Matt Zambetti shines in goal for UMass in 0-0 draw against Saint Joseph’s

The Minutemen’s new goalkeeper proves his value once again

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Kayla Wong/ Daily Collegian (2022)

By Pedro Gray Soares, Assistant Sports Editor

The Massachusetts men’s soccer team found a gem in its new goalkeeper Matt Zambetti. Zambetti has been one of the stars of a still-unbeaten UMass (6-0-6, 1-0-4 Atlantic 10) team and shined once again in a 0-0 tie against Saint Joseph’s at home on Saturday.

A senior transfer from Virginia Tech, Zambetti finished the game with four saves in 10 shots faced and most importantly, a clean sheet – his fifth of the season.

“Any time a goalkeeper has a clean sheet he pulled off some good saves,” UMass head coach Fran O’Leary said. “He has a good command of his penalty area, a very good presence. So, another solid performance by [Zambetti].”

“He’s very comfortable on the ball. So, his distribution is good and his overall leadership at the back is very good, we’re delighted to have him,” O’Leary added.

It was unclear whether UMass would find a replacement to fill Marvyn Dorchin’s shoes after the French keeper graduated. However, Zambetti has shown he’s more than up to the task.

So far this season, Zambetti started all 11 games he’s appeared in, beating sophomore Alex Geczy for the starting spot. He’s allowed just 8 goals for 0.79 goals against average, good for second best in UMass history.

With 35 saves and a 0.814 save percentage that ranks top-20 in the country, the Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania native quickly established himself as one of the best keepers in the conference.

Against St. Joseph’s (2-4-6, 1-1-3 A-10), he kept a deserved clean sheet without seeing much danger from the opposition but made one of the saves of the season for the Minutemen in the second half.

It came off a first-time volley by the Hawks; a strong shot slightly to his left as he extended his left arm from a kneeling position out of pure reflexes with no time to react, making the save and preserving the tie.

“Happy, always eager to get a clean sheet,” Zambetti said. “Missed a few clean sheet opportunities here and there throughout the season, but this one, this one feels good, even though it’s just a tie.”

An aspect of Zambetti’s skillset that goes largely unnoticed but is crucial for how UMass wants to play is his confidence with the ball at his feet.

“I think it’s pretty vital,” Zambetti said of his distribution skills. “Because a lot of our game relies on balls over the top and if we can’t get the ball over the top then we can’t do much of what we want to do. So just sticking to that and making sure you’re going to do that throughout the game it’s pretty important.”

For a team that wants to fight for possession of the ball in the midfield off aerial duels and second balls, it’s important to have a keeper who can accurately place those long passes.

“So, the way we want to play it, it’s pretty vital because we need a goalkeeper who can strike a ball at a long distance consistently in a certain area,” UMass goalkeepers coach Jacob Reimers said of Zambetti. “And [Zambetti] has definitely gotten a lot better at that. And I think that speaks to him that it’s only been two months that he’s been here and that his consistency in kicking has increased quite a lot.”

Zambetti not only does that, but his ability with the ball at his feet transmits confidence to a stout backline. It tells his center backs that they can trust him when passing it back, knowing the goalie can get them out of trouble.

Finding a goalkeeper who can be trusted to do everything necessary in commanding the defense is priceless for a winning team. Zambetti showed many valuable traits against Saint Joseph’s on Saturday.

He can get UMass out of trouble, building play from the back, or kick it long, leaving his goal to close out attacking threats and claim dangerous crosses and balls over the top. He’s the complete package.

“He’s been great,” Reimers said of his goalie. “He’s done really, really well for us. Game in and game out. As a goalkeeper, you want the goalkeeper to be the one who doesn’t necessarily make the high-flying save, but does everything that he should do every game, and you know Matt ticks that box.”

Zambetti and the Minutemen will face No. 16 Vermont on Tuesday, Oct. 11. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m.

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