Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass men’s soccer gets set for another difficult road test against Vermont

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(Katherine Mayo/Collegian)

(Katherine Mayo/Collegian)

The Massachusetts men’s soccer team has embraced the positivity that head coach Fran O’Leary has instilled since arriving last season, and for the first time this season the Minutemen (1-5-1) have added reason to smile following an impressive win over Brown.

With Atlantic 10 play looming on the horizon, UMass will be facing yet another tough test on the road this Wednesday against Vermont.

The defending America East champion Catamounts (7-1-0) have picked up right where they left off in 2015 following a berth in the NCAA tournament. UVM enters Wednesday coming off back-to-back wins against Marist and Bryant.

O’Leary, however, is more focused on his players.

“We have a strong group, a mentally strong group of guys,” O’Leary said. “We know we’re a little overmatched at times against these experienced teams and we’re still a young team, but the season goes in ebbs and flows and if we can string a few results together we can explode into the A-10 conference season.”

The biggest challenge Vermont presents to the Minutemen will come from the front line with its talented duo of forwards: seniors Brian Wright and Bernard Yeboah. Wright (five goals, nine assists) and Yeboah (eight goals, one assist) have combined for 13 of the team’s 20 goals and 10 of 17 assists this season.

“What it usually comes down to is will our defenders or their forwards prevail, and can our forwards prevail against their back four?” O’Leary said. “That’s what happens every game.”

UMass defended successfully against the Bears last Saturday as the Minutemen earned their first victory of the season. Goalkeeper Jorge Becerra and the defense recorded their first clean sheet of the season, and Becerra managed to stop all six shots on goal while the team turned away Brown’s five corner kicks.

“I think anytime you get a shutout, you get a clean sheet that gives you a lot to build on,” O’Leary said. “A win and a clean sheet are two things every team looks for.”

While the Catamounts have established explosive play from their two biggest threats offensively, the Minutemen are also starting to get some of their best offensive players back healthy.

Sophomore Samuel Asamoah—who is listed as a midfielder, but spends a lot of time on the front line—has been absent from the lineup due to injury since the third game of the season against New Hampshire. He has already recorded a goal this year and was a major contributor to the UMass offense last season playing in 14-of-19 games as a freshman.

Fellow sophomore forward Kevin Boino also began his return from injury this season when he made his first start against Brown. Last season Boino played in all 17 games for the Minutemen recording three goals on the year tying as the team leader in that category.

“We’ll see if they are available for Vermont,” O’Leary said. “We’re taking it day by day.”

The added offensive firepower for UMass, which has been lacking in that area so far this season, will be welcomed by the back line of the Minutemen.

While recently UMass has managed to improve its ball possession, the Minutemen tend to resort to the long-ball connections from the back line to the front. In order to stymie the explosive Vermont offense, they will need to string together passes in order to relieve the pressure on the defense.

“We’ll have phases where we’ll have a chance to keep position, but we’ve got to make sure we do it up field,” O’Leary said. “It’s dangerous when you’re trying to keep possession on the outer edge of your box and you’re being pressed.”

This will be the first of a two-game road trip for the Minutemen with the second coming Saturday against Hartford. Wednesday’s game is set to have its opening kick-off at 7 p.m. in Burlington.

Nicholas Souza can be reached at [email protected]

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