Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass seeking first conference win with rival Rhode Island coming to Amherst on Wednesday

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Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian

Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian

Things have not been easy for the Massachusetts men’s soccer team, and it’s not about to get any easier.

On Wednesday afternoon, UMass (1-10, 0-1 Atlantic 10) welcomes Rhode Island to Rudd Field for its second conference matchup of the season.

After falling to Saint Joseph’s 2-0 last Saturday, head coach Fran O’Leary lamented his team’s inability to convert their chances.

“We were disappointed with the result and the performance,” he said. “We created a lot of chances but didn’t take them, so we’ve have to do a better job.”

With a 9-4 advantage in shots and 6-0 lead in corners at halftime, UMass still found itself down 1-0 at the break. According to O’Leary, that’s life.

“Sometimes soccer can be a bit cruel, but you just get out of bed the next day and keep going,” he said. “We created chances in the first half, we created chances in the second half, and we didn’t take them.”

O’Leary added: “We have to take a look at ourselves and do a better job on the offensive end.”

With the Rams (5-4-2, 0-0-1 A-10) coming to town, the Minutemen will have to put that loss behind them and get ready for a URI team that has gone 1-0-2 in its last three games, with both ties coming against ranked opponents in No. 22 Boston College and No. 18 Saint Louis.

Last year, URI defeated the Minutemen 4-1 thanks to a three-goal second half. If UMass is to get a result against the Rams this time around, O’Leary believes it will have to embrace the underdog status.

“We have to be on the front foot,” O’Leary said. “You could be playing against the best team in the world but if you beat them to the ball and you get your interceptions, you’ve got a chance.

He added: “If you stay off them and you’re intimidated by them, teams like that sense weakness and go for the jugular. We have to be brave and take the game to Rhode Island.”

Through their first 11 games of the season, the Minutemen have been outscored 25-5, and are currently in the midst of a four-game losing streak. Despite these troubles, O’Leary does not believe tomorrow is a must-win affair, but knows how significant it is to give the team confidence moving forward.

“It’s not a must-win game, but it’d be important to put three points on the board,” O’Leary said. “There are seven games left in the conference and you’re one point out of a playoff position, so it’s far from a must-win game.

O’Leary said that being at home increases the necessity to come out firing and put early pressure on URI.

“It’s important that we do a good job at home and albeit we’ll be the underdog against a top program, so we have to come out and display a brave personality,” O’Leary said. “Most games we’re the underdog and we’ve done a good job of taking games to opponents.”

With conference play in full swing and a tough road ahead, the goals are clear for UMass.

“Our goal is really to a. get better and b. to look to finish in the top eight,” O’Leary said. “We’re a point off top eight now, with our next two games against the teams that are ranked one and two in the conference, so we’re going to have our hands full.”

“We have to bring energy, we have to bring a commitment level and we have to beat them to the ball. If we do that we’ll be fine.”

Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. at Rudd Field.

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

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