UMass men’s soccer readies for La Salle

La Salle sits at 3-1

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Mehroz Kapadia / Daily Collegian

By Pablo Quiceno, Collegian Staff

On Wednesday night, the Massachusetts men’s soccer team will play its first conference game of the season against its most formidable opponent yet in La Salle.

UMass (4-0) is currently off to its best start since 1992. On the other side of the field, La Salle (3-1) is looking to build on its two-game win streak. The Explorers will also be playing their first conference game since their first originally scheduled one against Rhode Island was postponed.

“Very, very difficult opponent, their front three may be as good as any in the conference,” said head coach Fran O’Leary when asked about the match against the Explorers. “So we’re gonna have our hands full, we’ll need to be very sharp against them, very switched on.”

UMass’ success this season in large part has been their collective team effort.

“If you ask the defenders about only giving away two goals, they’ll speak about our front six,  midfield, and our forwards the amount of work they do to take pressure off them,” O’Leary said. “If you ask our midfield and forwards, they’ll talk about how our defenders are now finding them and giving them some good service…On any given day, we’ve had a lot of very good performances from people.”

The Minutemen certainly have been relying on a group effort so far this season. They have scored 11 goals from seven different players while only allowing two on the other side of the ball.

UMass has relied heavily on its starters, but it also has formidable depth, not being afraid to call up anyone on their bench for a spark. Twenty-three of 26 players have seen playing time this year.

The early season cohesiveness and focus of the team have been somewhat of a surprise for O’Leary since he wasn’t sure what to expect out of his team coming into this season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We didn’t know where we would be at as a team, where the players would be at because many of them have just literally been in their house for the last few months,” O’Leary said.

A combination of continued cohesiveness, a little bit of luck and a hot start out of the gate is what the Minutemen will need against the Explorers.

Beating La Salle would keep UMass’ momentum rolling into its second conference game against Rhode Island. URI has been a historically tough team and will be another critical match awaiting UMass as they start moving into conference play.

“If we put three points in the bank against La Salle, we’ll wake up the next morning and start thinking about Rhode Island,” O’Leary said.

Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. on Wednesday from The Bubble in Amherst.

Pablo Quiceno can be reached at [email protected].  Follow him on Twitter @PabloSantiago00.