The UMBC men’s soccer team is poised to accomplish something the program hasn’t done since 2003.
A win or a tie Wednesday night against Stony Brook would give the No. 7 Retrievers their first America East regular-season championship since 2003. UMBC (13-1-2 overall and 4-0-2 in the conference) would also gain the top seed in the league tournament and earn the right to play host to the tournament semifinals on Wednesday, Nov. 13 and the final on either Saturday, Nov. 16 or Sunday, Nov. 17.
“You always set your goal to win your conference in the regular season,” coach Pete Caringi Jr. said Monday evening. “But the main goal is to win the tournament because that guarantees you a shot in the NCAA tournament. I think with this particular group, we wanted to do well in the regular season because the way the tournament is set up and having the higher seed play at home, it’s a big difference because of the amount of travel. One of our goals was to make sure that we secure home field, and that’s a bonus to put yourself in a position to win a regular-season championship.”
The Retrievers are expected to welcome back a pair of starters who missed the team’s 2-0 victory over UMass Lowell last Friday. Senior forward Pete Caringi III, the Perry Hall native and Calvert Hall graduate who leads the offense in goals (10) and points (22), was cleared Monday after dealing with concussion-linked symptoms, and senior midfielder Kadeem Dacres, who ranks second in goals (six) and points (15), will return after serving a mandatory one-game suspension for accruing five yellow cards.
But UMBC is worried about the availability of junior back Marquez Fernandez, who injured his knee before halftime of last Friday’s win against UMass Lowell. The Baltimore native and McDonogh graduate – who has scored three goals and helped a defense surrender just 12 goals this fall – did not practice Monday and took a magnetic resonance imaging exam.
“He’s a key element to the team, and with it being this late in the year, you don’t want key players to go down,” said Caringi Jr., who was still awaiting the MRI results. “So it’s a concern, and until I get the report from the doctor, I’ll be concerned because he is a key element. At this point in the year, if the center back can’t play, then you’re going to have to switch things around, and that’s not what you want to do going into the playoffs.”
If Fernandez cannot play against Stony Brook (6-9-1, 1-4-1), junior Jordan Becker would likely move from left back to center back and senior Travis Dennis would line up at left back. Even if the MRI does not show much significant damage to the knee, Caringi Jr. sounded conflicted about whether to play Fernandez.
“In my experience, teams that win championships are playing their best soccer going into the tournament,” he said. “I would like to keep a cohesive group out there rather than sit players. So it’s great to have Pete back and Kadeem back. But we’re not going to take any unnecessary risks. If there’s any chance that he’s injured or can’t play, then he won’t play.”Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun