Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass men’s soccer plays host to Central Connecticut Tuesday

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(Alex Tang/Daily Collegian)

The Massachusetts men’s soccer team will be seeking revenge Tuesday afternoon when UMass closes out its nonconference schedule with a match against Central Connecticut State University.

The Minutemen lost to the Blue Devils 5-1 last year and were never really in the contest, allowing three goals in the first half, including a goal in the opening eight minutes.

UMass (2-6-2, 0-0-1 Atlantic 10) has shown improvement since last year’s match against Central Connecticut (1-6-2), including a draw against reigning conference-champion Dayton on Saturday to open up its A-10 schedule. Minutemen coach Fran O’Leary views the match against the Blue Devils as a barometer of the team’s development.

“They handled us comfortably last season, so it will be a good marker of how far we’ve come,” O’Leary said. “Have we improved enough to beat them? Time will tell, but I think we’re really excited to close out the nonconference and welcome Central Connecticut to Rudd Field.”

For some of the members on UMass, the return to nonconference play just three days after the conference opener feels a bit strange.

“Yeah it is strange, especially because we had a week in between games, we didn’t have a mid-week game last week,” senior midfielder Ty Goncalves said. “[It’s a] different atmosphere obviously, but we still need to bring the same intensity we brought against Dayton.”

UMass goalkeeper Jorge Becerra believes the Minutemen just need to focus mentally to overcome the scheduling oddity.

“It’s more of a mental thing than a physical thing. You’ve got to be focused on our A-10s, but also you get a little break, so that’s kind of good and bad,” Becerra said. “But we take every match the same, so we should be fine.”

Becerra will be looking for another clean sheet against the Blue Devils after keeping the Flyers off the scoreboard – the Minutemen’s second shutout over the past four games.

That opportunity may very well present itself against Central Connecticut as the Blue Devils have scored just six goals this season and have been held scoreless in six of nine matches, though his opponent’s struggles will not be changing Becerra’s mindset.

“Like I say every game, if we don’t get scored on we can’t lose, so we’ve got to go out with a defensive mentality that we want a clean sheet every game,” Becerra said. “We can’t really think about whether the other team has scored many goals or not, we’ve just got to go out there and play our game, do our thing, and we’ll be fine.”

UMass was shutout on Saturday after its offense improved, averaging 2.33 goals over the previous three games on the way to a record of 2-1, compared to the 0.67 goals the Minutemen averaged during the first six games, resulting in a record of 0-5-1 to begin the season.

“I thought we were very unfortunate not to score against Dayton,” O’Leary said. “We hit the cross bar, missed a couple of really good chances. So we’re creating chances, we need a little better luck and a little finishing.”

The match against Central Connecticut offers UMass the chance to, once again, get some in-game action before the Minutemen return to A-10 action against Fordham on Sunday.

Due to the team’s recent four game stretch where UMass has gone 2-1-1, the Minutemen are now relishing those chances.

“Now we’re getting in the habit of we’re excited for the next game, we can’t wait for the next game to come. It’s another chance to build our confidence and lay down the marker that we’re a decent team,” O’Leary said.

Tuesday’s opening kickoff is at 4 p.m. at Rudd Field.

Jamie Cushman can be reached at [email protected].

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