Like many men’s soccer coaches, Pete Caringi Jr. would love to see his UMBC team win by comfortable, less stressful margins. But the coach also likes what he is seeing from his squad this season.
The Retrievers (12-1-1 overall and 3-0-1 in the America East) are 6-1 this fall in one-goal decisions. It’s the most wins with that narrow of a margin of victory since the 2010 team went 7-1 in one-goal contests.
The senior class has enjoyed considerable success in one-goal decisions, compiling a 25-11 record in those situations. That experience has been especially helpful, according to Caringi Jr.
“I think that when you’re looking at tight games, we’re familiar with being in tight games,” he said Monday. “We have a particular group of players that don’t get rattled. If we’re down a goal, we’ll look to come back. And that says a lot about the character of the group, especially in soccer because anything can happen, and it just takes a shot off the pole or it goes off somebody. We don’t get rattled, and we feel like if it’s a tight game, we have a really good chance to win the game, and that’s from a confidence feeling.”
UMBC, which is No. 5 in the latest Top Drawer Soccer rankings, has been able to emerge with tight victories courtesy of a suffocating defense that has not surrendered two goals in a contest since a 3-2 double-overtime victory over Navy on Sept. 17 – a span of eight games.
The defense has lowered its goals-against average to 0.82, which is tied for 38th out of 198 Division I programs.
“I think the defense has really made a concentrated effort to really start shutting teams down,” Caringi Jr. said. “Earlier in the year, we were scoring a lot of goals, but also giving up bad goals, and we knew that teams were going to start changing how they defend against us by shutting people down or double-teaming players. So we needed to really concentrate on our defense, and I think it’s a credit to [senior goalkeeper] Phil Saunders because he really has stepped up his game in the last couple weeks. And [juniors] Oumar Ballo and Marquez Fernandez are two of the better center backs in the country, and they’re playing really well together. So I think it’s all coming together defensively.”