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UMBC men’s soccer looks for better play as season comes to a close

_mg_3826UMBC men’s soccer team has had a rough few weeks. The Retrievers have lost three straight games following their 1-0 defeat to Binghamton University. UMBC’s (4-4-3, 0-3 in the AEC) recent slide places them in the cellar of the conference, but with six games left, UMBC still has a chance to climb the standings but must improve on both sides of the ball.

The team is still looking for their first America East Conference goal.

Over their last three games, opponents have outscored the Retrievers 8-0. The Retrievers now have a goal differential of minus four. University of Hartford is the only other team in the AEC to give up more goals than they scored. UMBC is struggling to put the ball in the net this season, ranking, again, second to last in the AEC in goals per game. As the old cliche goes, you can’t win if you don’t score.

It’s not as if other teams are getting more shots off than the Retrievers. In fact, UMBC owns a 32-30 shot advantage over the last three contests. Getting good looks at the net is a much different story. Opponents held a 14-9 edge in shots on goal over the last couple of weeks. Against Binghamton, the Retrievers mustered just one SOG. For the season, UMBC ranks 131st out of 203 NCAA soccer programs in SOG per game.

The play of senior goalkeeper Billy Heavner has not helped matters. The usually reliable netminder has just a .428 save percentage over the last three games. Heavner is averaging career worsts in goals against average (1.43) and save percentage (.667).

The Retrievers did not look like the team that went without a loss in six consecutive games. During that stretch, UMBC outscored opponents 11-5 and only allowed more than one goal once.

In fairness, the Retrievers were not playing against easy competition. UMBC’s three losses came against teams with a combined record of 24-6-7 and a 64-31 combined goal differential. One of the teams, the University of Massachusetts Lowell, is ranked 18th in the country as of Oct. 11. Massachusetts Lowell houses one of the stingiest goal prevention units in the NCAA. As of Oct. 13, Massachusetts Lowell has allowed 0.64 goals per game, easily the best mark in the America East.

Winning the America East regular season championship may be too tall of a task for UMBC at this point. However, a higher finish in the conference is possible, but it won’t be easy. Just two of the Retrievers final six matches are at home. Record wise, there is no real difference in play for the Retrievers. UMBC is 1-1-1 on the road compared to 3-3-2 as hosts with a minus-two goal differential in both situations.

As for the rest of their schedule, half of UMBC’s remaining opponents have losing records with a combined minus 24 goal differential. The other three games have at least 19 goals and a plus 17 point differential. In particular, they have to face the University of Vermont, who rank 15th in the country in goals per game as of Oct. 13.

Given their strong play earlier in the season, there is no question UMBC can still comeback and improve their standing in the America East. However, with only six games to go, the Retrievers are running out of time to do so.