UMass remains undefeated after comeback win against Boston University, 2-1

Minutemen pick up fourth consecutive win

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Photo by Daily Collegian

By Pedro Gray Soares, Assistant Sports Editor

In an encounter between two undefeated schools, the Massachusetts men’s soccer team came from behind to defeat Boston University, 2-1 on Saturday afternoon. A strong start to the season continues for the Minutemen (4-0-1) as they secured their fourth win in a row.

“I’m pretty pleased,” UMass head coach Fran O’Leary said. “It’s a terrific result against a very, very good Boston University side. We’re both undefeated so anytime you come from behind to beat an undefeated team you’ve got to be very happy.”

“We keep talking about ticking boxes. Today we ticked two very important boxes, one is to win a tight game, close game, because our wins so far have been by quite a few goals. And secondly, to come from behind and win. So, we did that today, we came from behind and we held on in a tough game against a pretty good opponent, ” O’Leary added.

The Terriers (2-1-2) controlled possession in the first 20 minutes and generated more danger, continuing to run up the right sideline, while the Minutemen struggled to create chances.

In the 14th minute, BU’s Colin Innes fired a long shot, heading straight for the bottom left corner, and as UMass’ goalkeeper Matt Zambetti dove to stop it, the ball hit his hand and went into the net. The goal provided the Terriers with a needed spark, as they began to dominate possession even more, while the Minutemen struggled with link-up play.

“Their wingbacks were posing a problem to us, and we started just pushing our fullbacks a little higher onto their wingbacks and I think that stabilizes in the first step,” O’Leary said about the adjustments he made during the game.

From that point on, the game script changed completely; the home team needed an answer and it came quick. In the 23rd minute, Nick Zielonka, a crucial figure in the game, took a direct free kick from the edge of the box that went right through the BU wall and in near the right post.

With that goal came a total momentum shift in favor of UMass, who dominated the ball in the back end of the first half. The Minutemen continued to do damage from set pieces and established their usual high press, which allowed them to win all the first and second balls.

When O’Leary made the decision to substitute in Shizu Yohena, Mike Willis, and Zielonka, the energy shift brought new life to the game and allowed him to rest some of the starters.  This decision was one that completely changed the outcome of the contest.

Towards the end of the first half, Yohena nearly scored a screamer from long range. The sophomore fired a rocket from outside the box, aiming to put it over BU’s goalkeeper, but the ball smashed off the crossbar and went flying in the air.

Yohena, one of UMass’ best performers was responsible for the game-winning goal in the second half. He consistently caused problems for the Terriers by exploiting the space behind the midfielders and sending dangerous balls into the box.

In the 73rd minute, Zielonka set off to press BU’s right wingback, which led to a poorly weighed pass back to the goalkeeper. Yohena read it perfectly, intercepting the ball and rounding out the keeper. He was rewarded for his efforts, scoring on the empty net to give the Minutemen a 2-1 lead.

Another impressive performer for UMass was central defender Matt Fordham. The sophomore had a rock-solid game as the foundation at center back for the Minutemen. He played with confidence on the ball and consistently found the right outlet.

The center-back partnership between Fordham and captain Nate Cardoza proved to be too much to handle for the Terriers, especially in the second half. The entire back four completely neutralized BU’s offense when they needed it most, allowing no clear chances to score in the final minutes.

“We like to keep our line very tight, make sure that nothing’s slipping in behind us,” Fordham said. “One ball never beats us over the top. So, we make sure that everything stays in front of us as a back four and we always have help from our front six coming back and repressing the ball.”

The Minutemen will go on the road to face Dartmouth on Tuesday, Sept. 13th. Kickoff is set for 5 p.m.

Pedro Gray Soares can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @P_GraySoares.