This season, UMBC has featured one of Division I’s more opportunistic man-up offenses, converting 39.5 percent of its chances (15-of-38) which ranks 14th in the country. The program’s strength will soon be tested this Saturday when America East rival Binghamton pays a visit to UMBC Stadium in Catonsville.
The Bearcats (5-8 overall and 2-2 in the league) are tops in the nation in suffocating extra-man opportunities, surrendering just four goals on 28 man-up chances and turning away 85.7 percent of those opportunities. And their 28 man-down chances are the second fewest, trailing only Bryant’s 27 attempts.
Binghamton’s prowess on man-down defense did not escape the attention of Retrievers coach Don Zimmerman, but he did not sound too worried about trying to tackle that challenge.
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“I’m not going to all of a sudden design a bunch of plays,” he said. “We’re going to pretty much line up in sets and then teach the guys where the looks are out of that set. After watching their man down, if we can come up with a couple tweaks, that’s pretty much what we do each and every week.”
Senior attackman Scott Jones leads UMBC with seven goals on extra-man opportunities, and junior midfielder Zach Linkous is second with three, but the man-up unit has colled off somewhat. After succeeding 42.3 percent (11-of-26) against eight non-conference opponents, the Retrievers are converting 33.3 percent (4-of-12) in four contests against America East foes Hartford, Vermont, Stony Brook and No. 10 Albany.
“I think we are still trying to work the ball and find the open man and bury our shots,” Zimmerman said. “We didn’t have a good day on Friday night [in a 16-10 loss to the Great Danes]. I think we were 0-for-2. I thought we had two good opportunities that we just didn’t connect on. We’ve been fairly consistent, but when you’re on man up, you’d like to be able to score 100 percent of the time. That’s not going to happen, but I would certainly like to be over 50 percent, and that’s something we’re going to focus on this week.”
The Bearcats have allowed conference rivals to average 13.3 goals against them, and reaching that mark could be eased by converting those extra-man opportunities. That’s why Zimmerman said UMBC will take great pains to value those chances.
“It’s always a critical area,” he said. “Special teams – like in any other sport – to be successful, they have to play well.”