Men’s Soccer Fails to Score in Two Home Conference Losses, Now .500

Jack+Freeman+%E2%80%9913+challenges+an+Amherst+shot+attempt+while+Noah+Goss-Woliner+%E2%80%9915+looks+on.+The+Panthers+couldn%E2%80%99t+generate+much+offense+the+other+way%2C+losing+2-0.+%28Campus%2FBishwash+Ghimire%29
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Men’s Soccer Fails to Score in Two Home Conference Losses, Now .500

Jack Freeman ’13 challenges an Amherst shot attempt while Noah Goss-Woliner ’15 looks on. The Panthers couldn’t generate much offense the other way, losing 2-0. (Campus/Bishwash Ghimire)

Jack Freeman ’13 challenges an Amherst shot attempt while Noah Goss-Woliner ’15 looks on. The Panthers couldn’t generate much offense the other way, losing 2-0. (Campus/Bishwash Ghimire)

Jack Freeman ’13 challenges an Amherst shot attempt while Noah Goss-Woliner ’15 looks on. The Panthers couldn’t generate much offense the other way, losing 2-0. (Campus/Bishwash Ghimire)

Jack Freeman ’13 challenges an Amherst shot attempt while Noah Goss-Woliner ’15 looks on. The Panthers couldn’t generate much offense the other way, losing 2-0. (Campus/Bishwash Ghimire)

By Owen Teach

The Middlebury men’s soccer team suffered two defeats at home over the weekend, both to NESCAC rivals.

Coming off a three-game win streak that featured both offensive and defensive might, the men’s soccer team anticipated cementing its status as a NESCAC contender. After the team dropped games to Bowdoin (1-0) and Amherst (2-0), however, the Panthers now sit at 1-3 in conference and 3-3 overall, and must head back to the drawing board after being held off the score sheet in consecutive contests.

While the shots statistic may not always be the best indicator of a team’s performance, Middlebury did not offer much challenge to opposing keepers this past weekend. After firing 45 combined shots during its winning run against Norwich, Colby and Plymouth State, the Panthers offense came to a halt at home, managing just five attempts in the two conference games.

Coach Dave Saward spoke about his team’s offensive lapse.

“I believe that shooting is a mental aspect as much as a technical one,” said Saward. “We looked for the perfect shot when we shouldn’t have been. We also need to be more creative in our shot selection and shape shots around defenders.”

Midfielder Sam Peisch ’13.5 echoed his coach’s reaction.

“Being dangerous in the final third is definitely something we need to improve upon,” said Peisch. “This weekend was tough because Bowdoin and Amherst play a style that is not conducive to creating chances, but we definitely need to adjust and attempt to impose our style of play on our opponents.”

In the same respect, Saward also talked about the need for his players to take more risks on the ball.

“The players in forward positions need to have the willingness to fail,” said Saward. “When you look at great strikers of the world, they miss a lot but are also rewarded for keeping at it. The mentality of a finisher has to be selfish. My players are not selfish, but they also need that mentality.”

Another reason for the team’s offensive woes over the weekend was that the two opposing teams held leading-scorer Alvand Hajizadeh ’13 in check. After scoring the winning goal in the last three consecutive contests, Hajizadeh did not record a shot on target, though he did nearly net an equalizer in the second half against Amherst when he fired a shot just wide of the post.

“I wouldn’t say Alvand’s performance has dropped off, just that the quality of the defending was excellent on both teams,” said Saward. “Against strong opponents, it’s that much harder for any striker to find the gaps to get their shots off.”

While both opposing sides from this past weekend are enjoying success this year, Amherst in particular is shaping up to be a national championship threat. The defending NESCAC champion now sits at 5-0.

“They are relentless. They have three or four guys who can hurt you, and in soccer that is a rarity,” said Saward. “That being said, I thought we competed yesterday better than we did against Bowdoin. We had to match their physicality and I was proud of the way the team competed. If we can use that momentum, not the result, we are on the right track.”

Peisch also took some confidence from the Amherst loss.

“I think we showed a lot of heart in the game against Amherst.  Even though we lost, we’re confident that we can make a strong run through the NESCAC if we continue to play like we did,” said Peisch.

The team, still awaiting the return of pivotal players Jon Portman ’13, Tyler Smith ’14 and Eric Wilson ’13, and likely to miss Sammie Redmond ’15 for the rest of the year, prepares to head on the road to face Wesleyan this Saturday, Sept. 29.

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Men’s Soccer Fails to Score in Two Home Conference Losses, Now .500