Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Trip to Hartford up next for UMass men’s soccer

inutemen on the road for midweek matchup

%28Katherine+Mayo%2F+Daily+Collegian%29
(Katherine Mayo/ Daily Collegian)

(Katherine Mayo/ Daily Collegian)

(Katherine Mayo/ Daily Collegian)

By Amin Touri, Sports Editor

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With Hartford on the horizon, the Massachusetts men’s soccer team is as confident as it’s been all season.

Having held national powerhouse Clemson to a scoreless draw at Rudd Field on Sunday, the Minutemen (2-2-2) turn their attention to the winless Hawks (0-3-2), a side that UMass easily handled in a 3-0 win last season.

“It’s going to be a very tough game,” said UMass coach Fran O’Leary. “We’ve really got to focus on ourselves. What we have got to do before we go into conference play is to prove to ourselves that we can not only perform well on the road, but win on the road. We’ve yet to do that. We performed well for large stages against a very good Boston University side, but came up short.”

The Minutemen fell in the final minutes to the Terriers on Friday, but held Clemson — a team just three years removed from an appearance in the title game of the NCAA Tournament — without a goal through 110 minutes on Sunday.

“So we’re coming off a terrific performance against Clemson,”O’Leary said. “But we now have to show that we can go on the road, perform well consistently for 90 minutes and come away with a win.

“Clemson are one of the top teams in the country,” O’Leary said of Sunday’s performance. “In the first half they had the upper hand, they outshot us but we always felt in control. In the second half, we began to get a grip of the game, created several good chances and ended up disappointed that it was 0-0 against one of the elite programs in the best conference in the country. It gives us a lot of confidence, but we’ve now got to parlay that confidence and belief into a good performance on Wednesday.”

Hartford may be catching UMass at a good time, as the Minutemen will take the field for the third time in just six days on Wednesday. But O’Leary isn’t concerned about his team’s fitness, as his side was on the front foot and pressing down the stretch against Clemson on Sunday.

“Looking at yesterday, I thought we were the stronger team in the latter stages of the second half and overtime,” O’Leary said. “So I think we’ve got the mental and physical strength to handle this type of schedule. We want to get games out now so we can have a little break before our conference games. I think these games harden us, and then we’ll put them to bed and have a total focus on the A-10 for our last eight games of the season.”

The Hawks are one of the weaker teams in the America East Conference, having finished bottom of the table in 2017 at 1-5-1. They won’t be a walkover for the Minutemen, however. Having held Rutgers to a 2-2 draw over the weekend, they could pose as an obstacle for UMass.

UMass remains without senior center back Konrad Gorich, an All-Conference defender, who was injured in the season opener against UMass Lowell. Junior Ryan Saul has stepped in beside All-Conference center back Brandon Merklin, and was an integral part of the team’s clean sheet on Sunday.

Kickoff on Wednesday is set for 7 p.m. at Al-Marzook Field in Hartford.

Amin Touri can be reached at [email protected]and followed on Twitter @Amin_Touri.

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