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MSOC: UD Drops 3-2 Heartbreaker to UMass
MSOC: UD Drops 3-2 Heartbreaker to UMass
Christopher Rieman
Published by Chris R
10-21-2017
Exclamation MSOC: UD Drops 3-2 Heartbreaker to UMass

In a battle for 1st place in the A10 standings, Dayton jumped ahead early, fell behind, then pulled even in the 2nd half before surrendering a game-winning PK in the final 10 minutes as UMass defeated the Flyers 3-2. The Saturday night match under perfect late October conditions at Baujan Field was highly-competitive throughout and may be a precursor of a possible rematch in the A10 Tournament. UD falls to 7-7-2 (4-2-0) while the Minutemen improve to 11-2-3 (5-0-1).

In a game with significant implications, Dayton and UMass squared off looking to create some separation at the top of the conference standings with two weeks remaining in the regular season. Coming off a 4-0 clobbering of Saint Louis earlier in the week, the Flyers came into the game with a ton of confidence after playing well in prior matches. Getting off to a good start against UMass would go a long way toward continuing that theme.

It worked out that way -- at least the fast start Dayton was looking for. Freshman Jonas Fjeldberg made a crafty dribble along the right side of the UMass goal box but was tugged in the process. The referee waited until the advantage played out uneventfully, blew a late whistle on the play and pointed to the spot. Rok Taneski polished of the PK to put UD up 1-0 in the 8th minute.

It was exactly where the Flyers wanted to be -- front-running against the only team ahead of them in the conference standings. With so much offense over the last two weeks, fans expected another onslaught of Flyer goals -- if nothing else an onslaught of shots that might lead to goals.

It was tougher sledding however against UMass. The Minutemen's defense comprised of large bodies with excellent athleticism and a strong soccer IQ. For much of the 1st half Dayton attempted to play balls over the top of their back line and that was met with a consistent lack of success. During the few moments UD played the ball on the ground and tried to attack through UM's back line, the results were much better.

Dayton had their moments on offense. Several times they pushed forward into the offensive third and seemed to have the numbers in place to find a vulnerable spot on the field to exploit. UMass was compact, always kept their shape, and were extremely difficult to unravel however. The Flyers generated some shots, but most of those shots were not on frame. In many cases, UM recovered in time to block the shots entirely with a leg or other body part -- their recovery speed and instincts were top-shelf.

On the other end of the field, UMass experienced similar trouble hacking apart the Flyer back line. Dillon Nino was especially resilient in the defensive third and battled physical UMass strikers blow-for-blow without conceding an inch.

Unfortunately, the 1-0 lead only lasted until the 26th minute. Flyer GK Justin Saliba tracked a high ball in the box but got caught in no-man's land and left the net unattended. Unable to reach the ball for a punch-out and beyond the goal line to protect the net, UMass capitalized with a header into the empty net to tie the match at 1-1.

Over the last 20 minutes of the half, the run of play swung back and forth as both teams had extended periods of possession that would ultimately manifest into a turnover or missed opportunity deep into the opposing half of the field. That's a credit to the back lines of both squads as the game turned into a defensive battle. The team that made unforced errors in front of their own net would probably concede the result.

Halftime stats favored UMass in shots (9-6) and corner kicks (2-1). The only Flyer shot on goal in the first 45 minutes was the PK conversion by Taneski.

The 2nd half restart might determine the match -- the run of play and general tempo suggested the next team to score might have the defense to hold on for the 2-1 win.

If the Flyers had high hopes, things turned south in the 51st minute when UMass took the 2-1 lead on a superb speed-rush dribble-drive along the left side of the UD goal box that split a pair of Flyer defenders and beat Saliba to the lower far post. Saliba had little to no chance at the save; it was poor defending all around.

With work to do, Dayton had to find a goal somewhere. Unable to generate shots on frame however, it seemed for the longest time that no further goals were out there to be found. The Flyers spent the next 10 minutes dominating possession however and leveraged the speed of Taneski along the left side of the pitch to dribble-drive past UMass defenders for crosses near the baseline. The Minutemen were unable to slow him down as time and again he rounded the corner, tap-danced along the end line, and shoved balls into the mixer for teammates to hopefully deflect in.

Those deflections never materialized for the game-tying equalizer, but it didn't matter because Taneski took care of everything himself in the 64th minute on a bazooka from outside the box that cleared the UMass goalkeeper and tucked inside the far post to even the match at 2-2. The curving, dipping ball was UD's best shot on goal up to that point; the Flyers redirected a ball from the 6yd line just minutes earlier but were stoned by the goalkeeper.

Now 2-2 with less than 30 minutes to play, the match was once again up for grabs and this time the next team to score would almost certainly go home the winner.

UD continued to generate the better run of play over the next 10 minutes, but every time they entered the offensive third, UMass was there to clean everything up and frustrate the Flyers. Numerous high balls made their job easier and only when UD kept possession on the ground did they force the Minutemen to defend more honestly. They also exploited UMass much easier this way.

Defensively, Dayton remained pretty solid. The best UMass scoring chances came on counter-attacks when UD failed to get numbers behind the ball and were caught out of position. Saliba came up huge on two 2nd half saves in the box when he came out of his goal mouth and challenged balls with sliding deflections.

The match was ultimately decided in the 83rd minute when Saliba once again challenged from goal along the right side. David Lianes trailed the UMass player approaching Saliba and a collision of bodies ensued. Lianes was whistled for obstruction in the box with an apparent grab and issued a straight red card. The referee awarded UMass a PK they converted moments later to go up 3-2 and eventually win the game. Dayton played the last 8 minutes down a man but had the better chances in the waning moments. Still, the foul call, ejection, and PK was a harsh decision on a play that seemed to warrant far less.

UD outshot UMass 9-8 in the last 45 minutes while corner kicks were two each. In total UMass outshot UD 17-15 and 9-4 in shots on goal. The lack of strikes on frame were the storyline of the match.

It was a tough defeat considering UD probably did enough to at least earn a tie. A couple bounces their way and the Flyers would have been in 1st place in the conference. If nothing else, the match showcased UD's significant improvement over the last three weeks as they went blow for blow with the top team in the league and had their opportunity to win it outright.

With two A10 matches remaining in the regular season, the Flyers can still put themselves in the great spot by jockeying for seeding with two more wins. The A10 Tournament is hosted by UD so they have a chance to do some tourney damage if they finish strong and punch their ticket.
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