Minutemen start off strong with impressive 2-0 defeat of Northeastern

New additions stand out in opening victory

By Richard Rodgers, Collegian Staff

After an elongated hiatus, the Massachusetts men’s soccer team got its season started by visiting Northeastern on Wednesday night. Despite all that it’d been through, UMass looked sharp, cruising to a 2-0 win.

Northeastern (0-1) got off to an energetic start, earning three corner kicks in the first several minutes of the match. The Minutemen (1-0) were eventually able to settle in and start taking control though. Both teams ended the first half with five total shots.

“Northeastern is a well-coached team. Their wings backs caused a lot of problems early. They were getting around us,” UMass head coach Fran O’Leary said. “Our forwards came back and covered a lot more ground than we had anticipated they would have to. It was a wonderfully unselfish role they played in the first half in helping stabilize things. As soon as we got a grip of the wide areas, we began to wrestle some control in the game.”

The second half was where UMass really entered the driver’s seat. Newly transferred junior midfielder Ben Shepherd capitalized on an opportunity right in front of the net off an assist from sophomore forward Quinn Serafino. Forward Filippo Begliardi Ghidini, another transfer player, later capitalized on a penalty shot, giving UMass a two-score lead.

The improvements that UMass made to this roster in the offseason were on full display.

“We wanted to add some more players in attacking areas. We’ve had some injuries in the past,” O’Leary said. “They’ve settled in well. They’re all good guys. Tonight, I thought everyone who came in up front…they gave us valuable minutes and the level of play never dropped.”

Northeastern was still able to generate some chances in the second half, as they finished with nine total shots to seven for UMass. Forward Benjamin Klingen stood out, creating several qualities opportunities near the net. The UMass defense held down the fort while goalie Marvyn Dorchin was his usual, steady self.

“He’s just carrying on. He had a very strong season last season…and he was terrific today,” O’Leary said. “You’re hoping your goalkeeper can step up and make a big save. He made a couple in this game and played a big role in us keeping a clean sheet and getting a shutout.”

Of course, there were many questions coming into the game about what kind of energy both teams would come out with after such a turbulent offseason. Both teams looked fairly energetic considering all that they had to deal with. The Minutemen certainly didn’t appear sluggish in any aspect of the game.

“I thought the fitness was better today,” O’Leary said. “They’ve come back in good shape. I thought our energy level was very good tonight. For our first outing, I was very impressed with the group.”

The defensive prowess that UMass has on its roster is well established. Creating and capitalizing on chances offensively has been an issue for UMass since the beginning of last season. On Wednesday night, the Minutemen took a step forward in that regard as they’ve been looking to do for years.

“We will be able to play in a more controlled manner, and I think we’ll pose more of a threat offensively,” O’Leary said. “That’s the hope and it worked out well tonight. We’ve had a terrific performance, a terrific result after a 10-11-month break. Now, we’ve got to show that we can go again. We’re going to be better offensively and hopefully we’ll stay as tight as we were defensively.”

It was a promising start for UMass as the team appears to have a lot of potential. It’ll be interesting to see how the Minutemen continue to navigate what has been an extremely unusual season. UMass is set to take on Vermont on the road this Saturday at 2 p.m.

Richard Rodgers can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @RichardDRodgers.