Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass men’s soccer draws 2-2 with Northeastern in season opener

Alec Hughes scores two goals for the Minutemen
Kayla Wong
Daily Collegian (2023)

For the third consecutive year, the Massachusetts men’s soccer team opened its season with a draw against Northeastern. UMass (0-0-1) played hard and had several chances late to claim the victory on Thursday afternoon in Amherst, but ultimately tied with the Huskies (0-0-1), 2-2.

“I thought we performed really well in the second half,” head coach Fran O’Leary said. “But I think we’re all disappointed a little about our showing in the first half.”

It was a sloppy first half with rarely any scoring opportunities for either team. The Minutemen put up three shots in the half, but played strong defense against the Huskies, limiting Northeastern to four shots and one shot on goal.

At the 25-minute mark in the first half, Ryan Levay helped open the scoring by pushing a through ball ahead to an accelerating Alec Hughes who put the ball past the keeper, scoring the first Minuteman goal of the season. The goal gave UMass the early 1-0 lead in the opener.

The second period was where the game started to open up for the Minutemen with many excellent chances. The offense was increasingly aggressive to try and finish off the Huskies, attempting nine shots, three times as many as they had in the first half. UMass had six of those nine shots go on goal.

“Second half we were on the front foot,” O’Leary said. “We played with confidence, we played with tempo, commitment, and I feel really unfortunate not to get the win. We hit the crossbar a couple of times, with a couple of goals called back.”

After giving up a goal with a minute and a half remaining in the first half from a Jack Monte header, UMass went into the halftime break tied 1-1 with the Huskies. Hughes was able to break the tie off a quality pass from Nick Zielonka, who put the ball right into the goal area for an easy finish in the 54th minute, putting the Minutemen up 2-1.

With about 20 minutes to play in the match, Northeastern was once again able to knot up the game at two apiece with another corner kick header from Monte. The only two goals that UMass gave up both came in exactly the same fashion, off a corner kick with a header from the Huskies’ Monte.

“[Set piece defense] has always been a point of emphasis,” O’Leary said of the two goals. “They came first [to the ball]. Ball’s delivered and somebody comes first. And twice they came first…so it’s always a point of emphasis, and it’s something we’ll have to work on.”

Two of the best late game opportunities came from Cence, who had a good shot with 13 minutes left bounce off the left post after a save from goalkeeper Gregor Shaw. Cence continued to operate on the right wing and had another good look moments later but was saved again by Shaw in the bottom right corner of the net. Cence looked dangerous late for the Minutemen, starting the season on a good note with a career-high in both shots and shots on goal with three each.

“[Cence] had a terrific second half,” O’Leary said. “He’s just getting better and better. He came in as a freshman, he looked like a freshman, and he’s just grown. He had a terrific spring and for his first game tonight his sophomore year he gave a very accomplished performance.”

Another big chance late for UMass came at the 87th minute with an attempted header by Hughes that hit the top crossbar and was saved by Shaw.

The Minutemen will return to action on Monday, Aug. 28 when they will host Central Connecticut State. Kickoff is scheduled for 5 p.m.

Marco Lopez can be reached at [email protected].

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