UMass men’s soccer sees improvement despite sixth consecutive loss

By Jason Kates

Alex Desantis played well on Sunday, but couldn't get UMass the win.   (Judith Gibson-Okunieff)
Alex DeSantis played well on Sunday, but couldn’t get UMass the win.
(Judith Gibson-Okunieff)

It’s rare to find a silver lining in a game that resulted in a sixth straight defeat, but for the Massachusetts men’s soccer team and coach Fran O’Leary, Sunday’s performance in a 2-1 loss to Boston University showed flashes of potential.

In their latest defeat, the Minutemen (0-6) began the game with a starting lineup consisting of five freshmen, a sophomore, a redshirt sophomore, three juniors and a senior. With a starting 11 that included six underclassmen, growing pains will be present, although O’Leary felt his team put in one of its finest performances this season.

“I thought we did really well today,” he said. “I’m really proud of the guys, we’re coming off a couple of tough outings and are in the middle of a tough stretch.”

O’Leary added that returning home for its first game in Amherst this season provided a spark for the Minutemen.

“It was good to get back to Rudd (Field) and I thought particularly in the second half we outplayed a very, very good, well-coached Boston University side,” O’Leary said.

Trailing 2-1, UMass came out energized in the second half, creating scoring chances right away in hopes of tying the game for the second time. Passing was one aspect Sunday that O’Leary said looked significantly better from its first stretch of games.

“Our passing was much improved, we’ve been hurried in our passing and we’d work hard to win it and turn it back to them,” he said. “Today, I thought our passing was a lot better and created several chances as a result.”

After being outshot 10-to-3 in the first half by the Terriers (3-1), the Minutemen flipped the switch and outshot BU 10-to-5 over the final 45 minutes. One bright spot for UMass was sophomore Alex DeSantis, who came on as a substitute in the first half and assisted on the Minutemen’s lone goal by Ty Goncalves in the 29th minute.

“I thought Alex was so good today, I thought his passing was so good,” O’Leary said. “That’s the thing, Alex will always give you an honest effort and (I) thought he was so much more composed today and it was a terrific ball through for Ty (Goncalves) to finish.”

Coming off the bench, DeSantis said he knew how crucial it was to make an immediate impact on the game, especially trailing by a goal.

“I think it’s really important to affect the game when you come on in any way,” he said.

Regarding the missed opportunities in the second half, DeSantis said that while it may seem frustrating, the amount of scoring chances UMass created provides motivation for the team on offense moving forward.

O’Leary said the main focus coming off Sunday’s defeat is to transition toward upcoming conference play, which is set to begin in the beginning of October.

“We’ve really got to start thinking about the Atlantic 10 in a few weeks and we needed a good performance today,” he said. “We feel the results will come, our only goal this season is to get better every game and we feel today that we’ve definitely taken a big step forward.

“(I’m) disappointed with the result but very pleased with the performance.”

Jason Kates can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Jason_Kates.