UMass men’s soccer plans to continue growth against Albany Tuesday

By Philip Sanzo

(Katherine Mayo/ Daily Collegian)
(Katherine Mayo/ Daily Collegian)

Most sport proverbs will define winning as the only thing that matters. However for the Massachusetts men’s soccer team, that is not always the case.

UMass will be in its sixth game of the season Tuesday when they take the pitch against Albany (1-2-1) at 4 p.m. If UMass does receive the loss, the Minutemen could still be walking away feeling good about themselves.

It’s not crazy for the casual fan to think that the winless Minutemen (0-4-1) should be preparing to enter panic mode. UMass has only managed three goals in five games while allowing 12 and have been outshot 102-42. Panicking certainly seems appropriate.

What gets lost in the sea of terrible stats though are the out of conference opponents that UMass has played.

“We were talking about this; the team’s we’ve played so far with the exception of St. Peter’s have only lost three games all season,” Minutemen coach Fran O’Leary said. “They have like 14 wins, top top teams. Albany fits that.”

As a Division I program, UMass’ schedule often features high-caliber opponents who are playing at a level UMass hasn’t matched yet. That’s why, according to O’Leary, what the Minutemen show in the game is more valuable than the result.

Against Albany – who finished last season 10-8-1 – O’Leary says it is all about his squad’s mentality.

“What we’re looking for is what’s our mentality,” O’Leary said. “So are we able to bear down. We know right now, playing these top teams, they are going to have more of the ball than we have. So can we have a strong mentality, do we keep our shape, are we brave enough to pass it?”

Last season, UMass fell to the Great Danes 4-0 in a match where it only managed four total shots.

O’Leary was impressed with his team’s passing performance in their 2-1 loss to Boston University last Saturday. Compared to their previous match against New Hampshire, O’Leary believed the Minutemen’s passing was much improved.

In the past, O’Leary has said the youth of the team and overall inexperience of the players has contributed to some in-game mishaps. However, competing against top-tier teams such as Albany has helped underclassmen grow.

“We’re young and with youth comes sometimes that a little naivety a little lack of concentration,” O’Leary said. “But we’re now six games in and some of these young lad’s have good valuable experience under them. So the goal is come conference play off time, the concentration levels will improve the naivety will get stripped off and we’ll become a much hardened team come the conference time.”

UMass, still searching for its first win, may be catching Albany at the right time. The Danes have been blanked 3-0 in back-to-back games by DePaul and Loyola-Chicago, respectively.

While winning does not seem to be O’Leary’s top priority just yet, he offered key points that the Minutemen will have to follow through on in order to earn a favorable decision.

“We’re going to have to, from a defensive point of view, win the set piece battle,” O’Leary said. “We’re going to have to defend our box well on set pieces.”

“I think, number two, we have to keep our zones tight, they’re an explosive team so we’ve got to work for each other opposed to individual one-on-one defending, we’ve got to work as a collective.”

“And number three, when we win the ball we have to be brave in our pass and in our movement, we have to get ahead of the ball, we’ve got to look to pass the ball and then we have to get numbers in the box.”

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