a victory, that didn’t stop the team from applying early pressure.

“We’ve been creating chances. We could’ve been two up in the first three minutes with two very good chances early on,” O’Leary said.

Although the Minutemen were on the offensive early, it was Hartford that struck first on a Rohan Roye goal in the 20th minute.

But UMass did not back down, according to O’Leary.

“Instead of lying down and feeling sorry for ourselves, we kept hanging in and got our rewards,” O’Leary said.

The first of two rewards for the Minutemen came in the 38th minute when freshman forward Samuel Asamoah slipped one by Hartford goalkeeper David MacKinnon on a cross from sophomore Alex DeSantis to tie the game at one apiece.

Although the Hawks dominated the time of possession, Asamoah said his goal instilled confidence in the young UMass team.

“I think it gave my team belief,” he said. “It gave us momentum to keep going.”

That energy was carried into the second half as Hartford and the Minutemen battled and created opportunities, but neither side broke through.
That all changed in the 64th minute however, when the UMass defense created a turnover at midfield, allowing sophomore defender Zach Samson to float a cross into the box to freshman forward Kevin Boino, who buried it in the back of the net to take a 2-1 lead.

“I was just at the right place, right time, and tucked it away. It was unbelievable,” Boino said. “This win is so huge for us.”

Clinching the victory didn’t come easy though, as the Hawks continued to press the Minutemen late. The final 15 minutes of the match saw Hartford moving the ball all around the field in anticipation of sending the game into overtime.

Despite the late offensive onslaught from the Hawks, who generated a total of 17 shots, UMass hung on.

“When you’re looking for your first win, it’s always going to be a little frantic at the end,” O’Leary said. “Our guys were strong and resolute. They stood up and made some plays today.”

O’Leary noted that contributions were spread out across the team Wednesday, especially among the younger players who stepped up in key moments to provide the offense.
But while the freshmen Asamoah and Boino scored the goals, O’Leary singled out seniors Will Ellis and Danny Belza as two veteran players who brought some stability to the game, having been in situations like this before.

“All the guys who came off the bench, they either give you a lift, or the standard drops, and they gave us a lift today,” O’Leary said.

While the Minutemen are looking to build off Wednesday’s win, O’Leary emphasized the idea of keeping things simple.

“All we can do is get better everyday,” he said. “I know it’s boring, it’s not sexy, but all we can do is get better every day. Their attitude is first rate, and what we needed was what I call a confidence bank or belief bank, and the only way you get that is to fight through a game like this and beat a very good team.”

Now that the belief bank has some currency, UMass looks to build off its win on Saturday night when it travels to Durham, New Hampshire to take on UNH at 7 p.m.

Ryan Donovan can be reached at [email protected]