UMass defense holds its ground despite 4-1 loss to UNH

By Philip Sanzo

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(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Collegian)

The Massachusetts men’s soccer team kept it close with New Hampshire for as long as it could Tuesday, before ultimately falling 4-1.

UMass (0-3-1) managed to keep UNH (4-0) scoreless through the first half, and even had a brief lead during the final 45 minutes. The Wildcats relentless offense eventually broke through and all but ended the match when they scored their fourth goal 25 minutes into the second half.

However, the final score does not accurately depict how UMass played for the majority of the match, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

Both senior defender Josh Jess and Coach Fran O’Leary credited the defense for putting forth a tremendous effort.

“I think we played a very good team, a top twenty team today,” O’Leary said. “You know we let a goal up and we showed a bit of our youth, our naiveté. We worked awful hard to stay in the game.”

Only 35 seconds after Samuel Asamoah scored the go-ahead goal in the 47th minute, Jackson Dickson scored the equalizer for the Wildcats.

The rest of the half consisted of UNH running up the score with three more goals from William Picoux, Chris Arling and Alex Valencia.

UMass managed to keep the Wildcats at bay despite their intimidating offense prior to permitting three goals.

In the first half, UNH generated 13 shots, two of which were on goal, but were unable to get any past goalkeeper Jorge Becerra. The Wildcats totaled 27 shots by the match’s end.

“All together as a whole we really held it down,” Jess said. “Just at times things break apart and we’re just going to have to get back to the drawing board, watch some tape and try to plug those holes again.”

Jess believes a part of the reason why the Minutemen’s defense faltered near the contest’s conclusion was pure fatigue. UNH controlled the vast majority of possession time, effectively controlling the pace of the game.

“I think a lot of it is due to fitness and that is something that we are continuously working on,” Jess said. “To do what we do, to press like that all game, it takes a lot out of you and we know that and we just have to get back together and start getting fit.”

The Minutemen knew they were not going to be able to keep up with the Wildcats’ high tempo offense, and they’d have to play a tight game defensively.

“No, you just try to keep your lines, your zones tight,” O’Leary said. “They have quality all throughout the field. They’ve got quality, hardened, scholarship players all throughout the field. You can manipulate and move the ball—you can move the ball at pace. We just have to keep our zones tight, stay disciplined and for most of the game, we did that.”

UMass has only allowed one goal in the first half of games thus far this season (St. Peter’s last Saturday). Doing so against teams like Syracuse and UNH proves that at their best, the UMass defense can hold off some of the best offenses.

Jess has subscribed to O’Leary’s message of getting better everyday and “100 percent” believes that by the time Atlantic 10 conference games roll around, the Minutemen will be fit enough to compete for 90 minutes.

In terms of the season so far, Jess has seen improvement from his defense.

“I think we’ve improved our fitness since the Syracuse game and improved on mental mistakes as well,” Jess said. “In the second half we kind of made a few mental mistakes that led to the three goals and I think we’ve improved on that after watching film.”

Philip Sanzo can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Philip_Sanzo.