UMass men’s soccer looks to extend unbeaten streak to four against La Salle

By Jason Kates

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Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

The Massachusetts men’s soccer team will look to extend its unbeaten streak to four games when it takes on La Salle Wednesday afternoon at Rudd Field.

Since losing its Atlantic 10 opener to Saint Joseph’s on Oct. 3, the Minutemen (3-10-1, 2-1-1 A-10) have won their last two and tied the other, placing them in a current tie for fifth place in the conference.

During the recent run of success, coach Fran O’Leary has pointed to the 3-2 win over Rhode Island on Oct. 7 as a major boost.

“I think the home win against URI gave us confidence and a belief that we’ve maybe been lacking,” he said. “We pushed on to score three goals against one of the A-10 favorites, and then to come back a few days later and shutout the favorite for the A-10 obviously gives you cause for big belief.

“The best thing about each of these games is we’ve been gathering a lot of opportunities and now we’ve been starting to take some, so hopefully that’ll continue.”

In its last game, UMass earned its first win of the season away from home, securing a 2-1 victory over St. Bonaventure last Saturday.

O’Leary acknowledged the win as a result that adds another layer of belief for the guys.

“We can talk about doing things and finishing in the top eight and surprise a lot of people, but you have to go and produce to really build that belief,” he said.  “So now that we’ve gone and won on the road, the road hopefully the remainder of the way won’t seem as scary.”

Heading into this one, the Explorers (5-8-2, 1-3-1 A-10) are looking to get a positive result after losing 5-0 to Dayton last weekend.

La Salle is led by Andrew Connors, who leads the way offensively with five goals and 10 points, with Tony Daniele second behind him with six points.

The message from O’Leary to his players as they approach this conference affair is simple: keep doing what they’ve been doing.

Among other things, he touched on the necessity to continue to bring a high energy level and high intensity to the game.

“We’ve got to bring a composure when we have the ball, a willingness to work for each other, and a little bit of quality in final passing and finishing,” O’Leary said. “They’re the things we’ve had in our two wins of late, and we’ll be looking for that tomorrow.”

Throughout the year, O’Leary stressed the importance of not dwelling on the past, and how crucial it was to stay focused on the task at hand regardless of what the result in the previous game was.

“We always say the day after that the last game is history,” he said. “You have to have short term memory if you’re going to be a soccer player and have a decent team, so if you win you can’t get too excited, if you lose you can’t get too down.”

He added: “The first practice we have after every game we just say the last one is history, move on to the next one.”

With four games remaining in the regular season, including two road games, the Minutemen will have to take advantage of their home contests if they wish to hold a position in the conference postseason picture.

“It’s always important to pick up your home wins, so it just leaves us in much better position,” O’Leary said. “We could be sitting in great shape come six o’clock tomorrow, or we could be in a dogfight, so it’s a very important game.”

Wednesday’s kickoff is set for 3 p.m. at Rudd Field.

 

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