Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass men’s soccer falls to No. 6 Syracuse in season opener

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(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

While fighting a little bit above its weight class, the Massachusetts men’s soccer team was still looking for a strong start to the 2016 campaign against No. 6 Syracuse Friday evening.

UMass (0-1-0) ultimately fell to the Orange 3-0 despite a spirited first 45 minutes from the Minutemen.

“(Syracuse) is one of the best teams in the country, and we wanted to make it a game and give them some tough competition,” UMass coach Fran O’Leary said. “We are very proud how our team played, especially in the first half.”

The Minutemen had their share of bright spots in the first half, including a strong performance from goalkeeper Jorge Becerra as he went on to record eight saves (four in the first half) in the face of steady pressure from the Orange’s (1-0-0) front line.

However, as good as UMass played in the first half, less than four minutes into the second frame Syracuse forward Chris Nanco curved a shot just past the reach of Becerra to the far post scoring the first goal of the game, giving the Orange a 1-0 lead.

The game opened up from there for Syracuse as it followed with two more goals from Liam Callahan and Kenny Lassiter as the Orange cruised through the second half en route to victory.

“We knew we were facing a quality team, and over time our team will harden and hopefully we’ll take those strong 45 minute performances and start to put it together for a full 90 minutes,” O’Leary said.

As the game went on, each time the Minutemen sent the ball downfield it was returned by one of three backline players for Syracuse (John Austin-Ricks, Miles Robinson and Kamal Miller) who seemingly won each header that was up for grabs and dominated overall possession.

In contrast, the Orange wasted little time with their possession as they pushed the pace with quick restarts after each foul that went in their favor, and the stat sheet shows it with the Minutemen being out-shot 21-3.

This was most likely the toughest test for UMass this season, and while it appeared over matched in the first game of the season, the Minutemen will look to build off of this opening performance.

“We’re getting better with every game,” O’Leary said. “Teams like this will make us better and I think it’ll really start to show when the schedule shifts to conference play.”

UMass will stay in the state of New York this weekend is they play its second game on the road against Colgate Sunday at 4 p.m.

Nick Souza can be reached at [email protected]

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