The Massachusetts men’s soccer team continued its strong start to the season at Rudd Field, advancing to 5-0-1 at home after a 3-0 victory over the Hartford Hawks.
The win gives the University of Massachusetts its third clean sheet of the season, with all three coming at home.
The Minutemen (5-2-2) are unbeaten at Rudd Field in their last 11 contests, posting a 9-0-2 record. Their last loss at home came Sept. 13 of last season, a 2-1 loss to Albany.
“We just like playing at home,” UMass coach Fran O’Leary said with a laugh. “The food, the dining hall, the friends that are around, it’s nice to play here.”
UMass smothered the Hartford (2-5-2) offense, limiting them to just five shots. The defense played so well that Minutemen goalie Bardia Asefnia wasn’t even forced to make a save during the contest.
“That was our focus for the weekend,” midfielder Matthew Mooney said. “We wanted to keep them as low as we could with shots, we wanted to close all our gaps, win every ball and that’s what happened today.”
Left back Casey Hamill feels that it is a pride thing to not let teams score on them on their home turf.
“When we’re here, we feel we can’t let anyone do anything in our territory,” Hamill said.
UMass had given up some sloppy goals in their past couple games, so the shutout was sure to bring a smile to O’Leary’s face.
“Well we wanted a clean sheet,” O’Leary said after the game. “We talked about it. Our foundation is that we try not to give away goals. We’ve shipped a couple of cheap ones lately, so we’re delighted to get a shutout today.”
The Hawks were unable to generate any offense against the strong UMass set piece defense. The Minutemen shut down all three of the Hartford corner attempts.
“[We were] working this week, our whole team getting out to the ball in set pieces and taking care of the small things,” Hamill said.
UMass wasn’t just dominant on the offense end. It matched its strongest offensive performance of the season with three goals.
Mooney was the main facilitator for the Minutemen. The senior assisted on the first two goals of the game.
Just three minutes into the game, Mooney connected a long pass to midfielder Henry Steinkamp, who then found junior Jack Fulton who caught the back of the net to get the scoring going for UMass.
Just under five minutes into the second half, Mooney helped extend the Minutemen lead when he drove to the net and passed the ball across the net to freshmen Davis Smith, who was able to easily score his second goal of the season.
“We were finishing our chances,” Mooney said. “We didn’t have too many shots today, but we were finishing clean, we were focused and that really came into play.”
Defensemen Konrad Gorich even got in on the scoring action. In the 84th minute, Smith drove toward the net, but was fouled just outside of the box.
O’Leary elected to have Gorich take the free kick, who blasted the ball past the wall into the bottom right corner of the net.
“I just think we were bright all around,” O’Leary said. “Our energy levels were good. Everyone was switched on and everyone was focused.”
UMass will have a week off before it returns to action next Saturday, where they travel to Missouri to take on Saint Louis.
Thomas Johnston can be reached at [email protected] and followed on twitter @TJ__Johnston.