UMass battles Northeastern to a 1-1 draw in season opener

Minutemen applied pressure late, but couldn’t break the tie after two extra time periods

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Mehroz Kapadia/Daily Collegian

By Colin McCarthy, Assistant Sports Editor

Battling against both Northeastern and intense heat, the Massachusetts men’s soccer team could not capitalize on late scoring chances, kicking off its season with a 1-1 draw on Thursday.

The first half became a battle of possessions, with both UMass (0-0-1) and the Huskies (0-0-1) struggling to put any pressure on the opposing defense. Just when it appeared the Minutemen had broken the seal and found the back of the net, play was whistled offside.

Though the goal wouldn’t count, it provided a momentum swing in favor of UMass, who finished out the half with a 5-2 shot advantage.

Both offenses were rested and reinvigorated for the second half, however. Northeastern found the back of the net five minutes into the frame on a penalty shot. But that goal was quickly neutralized as Ben Shepard answered for the Minutemen to even the game at 1-1.

“Disappointed to go a goal down,” UMass coach Fran O’Leary said. “But proud to respond right away, I think we scored within a minute of them scoring.”

Sparked by Shepard’s tying goal, UMass applied pressure to the Huskies for the remainder of the half and generated plenty of scoring chances. But when the horn sounded to signal the end of regulation, the scoreboard hadn’t budged.

“I think when we look back, we had a lot of [missed] corners, so we need to do a better job there,” O’Leary said. “We created a lot, got a lot of corners, but didn’t get the first contact in the box. So that’s something we’ll work on.”

The heat made managing players’ legs challenging especially as the game pushed past the 100-minute mark, and both sides adjusted by using longer benches to give their players extra time to rest. The Minutemen also had to alter their strategy coming into the contest in order to keep a sustained attack.

“We typically will pressure teams, we’re a high press team,” O’Leary said. “We had to amend that today, and you just try. But even with that … guys make three or four runs in this weather and then it gets tough.”

When UMass met the Huskies in last springs shortened season, the former dominated for a full 90 minutes, generating offense from all over the field. This time around was a different story.

Despite having 17 corner kicks and attempting 12 shots, the Minutemen were only able to put two on target, and that wouldn’t be enough to come away with a win at Rudd Field.

Now the focus for UMass quickly shifts to the next game. Eating and drinking plenty of fluids are the top items on the agenda for O’Leary’s squad.

“Most important thing now is we’ve got to recover,” O’Leary said. “The bodies will be depleted today, and we turn around in 72 hours and play again. So right now, the whole focus will just be on recovery.”

“A draw doesn’t help us, but it doesn’t really hurt us, now we just have to get ready for going on the road and getting the result against Sacred Heart.”

UMass hits the road to take on Sacred Heart on Monday. Kickoff scheduled for 3 p.m.

Colin McCarthy can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @colinmccarth_DC