The Eagles were handed their first loss of the season Saturday afternoon by a UMass team whose speedy wingers scored three times in a 3-0 shutout loss for Boston College.
The Minutemen took advantage of space and several defensive lapses to lay into the Eagles and expose them on the wings. Matt Cence, Alec Hughes, and Ryan Levay scored for UMass.
Five minutes into the game, UMass struck, taking advantage of the space the Eagles defense allowed. Cence found himself with time and space between three BC defenders and launched a shot from distance across the face of the goal and into the right corner, past a diving Brennan Klein. The UMass strike reflected the tempo of the game, with BC trying to play reactionary instead of charging in on fifty-fifty balls.
UMass’s two second-half goals would come in the span of two minutes. The first, in the 61st minute, came off a through pass from Minuteman Evan Fournier, who found UMass forward Hughes open in the center of the box, held in an onside position by CJ Williams, who was just a step behind the line the Eagles were trying to hold. Hughes turned and blasted the ball into the top right corner, narrowly beating a sliding Victor Souza and beating Klein who had a split second to react to the shot. The Eagles had all ten field players behind the ball on the play, showcasing the positioning issues that would plague BC all match.
Fournier would collect his second assist of the game in the 63rd minute, lofting a cross from the left side that a sprinting Levay would run onto, heading it into the upper right corner, past an outstretched Klein lunging for the ball. The Eagles once again had numbers committed, with seven players in the space between Fournier and Levay. Still, forward Camilo Ponce was on the wrong side of his mark, allowing Levay the inside track and an unobstructed route to goal.
Klein made several saves to keep the game relatively close, especially in the second half where an already narrow defense played even tighter, allowing UMass control of the wings and creating numerical mismatches that forced Klein into action, making seven saves on the day.
Most teams will say that an early loss proves good motivation and the lessons BC takes away from a structural loss like this will help the team going forward. Better an early-season loss that can serve as a chip on a team’s shoulder, than a late-season demoralizer heading into the postseason (and BC has experienced that before, think NC State). A game like this allows the Eagles to patch up the structural holes that UMass exposed—while also working to stay checked into a game where everything is going wrong.
The Eagles dominated possession against UMass, having control into the final third where weak final passes and stellar defending stripped BC of creativity or sustained pressure. The bulk of the four shots on goal came from beyond the 18-yard-box, illustrating the lack of creativity from BC’s forwards. Stefan Sigurdarson only played a little over half the game and the Minutemen's defense stifled him, keeping him scoreless and forcing the Eagles to ask questions of who would step up when Sigurdarson couldn’t find a way onto the scoreboard.
The answer, this game at least, was no one, leaving the Eagles with a lot of questions about their formation and its possession-based goals in the coming weeks.
Although a frustrating game, there were bright spots. Augustine Boadi, back from his red card suspension, brought instant energy and sheer desire to win every ball. Another bright spot is that this is the third game of the season and the first played on grass—which can explain some of the off passes and disjointed chemistry. The team that started against UMass is not the final version of the Eagles—not by a long shot. And that is a very, very positive thing in terms of the growth and seeing what the team is capable of after a shutout loss like this.
The Eagles (2-1) return to Newton on Tuesday, September 6th to take on Siena (2-1) in the final non-conference match-up before ACC play begins.
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