UMBC, the No. 2 seed in the America East tournament, has won 10 of 14 contests in this series, including six of the last seven. But Albany, the No. 3 seed, upended the Retrievers, 11-7, in 2010, the last time they played host to a tournament semifinal. The Great Danes (4-10) went 3-2 in the conference, but have dropped their last two contests. UMBC (5-7) also went 3-2 in the league, but edged Albany for the higher seed due to a 17-16 overtime win on April 21. Here are a few factors that could influence the outcome at UMBC Stadium in Catonsville Wednesday night.
1) UMBC’s transition defense. When these teams met on April 21, the Great Danes earned a 16-11 advantage in the fourth quarter via a fastbreak offense that scored five goals. Retrievers coach Don Zimmerman said he fully expects Albany to repeat that strategy, which puts the onus on UMBC’s midfielders to race back on defense and slow the Great Danes. “We know that they love transition, and they’re very, very good at it,” Zimmerman said. “So we know that when we have the ball on offense, we’re going to be trying to score goals, but we also have to make sure that we cover up and try to get back in the hole and take away their transition game.”
2) UMBC’s man-up unit. Albany is middle-of-the-pack in killing extra-man opportunities, allowing opponents to score on 33.3 percent (18-of-54) of those chances. The Retrievers, who scored on 3-of-4 man-up situations on April 21, could use a similar effort from a unit that ranks 20th in Division I (39.3 percent on 22-of-56). “It’s always critical,” Zimmerman said. “If a team fouls you, you have to have your man-up unit come in and get a goal. It’s an opportunity to play six against five, which gives you the advantage, and you’re expected to take advantage of that opportunity. And when a team fouls and you don’t make them pay with a goal, that really allows them to continue to play aggressively, which is going to be an advantage for them.”
3) UMBC’s communication. With four slick offensive players in senior attackman Joe Resetarits (41 goals and 18 assists), sophomore attackman Miles Thompson (30, 21), sophomore attackman Ty Thompson (28, 10) and freshman midfielder Lyle Thompson (16, 13), Albany likes to run a lot of two-man games in different areas of the field. That puts the onus on the Retrievers to communicate. “When teams pick, you have to communicate the picks and be ready to switch if necessary,” Zimmerman said. “It really does come down to communication by your defense. … I think we improved on it in the second half. We saw it in the first half, and as the game went on, I thought we improved.”