UMass men’s soccer falls 3-2 to No. 24 Saint Louis

Second loss in three games for Minutemen

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Thom Kendall / UMass Athletics

By Frederick Hanna III, Assistant Sports Editor

The roar of the crowd on the sideline in support of the Massachusetts men’s soccer team taking a 2-1 lead in the 79th minute quickly faded away after Saint Louis responded with back-to-back goals of its own to secure the 3-2 win.

UMass (4-2-1, 0-1-0 Atlantic 10) suffered its second loss of its past three games to No. 24 SLU (4-0-3, 1-0-0 A-10) Saturday who came into the game unbeaten on the season. Two goals in the second half for the Billikens saw them come away with the road win to remain undefeated.

“Obviously disappointed with the loss,” UMass coach Fran O’Leary said. “But it was our most complete performance of the season. It was the first time all season that I see a path forward for us. I thought we’d been inconsistent [so far this year], but everyone played ever so well today. That Saint Louis is a top, top team. They’re well coached and have many talented players.”

The Billikens started off the game strong with pressure throughout the first half, but the Minutemen responded well to the early onslaught of attack against them. The game was scoreless up until the 44th minute when Andrew Ortiz put a cross from the right side of the box into the direction of James McPherson who headed in the shot to give UMass a 1-0 lead.

Just when it looked like the Minutemen were heading into the break with a lead over a ranked opponent, Saint Louis stormed up the pitch in the final minute to draw a free kick outside the box. Kevin Komodi sent in the free kick into the mass of players waiting for the ball that eventually found Chris Bruch who scored to square things up at one apiece.

“You’ve got to defend your box on set pieces,” O’Leary said. “It’s a cruel game, but it was a massive effort by our guys today that falls short because we didn’t defend the box. Guys know it, but they also know we can be a competitive team in this league this year.”

The score was deadlocked up at one until the 79th minute when Filippo Begliardi Ghidini struck the ball into the bottom left corner of the net to give UMass a 2-1 lead. Alec Hughes set up the play and recorded his second assist of the season with the pass to Begliardi Ghidini.

“All of our forwards [are good],” O’Leary said. “Alec [Hughes], Filippo [Begliardi Ghidini], Yosuke [Hanya], Shizu [Yohena] gave us a boost off the bench. Joe [Leslie] has been giving us goals. I think the whole group of them have been very good. And James [McPherson] obviously scored a special goal today. We are fortunate that we have a good group of attacking players that we can rotate.”

The lead for the Minutemen didn’t last long when two goals scored in the final ten minutes of the game for the Billikens secured their win. In the 83rd minute Kipp Keller scored a screamer of a goal outside the box that headed into the middle left side of the net to level things up at two. Two minutes later in the 85th minute Simon Becher found the back of the net to give SLU a 3-2 lead which they held on to for the remaining time of regulation.

“Goals come from one of three places: turnovers in your defensive third, lack of pressure on the ball and set pieces, and the two goals we conceded today were set pieces,” O’Leary said. “We are playing a quality team today. We were under stress in the first half and we just continued. What we will take from today is that we will continue to learn from set pieces and pressure on the ball, but we will also that we have a decent team and will be completive this season.”

The Minutemen hit the road to take on UMass Lowell on Tuesday with kickoff set for 7 p.m.

Frederick Hanna III can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @FrederickHIII.