For second time in three years, UMD spoils bid for unbeaten LEC season
NORTH DARTMOUTH, Mass. - For the second time in three years, the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth has spoiled Eastern Connecticut State University's bid for an unbeaten Little East Conference men's soccer season.
Saturday, junior Josh Chao delivered the decisive strike off a free kick in the 54th minute to lead UMass (10-5-0, 5-1-0 LEC) to a 1-0 victory over Eastern (9-3-4, 4-1-1) at Cressy Field that vaulted the Corsairs ahead of the Warriors into first place in the conference with one regular-season conference contest remaining.
In the final regular-season conference match in 2011, homestanding UMass pinned an identical 1-0 loss on Eastern, which was attempting to finish its conference season with a perfect 7-0 record. Until Saturday, that loss had been the last one sustained by Eastern in conference regular-season or playoff competition. The Warriors had gone 16 matches unbeaten in the conference until Saturday en route to two LEC regular-season and playoff championships.
Next Saturday, Eastern visits Plymouth State University (1-3-2 in the LEC) and UMass Dartmouth visits Western Connecticut (1-3-2 in the LEC) in the final regular-season conference matches. Eastern has won or shared the conference regular-season title four times in the last six years. UMass is searching for its first-ever regular-season championship and has lost in the LEC playoff finals to the Warriors both last year and in 2009.
Senior Adam Philbin generated the eventual game-winning rush with a strong push down the left flank, forcing a Warrior defender to earn a caution to prevent a breakaway. On the ensuing free kick, Chao bent his attempt around the visitors' wall and into the left corner of the net to provide the hosts with a lead they would not relinquish. It was Chao's third game-winning goal of the season and eighth overall.
Eastern created its best scoring chance in the eighth minute as senior Mitch Power (Douglas, MA) fired a shot that forced the UMass Dartmouth keeper to make a diving save towards his right to keep the match scoreless. Senior Victor Ferreira nearly sent the Corsairs into the halftime intermission with a one-marker advantage, when he struck the right post in the 21st minute.
Eastern appeared to have tied the match in the final minutes after scoring off a throw-in, but the Warriors were ruled to be offside on the play.
The UMass Dartmouth defensive quartet of Chao, freshman Georges Tenie, sophomore Karim Fernandes and junior John Macaroco held the Warriors to eight total shots, including just four on net. The Corsairs did not allow their visitors to attempt a shot for the first 29 minutes of the second stanza.
The top four teams in the final regular-season standings qualify for the LEC playoffs. The semifinals are scheduled for Nov. 6. Eastern, UMass Dartmouth and Keene State College are guaranteed playoff slots, with UMass Boston and Rhode Island College contending for the final spot. Those two teams meet Saturday in Providence, RI, with Rhode Island College needing a victory to make the playoffs.
The shutout was the third in the last four contests for Eastern, which was outshot 19-8 by the Corsairs in dropping to 2-2-3 away from home this fall. Eastern freshman Greg Walton (Brunswick, ME) made six saves. Freshman Luis Carranza of UMass, who has split time this year with freshman Andrew Deane in goal, made four saves for his first full career shutout, seventh this season by the team.